Peace, be still. Peace, be still. And the wind and the waves obey him. And fearful men are filled with awe. Jesus was the great wonder worker of his day: loaves and fishes, water into wine, great healings and raisings from the dead. What we are to make of this today, how we are to understand these miracles today would be an interesting discussion.
But what is important to remember is that for there to be a calming of the sea, there must first be a sea. For there to be a calming of the wind, there must first be wind. For natural laws to be bent to divine will, there must first be nature. And that is the primary miracle, the original miracle: that there is a world, a natural order. That there is indeed something and not nothing and that it is a wonder to behold.
For there to be a calming of the sea, there must first be a sea. There must first be a low place for water to gather. That requires geological processes of vast scale to create the possibility of a lake. Geological processes require an earth, a sphere with a molten core and a surface that can be transformed by movements from below and the wind and rain from above. And the existence of this sphere, this globe, this round thing we live on, requires cosmological processes on an even vaster scale of time and space.
For there to be a calming of the sea, there must first be a sea. There must first be water (molecules of two hydrogen atoms and one of oxygen). The water, the H2O, has to be between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius—a very narrow range in the scheme of things. Between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius water can be liquid and can adhere to itself and be gathered together by the force of gravity into a low place—like the Sea of Galilee, for example. Gravity itself is another miracle.
For there to be a calming of the wind, there must first be wind. Air moving across the face of the earth, animated by the interlacing factors of sunlight and humidity and differentials of temperature and density. For there to be wind, there must be air: the combination of elements such as oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen that can be in a gaseous state at the temperatures at the face of the earth. And, of course, there must be the mutual attractions of gravity again, to keep the air from flying off into outer space.
For there to be elements, there must be the fundamental components of matter and energy that we can only detect through the most powerful technology and with the mathematical imagination. Fundamental components that somehow can relate to other components in ever more complex levels of organization to produce the world as we know it.
Before he calmed the wind and the waves, he made wind and waves and the earth and the cosmos. Countless prior miracles. Before he multiplied loaves and fishes he first made fishes and the things that go into loaves. Before he cursed and withered the fig tree, he made fig trees. Before the virgin birth, he made woman. Before raising Lazarus from the dead, he made man. The woman and the man being the product of 15 billion years of cosmological and evolutionary miracles.
All of Jesus’ miracles required countless prior miracles. We can be so caught up in the doings and goings of our lives that we take these things for granted. That fact that anything exists at all is miraculous. That we exist is miraculous. That we human beings have been “lifted from the no of all nothing”, as poet e.e. cummings put it—is a miracle. That we can look deep down into the smallness of things and see great miracles is a miracle. That we can look out into the cosmos far beyond what the eye can see and see the bigness of God’s imagination is a miracle.
And one more. The people who witnessed the wonders of Jesus were filled with awe, even fear. And rightly so. But what might fill us with even greater awe, even fear, is our own transformation. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving God with our whole being, loving our neighbors as ourselves: there is transformative power in love that is truly miraculous. We may rightly even fear the transforming power of love, the life-changing miracle that can transform even these poor hearts of ours. The transforming miracle of love that floods the cosmos with new life and new possibilities.
So much power; so many miracles; so much transformation; so much life. “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us.” [BCP 372] Open our eyes to see and ears to hear. Open our fearful hearts wide to the fullness of your life and your light, and to the transforming power of your love.
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