Miracles are the subject of our current message series that we’ve been calling, Expect Miracles. We’ve been learning how to expect, prepare for, wait on, and believe in miracles. Miraculous events sometimes occur through the temporary suspension of the laws of nature. They are rare but extraordinary supernatural feats that display God’s power to overturn the natural order.
The most common miracles, however, are the many divine interventions in which God acts through ordinary causes. For example, God could heal a serious disease, prevent a tragic accident, or coordinate a series of events to bring about a positive result by manipulating but not violating natural causes. To a less discerning eye, these ordinary miracles appear to be the result of mere coincidence. They are often chalked up to spontaneous remissions, good fortune, or just plain serendipity.
God also intervenes in the ordinary course of daily life by enlightening, guiding, or strengthening us through our internal feelings or by the words and actions of other people. God orchestrates countless miracles that are noticeable only within the quiet recesses of the human heart. He may lead us to a new career, restore lost faith, or even find a fresh direction in life. God could give certain people the courage to reach out to others for companionship, stand up to bullies, or otherwise face their fears. He could encourage an addict to enter a recovery program or an alcoholic to quit a drinking habit. He could calm an anxious person, improve the self-esteem and confidence of someone who feels inferior, help a victim to overcome shame and guilt, inspire a believer to be a better Christian, move one family member to forgive another, enlighten a sinner to choose the right path, motivate a judgmental person to accept others, or help the emotionally wounded find happiness again.
In the last three weeks of our message series, we’ll take a look at these ordinary everyday miracles that occur within the confines of the human soul. Today, we’ll discover how God can enlighten us through dreams cultivated both during sleep and through our imaginations in the full light of day. Nurtured within the protection of the family, dreams are placed by God in our hearts for guidance and inspiration in life.
Next week on the Feast of the Epiphany, we’ll explore the journey of spiritual discovery that the light of Christ takes us on in the New Year. It’s another type of internal miracle to help us progress more deeply in our relationship with God.
In the final week of the series, we’ll consider how the gift of human innovation and creativity is a miracle in itself that not only reflects the beauty of the Creator but also moves the world forward.
Join us in church or online for the final uplifting weeks of our series, as we delve into the secret miracles hidden deep within.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
The gospel accounts attribute more than thirty miracles to Jesus, everything from walking on water, raising the dead, and curing the sick, to exorcizing demons, feeding a multitude of people with just scraps, and calming a violent storm. In all four gospels, he is portrayed as a miracle worker. Skeptics argue, however, that these narratives are mere folklore added by the disciples after Jesus’ death to buttress their claims about his divinity.
But as we learned in our earlier message series, CSI: Christ Scene Investigation, the gospel stories are not tales written in a mythological genre, like other literature that tended to deal with the distant past, were set in primeval times, and featured fantastical creatures. By contrast, the gospels were written in a sober fashion with detailed historical information and not merely imaginary events.
Also, the reports of Jesus’ miracles are based on actual eyewitness testimony and not common fables. In fact, the very earliest material about Jesus describe him as a miracle-working healer and exorcist, so the stories are not merely the efforts of the disciples to legendize Jesus after the fact.
Non-Christian sources also detail Jesus’ wonderworks. Jewish rabbis, as well as the anti-Christian Greek philosopher Celsus, agree that Jesus was a miracle worker. They may have tried to suggest that the amazing feats were the result of some kind of sorcery, but they still contain a clear acknowledgement that they happened.
In addition, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Jesus was a wise man who “worked starting deeds.” There is some disagreement whether this was a later addition to Josephus’ work snuck in by Christian apologists who were copying the original manuscript. But the Jewish historian Geza Vermes of Oxford later analyzed the writing style of Josephus and concluded that this particular miracle claim in Josephus’ writing was authentic.
In light of all this evidence, the Christian claim that Jesus worked miracles and many amazing feats during his earthly ministry is quite strong. All we need to do is believe. In fact, believing is the key ingredient to expecting a miracle this Christmas season.
So far in our Sunday message series called, Expect Miracles, we’ve said that people who hope for miracles are more likely to receive and recognize them when they happen. We also have learned how to prepare for a miracle by acknowledging our contribution to the problem and resolving to remove the obstacles we have created for God intervening in our lives. We also came to understand that miracles are often events that require a great deal of patience and waiting.
This week, we discover another key ingredient to expecting miracles. It’s perhaps the most important element of all. We have to believe. Like Joseph who believed the dream God sent him and like Mary who believed the angel, we too must believe in order to receive.
Join us this Sunday or online for the next installment in our hopeful series on miracle.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
We have been talking about miracles in our new message series for Christmas called, Expect Miracles. In the first week, we said that people who expect miracles are more likely to recognize and experience them when they happen. We also discussed the following week that miracles are collaborative efforts. We have to prepare for miracles by acknowledging our part in causing the problem for which we need a miracle and then removing the behaviors, thoughts, and bad habits that prevent God from working miracles for us.
We also prepare for miracles by praying for them. It is the most obvious step of all, but we often overlook it or get it wrong. If you want a miracle, you have to ask for one, and you have to ask for it in the right way.
First of all, we have to approach prayer with joy. Saint Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). This doesn’t mean we should rejoice in our particular circumstances. Rather, we should rejoice in who God is in our lives, despite the circumstances we face.
Second, prayer remedies worry and fear about a problem. If there is a storm going on in your life, your anxiety about it will make you feel out of control. We usually assume the worst will happen and dwell on those anxious feelings, letting them consume us completely. You can pin that anxiety down in prayer.
Third, offer to God an anticipatory prayer of thanksgiving. Waiting until after the miracle happens to thank God is too late. We should believe and trust that the Lord will handle our situation and carry us through the storm. Start by thanking God before the miracle arrives. Approach the miracle with an attitude of gratitude and bring your request with a spirit of thanksgiving. One time, Jesus was getting ready for a big miracle. He was going to resuscitate his friend Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. Before working the miracle, Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me” (John 11:41). Thanking God in advance clearly demonstrates that you are expecting a miracle.
Finally, we should make our request for a miracle as specific as possible. Don’t just pray for peace in general. Pray for peace with that family member who hurt you. Don’t just pray that God improves your finances. Pray that you will be debt-free by this time next year. Don’t just pray for emotional strength during an illness or that the doctors make wise decisions, pray specifically that the person will be completely healed. Trust in God’s power by being specific in your requests.
But, above all, “[p]ray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and “[w]ait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage” (Psalm 27:14).
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Church is a place where miracles happen. People in our small groups connect in genuine spiritual relationships that add value to their lives. Our carefully-planned Sunday services and excellent music programs lead people into deeper and more meaningful prayer. Our cozy community provides a safe harbor to heal from life’s wounds. We work hard to craft quality messages designed to spark curiosity in spiritual growth and to inspire Christian disciples to serve others and evangelize the world through love.
These are our five most important goals: To help you connect, pray, heal, grow, and love. We see miracles happening all the time when people are able to find their way closer to Christ because of our efforts. Nearly every week, we hear from people whose lives have been enriched by the programs and people of St. Brendan Church. Here are just a few examples of emails we have received:
With your faith commitments, we will continue to grow our dynamic children’s ministries, expand the number and quality of our small groups, develop more outreach ministries, and increase our ability to reach many people every week.
Invest in our mission to help others find their way to Christ. Thank you for completing your Stewardship Commitment Card today. I truly believe that:
“Miracles Can Happen Through Your Generosity!”
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
“Everyone had high hopes for Benjamin after he finished third in his class at a predominantly black high school and scored the highest SAT ranking of any student in twenty years from a Detroit public school.” He went to Yale with the dream of becoming a physician.
But after his first semester, he was failing chemistry. He prayed and “intended to study for the exam all night, but sleep overcome him. All seemed lost—until he had a dream: he was alone in an auditorium when a nebulous figure began writing chemistry problems on the blackboard. ‘I recognized the first problem as one of the ones I had dreamed about. And the next, and the next, and the next—and I aced the exam and got a good mark in chemistry. And I promised the Lord he would never have to do that for me again.’ . . .
“By the age of thirty-three, [Ben] became the youngest director of pediatric neurosurgery in the country, performing pioneering operations at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A 2014 poll ranked Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr. as among the ten most admired people in America,” and he even made a run for President, all because a dream helped him pass a chemistry course fifty years earlier.
“What do you think? Was this a coincidence? A tall tale exaggerated to promote a political career? Or a miraculous intervention by God? (Lee Strobel, The Case for Miracles, Zondervan 2018, 15-16).
Today, we begin a new message series for Advent and Christmas that we’re calling, Expect Miracles. All through the Christmas story, the people who expect miracles and are on the look out for God experience miracles and experience the joy of the incarnation. The people who are not looking for God’s activity miss out on it. In this series we’ll encourage you to expect all kinds of miracles from God, both this Christmas season and beyond.
One of those miracles is you. You impact the world in a miraculous way, perhaps in ways that you do not even recognize. But look around with the eyes of faith. You are making a difference. On the Second Sunday of Advent, we’ll be celebrating one of those miracles that comes about through your generosity. We have been writing and speaking to you about the spirituality of stewardship for three years and now is the time for our first-ever Stewardship Sunday on December 8.
We will hand out Stewardship Commitment Cards the week before so that you can pray about what more you can do to honor God with your financial blessings. As your Pastor, I thank you for your faith commitment and your financial investment in the mission and vision of our parish.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson