As a kid I was a religion doer: I did good deeds, gave up chocolate and gossiping for Lent, prayed my rote prayers each night, did penance in the confessional once a month, sat in the pew at 4:30 Mass every Saturday night. This was comfortable for me. I am a first-born Type A raised by a sergeant major father. To say I am a rule follower is nothing short of an understatement.
So when I read a question like this from the early followers of Jesus, I can relate:
“What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28)
That’s me: “Hand over my to-do list, Jesus. Let me get to work.”
Of course, Jesus’ response to that question turns the notion of a rule-following faith right on its head:
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
Sounds simple, right? Believe in Jesus. End of story.
Except it’s not…at least not for me. I know plenty of people who believe without any doubt, I do. My mom, for one. She has a deeper, truer faith than anyone I know. How she birthed the quintessential questioner I’ll never know.
When I read the people’s response to Jesus’ answer to their question, I stop short:
“What miraculous signs then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from Heaven to eat.’”
That’s me, looking for the manna raining down from heaven, looking for the big sign, the absolute proof that God exists, imploring God, “Where’s my miraculous sign?”
The thing is, though, I get the signs all the time – I simply need to open my eyes to spot them. Take yesterday, for example. As temperatures soared in Lincoln we got to work in the garden, bagging decaying oak leaves, turning over black soil, raking half-eaten acorns. As I crouched in the warm dirt, gathering moldered leaves with green garden gloves, I prayed for my friend Bonnie.
I’ve never met Bonnie in person. She lives in Alabama – I know her as “Bonnie in ‘Bama,” because that’s how she signs her emails. I’m not even sure how we first got in touch, but regardless, I’ve come to know and love Bonnie over the last few months. Bonnie lost her husband, Barry, and I pray for her every day as she navigates the long road of grief.
So here’s the miracle: that on an early spring Saturday as I clean my garden, I pray for a woman I’ve never even met. Frankly, my praying for a stranger even as little as five years ago was about as likely as my winning the Indianapolis 500. Five years ago I didn’t pray. Ever. Five years ago I seriously doubted that God existed. Today, I pray every day – for myself, for my family and friends, for acquaintances I’ve met online and for Bonnie in ‘Bama.
And that is a God-given miracle.
“I tell you the truth: it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33)
Welcome to the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up. Or, if you’re easy-breezy, copy the code for the “Hear It, Use It” button in the sidebar to the right, and simply paste it into your post.
And remember, you don’t need to write exactly about Sunday’s reading or sermon; you can simply write about a verse or even a hymn that you’ve been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up — it stays open until Friday.