Lucky Ducks

howard-the-duck

“And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27)

Miracles mostly don’t happen. That’s why they’re miracles. If they happened all the time they wouldn’t be miracles; they’d be normal, which is exactly not what a miracle is. So to say that everything is a miracle is pretty much saying that there aren’t any at all. To have a miracle you have to have lots and lots of no miracles. Then, if a miracle comes along you will recognize it. And if one doesn’t come along (which it almost always doesn’t) you have normal life. That’s how miracles work, or don’t work, as the case may be.

The funky thing about miracles isn’t that God does one every once in a while (that’s part of God’s job description); the funky thing about miracles is that God seems very particular about where and when he pops one off. Many people who might appreciate one don’t get one. And sometimes somebody gets one right in the middle of a bunch of others who don’t. It seems a lot like buying a lottery ticket. There’s a chance of winning—and somebody is definitely going to get lucky—but the odds are virtually zip that it’s going to be you. It’ll probably be the plumber down the street with the loud dog.

So here’s Jesus telling us that a whole bunch of nice folks had serious skin issues, but God picked just one guy out of all of them to heal, a dude who wasn’t even a homeboy. Now nobody should begrudge Naaman. It isn’t his fault that God picked him for a dermatological miracle, and he has a right to be  happy camper. The problem is that God left the other lepers lepers. If miracles were mere random fluctuations in the space-time continuum, then que sera sera. But a miracle, by definition, is God’s fault. So when one doesn’t happen that’s God’s fault too. Congrats to Naaman for getting cleaned and pressed by the miracle machine. As for you other, not-so-lucky lepers—well, go soak in a tub of warm goat’s milk—and better luck next time.

Of course, if you don’t believe in genuine miracles you don’t have a problem. But I do believe in miracles. I really do. In fact, I’m in the market for a couple of them right now. But then so are a lot of other folks I know. You probably could use one or two yourself. Alas, apparently not everybody gets one. Oh, somebody will—and we’re told to expect a miracle—but many of us will have to settle for that most religious of consolation prizes: stoic resignation. One of us will be a lucky duck. The rest of us will hatch the big goose egg.

No wonder the people who heard Jesus say this drove him out of town.

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One Response

  1. I was NT Wright yesterday (The Meaning of Jesus: Two Views, by Wright and Marcus Borg), and he makes this observation:

    “The problem is that miracle … is not a biblical category. The God of the Bible is not a normally absent God who sometimes intervenes. This God is always present and active, often surprisingly so.”

    Not to disagree with you – I just thought it was an interesting thought.

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