Forming Faith Blog

Waiting for a Miracle (John 4 & 5)

So many of us long for a miracle. Sometimes, God’s word of healing comes to us, and sometimes, God gives us a word to bring healing to others.

Hands palms up in front of a sunset, waiting for a miracle
Copyright: olegdudko

Recently, Disney released a movie called Encanto. As a mom with an elementary-aged student in our house, I can sing along with the entire soundtrack by now. The captivating story and inspiring music have been played on our television set almost daily since its release to streaming.  Like many of the previous song lyrics and melodies by Lin-Manuel Miranda, these songs get stuck in your head. As I read about Jesus performing a miracle in this passage from Scripture, my mind naturally connects to the songs I’ve heard so many times lately.

The name of the film literally translates to charm, gift, enchantment—or even miracle. The family at the center of the story has experienced miracles that have saved not only them but their entire village. Each family member has a “gift” that is used to benefit the community, except for one. Mirabel does not have the power to control the weather like her aunt, to heal people like her mother, or to produce plants magically on a whim like her sister. In one song, she expresses her pain at feeling left out, inadequate.  She is longing for a miracle and to be included with her family.

What Inspires Belief?

The official in this passage is desperate for his own miracle.  He seeks Jesus to save his son from death.

I’m struck by Jesus’s response. As The Message (by Eugene Peterson) paraphrases this passage, Jesus says “Unless you people are dazzled by a miracle, you refuse to believe.”  From the verses before this reading, we know that Jesus has been busy.  He has been in Jerusalem, through Samaria, and now he is back in Cana.  We don’t have all the details, but people witnessed his ministry in Jerusalem, so the folks in Galilee are interested in what he is doing even if they don’t completely understand who he is or what is happening. I can understand how Jesus may feel overwhelmed.

There are times as a leader when I have wanted to respond in a similar way.  There are times in ministry when we want to say in frustration. “Will nothing ever be enough for you people!” The demands on leaders are often intense. We are expected to be all things to all people. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed. It can be tempting to give up. It can be hard to resist the urge to let cynicism drive our responses and actions (or lead to inaction). We can feel inadequate as we fear letting people down, unable to respond to every need immediately. The weight of the responsibility can be overwhelming

Yet, we also understand that when people come to us for ministry, they may be experiencing their own sense of desperation and emotional overload.  They are looking for their own miracles in a way. They come to their church for help. These needs are only intensified as we deal with a pandemic. There is a strong need for connection and Christian community, and at the same time, we are feeling disconnected due to health and safety protocols. The stress and strain from the past two years are ongoing, and often people experience this as a cumulative effect. People are looking for comfort, encouragement, and help. The challenge for leaders becomes how to meet those needs for healing when we ourselves may be feeling our own strains and stresses.

Finding Grace and Speaking Healing

Even after this exchange and his apparent frustration with human doubt, Jesus heals the man’s son. Jesus offers healing with just a word. God’s grace is extended, and this leads to faith not just for the official who approached Jesus, but for the entire household. The bad news is we aren’t Jesus.  We are not divine. The good news is that we can experience God’s healing word, even when we don’t have a physical Jesus with us, and we don’t have to do this alone.

When life gets overwhelming, we may need our own “miracles” Consider where in your life you experience moments of healing. Maybe you have been encouraged by the kind words of a stranger. Have you experienced healing words through music, poetry, literature, or art?  Is there an experience you have had through sacraments where you experienced God in a tangible way? Has a Scripture reading brought you hope when you needed it most?  Have you experienced God through prayer or meditation? Have you had an experience of offering or receiving forgiveness that brought healing?  When we experience our own healing, we can be better equipped to offer grace to others.

I started this reflection considering Encanto. In some ways, we can find an example from the characters in the film.  Each of them has a gift or a talent that builds up the family and supports the community. Even Mirabel turns out to have something within her that provides healing when it is needed most. Healing happens in the film (for Mirabel and for the entire community) when words of forgiveness, grace, and affirmation are spoken.

This is one of the beautiful gifts of Christian community. Sometimes, I need to experience words of healing from others.  Sometimes, I am sharing words with someone in crisis. Either way, God’s word is there, and the Holy Spirit is working among us to raise up the community as a whole. And perhaps, through those words of healing, we can strengthen and inspire faith in those around us.

Some Ideas
  • Share from your personal experience a time when you found healing in kind words from others. This can encourage people to consider how they can offer healing in their daily lives.
  • Healing sometimes comes through changing behaviors that bring healthier relationships.  Consider challenging your congregation members to seek forgiveness when they have hurt someone, and to make healthy changes moving forward.
  • Healing also takes place in communities when people work for justice.  Where can your congregation seek justice in order to bring healing to your community?
  • Encourage your faith formation participants to reach out to each other and offer support. Empower the lay people to minister to each other in bearing one another’s burdens. 
  • If your congregation has a support and care ministry (like Befrienders or Stephen Ministry), highlight this program. Encourage these trained leaders to assist in meeting the pastoral care needs as they are able.
  • Our words can tear each other down or they can offer hope and healing. Invite your congregation to consider ways they can speak healing to those they know.
  • It’s easy to get exasperated and discouraged when we face multiple demands. If you have small groups that meet, encourage them to discuss ways they can recognize signs that they are feeling overwhelmed and strategies for alleviating the stress. You may also wish to provide some resources for mediation, devotions, or physical activities people can try.

Thanks be to God!
Michelle Ketepa

Michelle Ketepa is a coach and author.  She is a mother of three girls and has 25 years of professional experience in family, youth, and children’s ministries.  She currently resides in Southeast Michigan and continues to serve God as a volunteer at First Presbyterian Church in Warren.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download our weekly “bulletin insert” home devotional resource for the week of February 6th. This is a full sample from our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (NL) home devotional resource which can be used with many ages in many contexts!

One Response to Waiting for a Miracle (John 4 & 5)

  1. Pingback: How I Love His Healing! – Forsythe Church of Christ

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