“A Hundred Million Miracles”

Shannon Gammon Articles, Mike Graves

by Rev. Dr. Mike Graves, Scholar in Residence

In his spiritual memoir, British journalist Philip Toynbee wrote, “The basic command of religion is not ‘do this!’ or ‘do not do that!’ but simply look!” That may seem overly simplistic when one considers all the things the Bible commands us to do, but I think he makes a good point. Seeing is emphasized over and over in both testaments. A classic example is Moses’ encounter with a burning bush (Exodus 3). Six times in just a few short verses, we encounter verbs related to seeing. Moses sees the bush; God sees that Moses sees the bush. Then comes this verse, “When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush.”

This explains in part why Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s line in “Aurora Leigh” speaks so powerfully to so many:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit ‘round it, and pluck blackberries.

I have been thinking about everyday miracles since I heard my friend Rabbi Michael Zedek interviewed on KCUR a few weeks back. His forthcoming book, Taking Miracles Seriously, invites readers to ponder not just the big stuff in the Bible (bushes on fire, parting of the sea), but the everyday kind of miracles taking place all around us.

One of the reasons I was excited to hear about the book is I was looking for something I might share each morning with those of us headed to Israel next week. On previous trips, our custom has been to have a short devotional as we head out for the Sea of Galilee or the Mount of Olives. I’m happy to report that Rabbi Zedek was kind enough to share an electronic copy with me, a book that turns out to celebrate the power of poetry especially. So I’ll be sharing some of the poems from his volume, as well as others it brought to mind.

This might seem an odd choice of a topic on such a trip, paying attention to everyday miracles while touring the Holy Land. Someone might suggest it’s a more fitting topic upon returning to normal life, not while being awed at every turn in Israel. I get it. Who needs a tutorial on everyday little miracles when surrounded by the grandeur of Israel’s many holy sites? But the truth is, whether big or small, in the words of Rogers and Hammerstein, “A hundred million miracles are happening every day.”

If you’re one of those going on the trip, now you know what to expect. If you’re not, now you know what to expect as well. Miracles all around; at least for those who see. Perhaps this explains why persons who are devout in their religion are often called observant.