When the Dead Speak

Luke 7:11-17 | Third Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus tells a dead man to get up, and he does. Luke writes it that plainly — the young man was dead, and he sits up and starts talking.

It was an uncommon experience, even in those first century days when miracles were often reported. The crowd, witnessing this resurrection, were astonished. We would be, if we saw a thing like this.

IMG_2703We live in an age of wonders and of amazing invention, astonishing discoveries. We have modern medicine, science, centuries of art. We read about space travel on hand held computers, and we watch entertainments on flat screens of digitally enhanced glass, but we are somehow bereft of miracles. No one is healed with a touch, and those who have died, no matter how much we love them, are not given back to us.

The dead do not speak to us. At least, they do not speak to us the way this young man rose and spoke to his mother. Still, sometimes, we hear them.

Perhaps the trick is not to look for the miracles that are described in these gospels. We do not have them — prophets healing our sick, a messiah raising our dead. We may have miracles, though. Different ones. Miracles we do not notice or that we take for granted, because they do not meet our expectations of the sort of thing a miracle is.

We think miracles are a break with the natural flow of the universe, and perhaps that is so. We think that the laws of nature are immutable, therefore there can be no miracles, and maybe we are right to say so.

No miracles, we say. Not any more. Maybe we have no faith, that we should receive a miracle, some say, or maybe there never were any such things. Are we children, believing in fairy tales? Let us believe in what we have seen with our own eyes, that which our hands have touched.


It seems to me that there is a natural law that I forget things — where I put something, the day of the week — and so when I remember, is it a miracle? And sometimes, in my memory, when I hear the voice or the laughter of someone I loved but who is no longer alive in the way that you and I are alive, is that a miracle?

At my parents’ home there is a pond, and from time to time a mated pair of ducks, or geese, will come and stay for a season. We first noticed such a pair shortly after both of my father’s parents were gone, and it seemed to us that these birds had come in their place, to remind us of them, in some way to be them, so that my grandparents were still with us. They are birds, of course; they are not my grandparents. Still, in some way that eludes the mind and makes sense to the soul, they are the people we loved, and as they waddle and splash and talk to one another in their bird honks and hoots and chattering, we hear the voices of people who loved us.

And it is a miracle.

No one is raised from the dead, no one is healed of a terrible disease. The water in the pond remains water, not wine, to the relief (or maybe disappointment?) of the fish. If we find comfort in the quacks and honks of waterfowl, it is a small enough miracle, you say.

Still, for us, it is miraculous. It is healing. And perhaps it is all the miracle required, and it does whatever it is that a miracle is sent to do. That is something worth considering. We think that a miracle is when we get something we want, but maybe that is wrong. It could be that a miracle is receiving something God needs for us to have.

Fishing on the Pond