This morning as I was sitting at church, my tooth started hurting really bad out of nowhere. I’m scheduled for a root canal on Wednesday, and even though I hadn’t drunk hot liquid, I hadn’t bit down on something hard, I hadn’t gotten one of those chewy gooey mentos stuck on my teeth, all of a sudden it just started aching! It was so bad I couldn’t sing along with the hymns or speak along with the prayers. Ouch.
The exchange of Peace in our church is more involved than in most. We don’t simply turn to those on each side of us, shake their hands saying “Peace of the Lord” and then sit right back down. We mill about for many minutes, we walk up and down the aisles greeting everyone in the church, alternating “Peace be with you,” “Peace of the Lord” and plain old “God’s Peace.” Hugs are happening, smiles stretch from ear to ear and the whole congregation sounds like a festive Peace Party until finally Father Ted raises his booming voice to call us back to our seats like unruly school children.
So – during the exchange of Peace I knew I’d have enough time to run up to the vestry, where I know there is a tiny little bathroom, and sip some water from the sink to swallow some Advil from my purse, hoping it would calm down the death pangs of my dying dental root. I made it back with time to spare and still got to hug and greet and smile at several of my fellow congregants.
After the Peace, we go right into the Holy Communion, so Father Ted lead our focus into the sharing of bread and wine, which I always use as an inner meditation to become One with the Body of Christ – literally communing with my Beloved. As I went up and knelt at the altar and received the body of Christ and the cup of salvation I put my whole focus on my love for Christ, feeling Him with me, holding me, entering into my heart and my whole self. As I sat back down again I noticed my tooth ache was completely gone.
It’s a miracle, I thought! The communion healed my dental pain! Becoming One with Christ took away my suffering. Then immediately I reminded myself that I had taken the Advil 10 or 15 minutes ago, so it was probably just the IbuProfen kicking in, not a miracle. But wait a minute – why isn’t that a miracle?
I think it’s pretty amazing that a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug that anyone can buy over the counter at any pharmacy, grocery store or airport news stand can take away intense tooth pain that throbs through half my face and keeps me from being able to speak – and does so in a matter of minutes! Why is that NOT considered miraculous? Why would it only be a miracle if a light had descended from the arched ceiling of the church, levitated me up into the air and a booming voice from the sky said “Shanti, be healed of this dental pain!”
What about the healing power of the Divine working through chemists and pharmacists in the 1950’s when IbuProfen was invented? What about the Holy Spirit whispering inspiration to Dr. Stewart Adams and his colleagues John Nicholson and Colin Burrows and the miraculous power of the Christ working through the hundreds of people involved in this medication’s research and development? Why is that not considered the hand of God? Why is that NOT a miracle? Maybe God thought – “Hmmm… people aren’t as open to healings through faith the way they used to be and so many people have arthritis, headaches, and dental pain. I think I’ll get together a team of doctors and develop a simple medication that can help…” Does God only speak through burning bushes?
I think the whole thing is a miracle! Not to mention the whole process of someone burrowing a tiny hole into the root of a tiny tooth, extracting the infected pulp and then flushing an antiseptic fluid in and out of said tiny hole until all the infection is gone and then filling the hole back up with a rubber compound called gutta-percha, a purified form of Mazer Wood Trees indigenous to Indonesia and Malaysia that is combined with zinc oxide and other materials to form a rubbery filling. How in the world did anyone ever think of taking a tree from Indonesia and sticking it inside someone’s tiny root canal?? I say only God can come up with something so crazy!
You see, I see no conflict between modern medicine and God – I think it’s all good, it’s all God, it’s all healing and it’s all miraculous!
An ophthalmologist surgeon giving sight back to a blind person by implanting a light-sensitive microchip into the back of their eye is just as much PROOF to me of God’s miracles as Jesus giving sight to a blind person through prayer. The wonders of Science doesn’t take anything away from God, it only adds to God!
In the Threshold weekend with Peter Rollins a few weeks ago, he talked about the group dynamics of some churches where doubt and questioning anything openly is NOT allowed, though everyone knows that everyone has doubt, including the pastor, and those who actually have NO doubt at all are a problem. He gave the example of when the preacher will say that if you have absolute faith and you pray to Jesus Christ He can heal anything – and everyone nods their heads, but everyone knows that if someone broke their leg, you take them to the emergency room and the people who ACTUALLY sit and pray over someone’s broken leg are a real problem for the community – it’s showing that they don’t really literally believe what they SAY they do.
I say – pray with absolute faith AND take the person to the emergency room. Isn’t it miraculous that doctors and nurses can take a bone that is shattered in tiny pieces and affix metal bars and add in additional bone matter and the bone regrows and heals and thank the Lord, the person can walk again! Alleluia! Just because God uses doctors and nurses and metal bars and bone matter, is it less of a miracle? Why do we put these ridiculous notions on God that all miracles have to come thundering down from a cloud?
It reminds me of the old joke about the pastor and the flood. There are flood warnings blasting out on all the radio stations urging everyone to evacuate the area, terrible floods are coming, but the pastor says, “No, I’m staying with my church, God will save me.” Then the water rises up over the steps of the church and as the pastor stands there in knee-high water a boat comes by and they say “Get in, Father, we all have to evacuate.” But the pastor says “No, I’m staying with my church, God will save me.” The water rises and rises until the pastor is hanging on to the steeple, and then a helicopter flies by and the rescue workers throw down the ladder and yell “Grab the ladder, Father, and we’ll fly you to safety.” But the pastor says “No, I’m staying with my church, God will save me.” Then he drowns. As he gets up to heaven and stands before God, confused and dejected he asks “God, I had faith in You, why didn’t You save me?” And God says “Didn’t you hear the radio announcements? And what about the boat I sent or the helicopter?”
God works through all of us – through rescue workers, radio announcers, emergency room doctors, chemists and dentists. I was listening to Richard Rohr‘s “Christ, Cosmology and Consciousness” audio book the other day and he was talking about how the Big Bang, quantum physics and the study of the Cosmos is exactly in line with not only God but the bible. There is no need for Christians to be opposed to evolution. The highest testament to God’s greatness and glory is the ability for Her to create life that EVOLVES – life that is so intelligent and intuitive that it adapts and mutates as needed, life that is so filled with God’s creative power that it grows and changes and improves upon itself, life that is so inspired and filled with God’s spirit that it invents ocular implants, root canals and helicopters.
God’s miracles take many forms – and sometimes those forms look just like me and you. We are ALL a part of the miraculous healing of our selves, our communities and our world. God’s miracles are manifested through humanity and in humanity, all around us, every day, as plain as the nose on your face. Sometimes God’s miracles come to us as a revelation. Sometimes God’s miracles come to us as Ibuprofen.