I want to tell you about a movie that you probably should have seen by now and there will be spoilers if you haven’t seen it. The movie Encanto, centers around the story of Mirabel Madrigal gal and her family. For 2 generations everyone born into the Madrigal family has been given a gift, a kind of magic. Her mother can heal folks with the food she makes, her cousin can talk to animals, her sister is super strong. The matriarch of the family Mirabel’s grandmother, her Abuela has a very clear understanding of what the purpose of the miracle is And that is to be useful to the family and to a larger community. The purpose of the gift was to give it away it made them vitally important to the community, the village within which they lived in. They gave away their gifts at the expense of the person who has the gift, at the cost of having other interests, and with the expectation of never failing. The family Madrigal and their gifts had to be perfect, always.
Everyone had a gift, Everyone that is except Mirabel. When the time came for Mirabel to receive her gift to get her miracle, nothing happened. When we meet Maribel she is trying so hard to be useful and loved and a home that is primarily focused on each person’s gift their miracle. Here’s where our spoilers begin. Things start to fall apart when Mirabel makes space for her sisters and her family to really be themselves. Things start to fall apart when Mirabel makes space for everyone to be honest and then demands that everyone be honest. Things start to fall apart when Mirabel demands that her grandmother see her as a part of the family even if she doesn’t have the gift. Relationships break a part, the very foundation of their home cracked, then their home crumbled.
The magic fails and the family only has each other just and entirely true they have the community they had built around them who loved them no matter what.
With no magic, with no miracle. The family Madrigal rebuilds their home and their lives. But they do so in reconciliation with honesty and truth and compassion and love and respect, The things that Mirabel demanded and the gift she gave to her family. Her whole family embraces her and tells Mirabel that she has been the miracle all along.
What was the point of their miracles, of their gifts? honesty and truth and compassion and respect and love, always revealing and choosing love.
Our story from scripture today could be both really simple and really complicated. Unusually our main character is not a Hebrew not an Israelite not from the tribes of tribes of Jacob. Naaman is a warrior of an empire they are in conflict with and our story tells us God has given Naaman victory and will heal him. And in a time when most people thought their God was rooted to their land and a specific people, this is a God who is global.
Our story of Naaman is one of someone who was too proud, too certain, perhaps had too much ego that he almost missed his chance of healing. He was so certain Of how he should be treated and how miracles should look it should look that he almost missed his chance to be well and whole. It had to be more than dunking himself in the muddy river there should there should be hands being waved and ritual words being sad and should at least see the eyes of the person who supposedly healing him.
Naaman ends up listening to his servants who convince him it’s worth a try and he’s made well. What is the point of this healing is it to give a ram and Assyria back their mighty warrior? Is it to build political ties between these 2 nations? Is it just to be nice to someone who is suffering? Did Naaman do anything to deserve it did he earn his right to a miracle? It’s probably none of those. What is the point of the miracle?
Elisha says from the beginning that it is so that Naaman would know there is a prophet in Israel. Naaman is made well and he comes back to the prophet, he celebrates the prophet, and offers to give him gifts out of gratitude but what Naaman knows is that there is a God in Israel. The miracle is pointing to God.
Sometimes these miracle stories are hard. And on days like today, when we are remembering those who have gone before, who have returned to God, who have left this Earth, who have died, maybe we remember our prayers for miracles that seem to have been unheard, unanswered, or answered wrong. What would make Naaman, an enemy of the people of God, more worthy of healing than me or you or our loved ones?
What was the point of a miracle?
When Naaman was cured of his skin disease, it wasn’t that skin diseases, leprosy, or eczema were wiped from the face of the Earth, just from him for that moment. When Jesus would heal those who were blind, it wasn’t removing blind the face of the Earth, just for that person in that moment.
There are terrible things in our world, there are still sicknesses and illnesses and chronic pain. And we’re not unlike Naaman, expecting miracles and healings to look a certain way, and not seeing them because we weren’t made well in a way that we expect, that removes all illness, sets us free from all our ailments, or it didn’t seem to come with the proper waving of hands and ritual. Not that rituals don’t have their place but their place is to point to God. God longs for our healing, for our wholeness, for us to be well but sometimes doesn’t look the way we’ve decided it should.
What if Abuela Madrigal is right and the miracle is you? What if the miracle is all of that which points to the God who is love come, who loves you who loves creation? What if the miracle Is all of that which points the God made of and found in community? What if the miracle is found in reconciliation and honesty, truth and compassion, respect and love?
I have spent kind of a lot of my free time reading and thinking about how we live well and die well, how we say goodbye well and remember well.
Because the miracle is not that we’re going to live forever, we are not. Time, sickness, accidents will come and one of them will return each of us to our creator, we are not free of the reality that one day each of us will be part of the unseen cloud of witnesses for another. *The miracle isn’t that we will be free from all that, the miracle is that we show up for each other, that we offer grace, that we practice reconciliation, that we give love.
We receive the love, the grace, the compassion, and the kindness. Not just at moments that seem like the end but throughout our living.
So today, we remember. We tell stories and we live honoring the best parts of those who have returned to God and yet live in our hearts.
Today we come to this table that connects with all who have gathered around a table across distance and throughout time: those who have come before and those who are yet to be.
And we come to a moment of healing, asking blessings and naming hopes, knowing God longs for our wholeness and our abundance but that sometimes it doesn’t look like we expect. May we who show up in times of need, who gather at the table, to tell the stories, to remember, be the miracle for each other this day and always.