Not all Miracles Happen in Football Stadiums

A couple of Saturdays ago I watched one of the most bizarre endings to a football game that I have ever witnessed.  You may have seen the game that had two endings. The first last play of the game was LSU’s last chance to score. They were close to the goal line with a good chance to score. The snap from center to quarterback never made it the quarterback. The play ended with no score. Tennessee wins! Game over. Players rush the field. Coach is leaving the stadium. Wait, there is a penalty flag. Tennessee had too many players on the field. A football game cannot end with a penalty against the defensive team.

On the second last play of the game, LSU scores and wins the game. The television announcer immediately broke into “It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle,” to describe the odd conclusion to the game.  He seemed to be reaching for something that was there. I heard Al Michaels in my head posing the question “Do you believe in miracles?” when a collection of amateur U.S. hockey players beat the Russians at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

LSU beating Tennessee in football this year was no miracle, and it certainly was not comparable to the U.S hockey team’s win over the Russians in 1980. LSU is ranked in the top ten. Tennessee is not ranked at all. LSU should have won by three touchdowns. To suggest that their win was somehow a miracle, even by sporting event hyperbole standards, seems more than a bit overboard.

Early Wednesday morning, I watched one of the trapped Chilean miners emerge from the bowels of the earth. He was not only alive, he was standing, talking and hugging after 69 days of being trapped in a collapsed mine. The moment was packed with emotion. This man was alive. His family was seeing and touching him again. The obvious word to describe the situation was “miracle”, but somehow it seemed too small. A larger word was needed. How can the word that is so freely used to describe the conclusion of sporting events be the same word used to describe men being saved from such a catastrophe?  How can the word used to describe the unexpected outcome of a contest be the same word we use to describe the joy, relief and gratitude of the birth of a child or the healing of a life-threatening illness?  I am convinced that the lives we share together on this planet matter to God. At the same time, I am fairly certain that the outcomes of football games are not high on the list of God’s concerns. Yet, in either case, an unexpected outcome is described as miracle.

Albert Einstein said, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Given a choice between the two, I much prefer a world where everything is a miracle. Such a world not only expects God to participate in our living, but gratefully acknowledges such participation. When and where we see miracles says something about what we expect of God and what we think of God. A world full of everyday miracles is a not a bad thing so long as it does not numb us to God’s capacity to do the extraordinary.

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