For reasons I don't recall, I subscribe via email to Faith and Leadership Newsletter published by Duke Divinity School. Quite frankly, I have all sorts of email newsletter subscriptions--poetry newsletters, food newsletters, quilting newsletters--and often I just end up deleting the emails when they show up in my box. Given that Faith and Leadership is for faith leaders and I myself lack a flock, it's one that often goes unread.
But today I opened it up and clicked on Reflections: Stories of Hope. This week's reflection was a piece by Mark Ralls, a Methodist minister in Dallas, Texas, called "Say it with Flowers." It's a reflection on miracles and signs and wonders, and the story Ralls tells is so lovely and amazing, I wanted to share it with you.
(If you'd like to read the whole reflection, go here.)
Ralph was volunteering in our Dining & Caring Center in the basement of our church, when a woman approached him. In the center, folks can receive everything from a warm meal to a bicycle or a haircut. The woman who stood before him, however, wanted none of these. She was in search of flowers. Earlier that week, her son-in-law had been killed in an accident while working at his job as an auto mechanic. His funeral was scheduled for the following day, but when it came time to purchase flowers for the service, the family was a little short.
Ralph was not sure what to do, but he was determined to do something. “Stay here,” he said to our guest as he ascended the stairs. His first thought was that perhaps the flowers from Sunday’s worship service had been left on the altar. But Ralph never made it to the sanctuary. As soon as he reached the top of the stairs, he saw a woman coming in his direction across the church parking lot. She was carrying a bouquet of white flowers. She walked up to him. Ralph was so taken aback by this, all he could think to say was, “Hey, where did you get those flowers?” “Would you like them?” she replied and, smiling broadly, handed Ralph the bouquet.
Ralph bounded down the stairs and was greeted with disbelief from our guest and the volunteers around her. As you might imagine, news of this wonder-full event spread through our congregation like a kitchen fire. Folks started to drop by my office to ask if I thought the mysterious woman had been an angel.
I decided to ask Ralph, and he seemed nonplussed by the whole thing. “Mark, I was a chemical engineer. I’m not even sure I believe in angels. But I can’t explain away what happened that day. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she was an angel. But I also wouldn’t be surprised to find her sitting in my pew some Sunday morning -- a member I’ve never met. To me, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, God is trying to tell us something.”
Ralph’s wise response expresses the biblical approach to miracles. Whether wonders or signs -- or perhaps a little of both -- it does not matter. Either way, God speaks.