I've been pondering the nature of miracles of late. My football team have recently performed a feat that their manager, Gus Poyet, has called a miracle.
Sunderland were residing at the bottom of the Premier League table from the beginning of the season, while the fascist Di Canio screamed at the players and support staff, team moral and league positions hit new lows. A new manager gave new hope, and a trip to Wembley and two derby victories over local rivals Newcastle proved encouraging. Even so, a month ago Sunderland lay 7 points adrift at the bottom of the table - with seemingly impossible games to win. Away games at Chelsea and Manchester United meant an inescapable plunge into the Championship League below.
Then it all started to change. Connor Wickham was brought back from a loaned period and started scoring goals. First a draw to Man City, then a record breaking win against Chelsea on their home turf, followed by a trouncing of Cardiff. Beating Man United at their grounds in Old Trafford was a staggering achievement, and then, to seal the deal on the great escape - beating West Brom 2-0 last night.
13 points out of a possible 15 has left them high and dry. Sunderland will live on to enjoy another season in the English Premier League, one of the most exciting sporting events in the world. Phew.
Earlier in the day, I'd been on BBC television (they like a vicar who wears a red and white dog collar) and was asked whether I believed miracles can happen. In a bit of the interview not shown on the news, I explained that God worked his miracles through people. Through Jesus, through the disciples, through the small boy who shared his food at the feeding of the five thousand. God's miracles were worked out through people like Mother Theresa, Oscar Romero, Tutu, Mandela and the couple round the corner who run the youth group. God has entrusted miracles to us. In our hands is the power to change and improve the world through acts of love, compassion, mercy and devotion.
Their comes a time when people believe that faith can move mountains. The players at Sunderland regained their belief in themselves. They found a faith that made what seemed impossible, possible.
So yes. I do believe in miracles. And whilst I'm thrilled that Sunderland have stayed up, I'd be more thrilled by people regaining the belief that poverty could be eradicated, that companies could behave ethically, that governments could build up the common good and not destroy it. We need more miracles in these modern times. And the miracles are in our hands.