Friday 21 May 2010

Miracle and Resurrection Words

My letter to Crosslincs, the Lincoln Diocese publication, about the recovery of David Yabbacombe described as a "Miracle of resurrection". Incidentally, if you are like me, and cannot stand the Mortons Digital display, press Save and download a .PDF copy to your computer and read it in that less flashy and more controllable format, allowing for textual and image extraction.

The Editor
Lincoln LN2 1PU

Dear Sir

It was a pleasure to read the heartwarming story about David Yabbacombe and his ongoing return to health.

Nevertheless, I must question the use of the words 'miracle' and 'resurrection'.

The account of his recovery is entirely natural. Others equally could have recovered, or slipped to death.

Perhaps, these days, words like 'miracle' and 'resurrection' have become a way of speaking, offering no more than adding a theological gloss to otherwise natural events.

We are combinations of biology and culture. It may matter, as consciousness returns, that a community is known to care, or that value is seen in liturgical repetition. But such are mind based strategies of healing along with the rest of the body, and part of who we are, and in relationships between others and the self, and in forms of belief and the use of language.

Words like 'miracle' and 'resurrection' seem to have undergone a shift of meaning. The use in this article clearly responds to our non-supernatural culture: the problem being that the language adds nothing in public, explanatory terms, other than the subjective use as a person regained consciousness.

People must notice this shift of use. No one died, and so there was no resurrection into a transformed body; there was no miracle.

There is surely a need for theological honesty. These words are overused and strained. The real sense of wonder and awe is in the recovery itself.

It needs more direct language and more explanation, and therein should lie the theological fascination about our transitory being and the relationship between culture and biology. Theology's obsession with maintaining doctrinal metaphors and the gloss of such language is why explanatory power for our culture-biology interplay has passed to the the social sciences, with the sciences providing the basic data.

From the .PDF [using NoteTab Light's pasteboard and joining of lines] the original article includes these words:

Miracle of resurrection

...Once on the medical ward I was later told that I rediscovered the ability to talk, an encouraging sign for a priest! Three weeks later I was transferred to a rehabilitation ward. To general surprise, I didn’t die.

All praise to Ashby Ward at Lincoln County Hospital where they made me work towards being rehabilitated. I regained full consciousness early in October, but had no memory of the accident. I was still physically very weak and virtually paralysed. I had to be washed and dressed and fed. I started on physiotherapy, which moved me from bed to wheelchair, then to standing and walking a little with the support of a frame. It was reassuring to find my memory returning, and to realise that the lovely smiling girl visiting me so regularly was (and is) my wife.

I found that I enjoyed an overall sense of security; that however odd it all was, (and odd it certainly was) all things were and would be well. I had a real sense of being held in God’s hand, incarnated in the love of those around me; my wife, in her stead fastness, our children, my sisters, the medical personnel, my brothers and sisters in Christ, be they Bishops, other priests or people from my church and the wider Christian community, and my friends and colleagues in Rotary, all demonstrated a wonderful sense of love.

I became aware of a need to pray and found it possible to return to the daily office; always a source of great nourishment, enriched by the ministry of the wonderful hospital chaplains.

Towards the end of October I was allowed home from hospital. Contrary to expectations or predictions expressed by many experts, I had neither died nor become permanently seriously disabled. On the contrary, I had begun to regain the use of my limbs, and my brain was showing potential for effective thinking.

Once home, as time passed, I was able to walk round the house without a walking frame or stick, and on Advent Sunday I walked to church (leaning on my wife and my stick) and worshipped with and as a member of my congregation there. On St Stephen’s Day I presided at the Eucharist, and, at the end of January, preached. My colleagues have been kind in their enabling of my gradual return to active ministry, and now, in this Easter season, I am finding that I am able to take things on in, what might be said to be, a more normal way.


I am realising all the more that I carry the huge blessing and responsibility of being a living witness to the fact that miracles do happen, and that prayer is answered; of being a living witness to the reality of death and resurrection.

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