Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coincidence or confirmation?

When a word, experience or symbol keeps coming at you, is it a coincidence, or maybe something more? Here's what happened today:

In this morning's sermon I looked at St. Paul's claim that a sincere disciple of Jesus can be a bit crazy when it comes to God and still be gentle with people:

For if we are beside ourselves (seemingly nuts, out of step with others), it is for God; if we are in our right mind (self-controlled, clear headed), it is for you.
II Corinthians 5:13

Among several possible applications of this verse, I suggested stepping out of the familiar church comfort zone and spending more time among non-church people, where we will be a bit out of step.
  • + Our wackiness, if it is based in our sincere devotion to God, might be thought provoking or even attractive to people who might take a peek at Christ's message.
  • + But for that to happen, our crazy devotion to God must be matched with a neighborly humanity toward other people. People are bombarded with solicitations and manipulations to make them cogs in somebody else's machine. We need to have the self-control to treat each person first and foremost as a valued soul, not as a rear-end targeted for our pews (OK, seats if you're more contemporary).

As an off-the-cuff illustration of this idea, I mentioned Jesus' mini-parable about a shepherd leaving his 99 secure sheep to go out looking for the one that wandered off into danger. There's a certain over-the-top craziness in the little story, but also a tender simplicity.

Tonight, as I settled down for my evening devotions at home, I opened the Book of Common Prayer to find Matthew 18:1-14 as the assigned reading. Guess what's in verse 12?

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?

Coincidence? Or is this a case of the Holy Spirit confirming a priority for me and for my congregation? Was THE Good Shepherd cheer leading this idea that Church of the Good Shepherd get out of its comfort zone?


Anonymous said...

Quoting author Norvene Vest: "...sometimes God's voice sounds suspiciously like our own..."
Possibly it is also true about the coincidences. How are we to know?


TLF+ said...

NOVICE OBLATE - "How are we to know"... How am I to know... How can I know... no, wait - here's the ticket:

"How will I know if he really loves me?"

Just picking on you 'cuz I know you :) Really, you make a very good point because perceived coincidences can be just that, or even deceptions by the Evil One.

On the other hand, Norvene's quote points to the Biblical truth that the Holy Spirit works with our spirit to guide us into the word of Jesus and to lift our prayers to the Father.

So there is much discernment to be done around a "coincidence." If it leads to an unbiblical conclusion, it must be dismissed; but if it supports a Biblically faithful insight, it should be held onto and prayed over.