Sermon Pentecost 4 July 7, 2019

2 Kings 5:1-14                       Psalm 30                     Galatians 6:7-16        Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The chances of any particular thing happening are enormous.  Every fraction of a second any and all of us have limitless possibilities of action or thought in front of us.  We can do or think this, or that, that’s a binary way of looking at life, which is the way computers function, for them things are either a zero or a one, black or white, on or off, yes or no.  And depending upon a choice or an instinct we may do one thing or another.  But we always have more than two options, there may be hundreds, thousands of alternatives for us at any particular time.  To throw a big spanner into the works then, computers are being developed, called quantum computers, that can calculate things as both a one and a zero at the same time, or see things as black and white at the same time, or yes and no, or on and off at the same time.  So when we say something is a coincidence we are saying that two things have come together inexplicably, the odds of such a thing happening are almost impossible to calculate and are most likely not ever to have happened.  A coincidence is two unrelated events that happened at one point in time, seemingly at random, they are co-incident but are otherwise unrelated.

An example, given a different earlier decision you may not have stepped off the curb and been hit by a bus.  If someone had said something to you five minutes before and caused you to pause for a second or two, you wouldn’t have been hit by the bus.  We did a Bible Study on this a couple of years ago with the movie  “Stranger Than Fiction”.  Coincidences are occurrences that seemingly happen randomly.  The coincidence of any two things happening simultaneously has the probability of infinity, that’s even worse than the odds of all lotteries combined.  Coincidences don’t happen in the natural world, the odds are too remote. 

But let’s agree  ‘funny’  things do happen.  We have all experienced them when two things come together unexpectedly.  You think about someone you haven’t spoken to in ages, and then they call you.  You can’t get tickets to The Game, and someone gives you a pair without being asked because they thought you would like to go.  Going home for Christmas was impossible, then something makes it possible, a water main broke, and the plant closed down until the New Year.

Or as we heard today in the Old Testament story, Naaman had an incurable disease and only a miracle could heal him.  Some time before that in battle he had taken a prisoner and brought her home with him to be his wife’s servant girl, and the girl knew the only person who could make that miracle happen, and moreover she was willing to share the information.  That’s not just one big coincidence but five separate events having to happen for things to work.  The chances of that happening you can calculate are infinity times infinity five times, which means it could never happen, but it did !  But they had more than two choices, Naaman could have sent the girl elsewhere and never heard from her again, or killed her;  she may not have been willing to share her knowledge of the prophet, who was Elisha by the way;  the wife may not have wanted her as a servant;  Naaman need not have believed her thinking it just women’s talk;  he may not have taken it to the king of Aram;  the king of Aram may have said no;  the king of Israel may have let it die, or have gone to war with Aram because he felt threatened if he did not cure Naaman;  and Elisha may not have ever heard that Naaman was in town;  and Naaman obviously at first insulted by the cure may have ridden off in a fit of rage not to return;  and his servant may had not have had the guts to speak truth to power and get Naaman to follow instructions and so on.  We now have at least dozens more options for action and therefore dozens of infinities times dozens of infinities in the probability equation, which is so vast a concept that it is beyond our ability to conceive, like where is the end on the Universe ?. / I have a sneaking suspicion that something else is going on.  If only there were Someone who was bigger than infinity and the universe and who could arrange for certain things to happen.  I wonder if such a Person exists and who it could be.  Any guesses ?

In the Gospel story Jesus sent out seventy disciples to lay the ground work, they were an advance team, sent to prepare people to receive Jesus on His mission, even today advance teams go out to prepare rallies for their leaders of whatever stripe.  The seventy fanned out across the countryside working miracles, miracles always catch people’s attention.  Now miracles are one of the class of things that fall into the category of co-incidents, in that two events happen, a miracle worker is on hand to change the forces of nature in a precise way to heal a suffering person.  In Naaman’s case it was done by doing something very simple;  bathing seven times in a particular river, not any river because in them the miracle would not have worked, it had to be the Jordan, which was close by.  In the case of the seventy they all acquired the ability to heal at the right time in the right places, it even astounded them. 

Now their technique was to cast out demons.  You may think that is farfetched, it is not.  It was the ancient way of saying that the poison in the person’s system was removed.  There is nothing strange in that to us, is there ?  That’s what modern medicines do, except the seventy did it without the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry.  If an anti-biotic can work why could not a healing miracle;  a miracle that took out the poison too ?

Now I think we can accept that miracles don’t happen because of coincidences, there has to be something or someone who can re-engineer the circumstances of life intentionally, because the chances of it happening randomly are infinitely remote.  Who or what could cause such a thing ?  Any guesses ?

I hope you have come to the same conclusion as me, that it is our Almighty God who causes all what we think are coincidences and all miracles, because they wouldn’t happen without Him.  If you think of a friend and they call you, that is not too small an occurrence for God to be involved in it.  It occurs for a purpose, a beneficial purpose, God is answering your need, taking care of you.  The tickets to The Game are there because God wants you to have fun.  Actually getting home for Christmas is a gift from God.  Looked at in that light every good thing that happens is a gift from God, given that you cannot know of all the infinite number of actions that led to the good thing you have received.  If you still believe in coincidences give thanks to God for them.  It’s not the random Invisible Hand that Adam Smith described where everyone in society adds to cumulative results without intent or purpose but a living loving God directing things for your wellbeing.  I know that because I have experienced so many blessings by  ‘coincidence’  that I now willingly give up my choice of options in a circumstance and allow God to take charge of my life, under my own control it was a mess, letting go of the reins, is a liberating feeling and a step to my wellbeing in every way.  God loves every one of us, be open to receiving that love by acting in accord with His will, which means pray and know His teachings, that is, the way of life God wants us to lead but when you don’t God will come to your rescue the way He did on the Cross, two millennia ago.  He was just waiting for you to be born.

Listen to the beginning of the Psalm again;

I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O Lord my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.

You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;  you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

How many times has that happened to you?  Innumerable times I am sure, I know it has happened to me.  So what should be our response ?  Again the Psalm;

Sing to the Lord, you servants of his;  give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Because this is the God who saves us from harm, heals and redeems us.  This is the same God who wants us to live for ever with Him in perfect peace of body, mind and spirit.  Be thankful to God for everything that happens to you because everything is drawing you back to the presence of God, which is where we all started and where we want to be.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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