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Coincidence?

Coincidence?

Monday, January 27, 2014 – Week of 3 Epiphany, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)

Genesis 14:(1-7)8-24

Hebrews 8:1-13

John 4:43-54

Today’s gospel story centers on either an amazing miracle or a big coincidence. A royal official comes to Galilee, where he hears that Jesus is staying, and the official begs Jesus to come and heal his son who is ill back in Capernaum. Instead of visiting the man’s son in person, Jesus tells him, “Go; your son will live.” The man heads back to Capernaum, and his slaves tell him that his son is alive and well. In fact, the very hour that he began to recover was precisely the moment when Jesus had said that the son would live. Coincidence? He thinks not. Rather, the royal official and his whole household become believers.

What do we make of the remarkable coincidences in our own lives? Just last month, I was speaking with someone about a concern of his, and I thought of the perfect person to help him. I promised to put them in contact. On the way home from this conversation, I stopped at the grocery store and who should I run into, but the very person I’d just been talking about! I hadn’t seen her in almost a year, and I could hardly believe that we were right there in the same grocery aisle, just when I needed her.

You might think that my faith would be strengthened by this meeting, that I would pause to marvel at the way that God was orchestrating my life. Yet, I tend to actively resist a faith that rests on the marvelous. To me, such a faith seems overly dependent on God intervening in my favor. If my faith rested on signs and wonders, how would I persevere when signs were lacking? And how would I cope myself, or encourage others, when the universe seems to conspire against us?

Today, I am trying to hear a few words from Jesus not in a challenging tone, but with a merciful voice: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” I used to hear these words in light of other gospel passages about signs. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus warns us that signs and wonders can lead us astray (24:24), and he refuses to give a sign to people who ask for one (16:4). In John’s gospel, Jesus tells Thomas that people are blessed when they do not see, and yet believe (20:29).

But perhaps we should be like Thomas and feel more comfortable admitting to God our need to see. The signs, wonders, and seeming coincidences in our lives may not provide the full substance of our faith, but maybe they are the icing on the cake: Our faith offers us a way of seeing the whole world as marvelous, delightful, and working toward goodness. That’s why we notice the signs in the first place.

The signs in our lives may be few and far between, but let’s at least be open to wondering at them. Perhaps a coincidence is just a coincidence. But even if it isn’t firm evidence of God’s existence and involvement in our lives, a coincidence may still be the merciful gesture that we need. So today, let’s watch for signs and wonder at them when they appear.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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