Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

I believe that there is such a thing as pure coincidence. Random things happen all the time. If Felicia and I show up at a function in the same color of clothes, trust me it is a coincidence. If we show up in the same clothes, it is an unfortunate mistake. I believe that there are coincidences in life; sometimes the stars align, or we just happen to be in the right place at the right time to meet our lifelong mate, or conversely, we are in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffer some calamity. I believe there is such a thing as pure coincidence. I don’t think that the God who gave us free-will is orchestrating every human experience and interaction.

Having said that, I see in a mirror dimly, life is mysterious to me, and most of the time I have no clue what God is up to. A few weeks ago, Felicia and I were on vacation. One morning we ended up at a timeshare sales presentation. I am guessing that many of you are now questioning my intelligence. We agreed to attend the sales pitch as a favor to the young man at the front desk and it did not hurt that they offered me free coffee and $150. I advise people, if they have the time and inclination to find out more about timeshares, go to the presentation, take whatever incentive they offer, ask questions and under no circumstances are you to buy the product. I say, “Even if they give it to you for free, just thank them for their time and move on.”

The mystery of coincidence. There were 17 people going through the timeshare presentation that morning. Nine sales staff members would each be assigned to an individual or couple. After a group presentation the sales pressure would continue with your personal sales representative. The promise, when one is enticed to participate, is that the total time commitment is one hour. Like church, sometimes one hour turns into 90 minutes.

After a very short getting to know you conversation, our timeshare representative George asked what we did for a living. Being in the heart of LDS country, I had told Felicia to tell them that I was a proctologist, but she is not a good liar. “A Lutheran Pastor, how long have you been a Lutheran Pastor?” George carried his 66 years quite well, he was age- appropriately fit, polite, and smart. He was also broken. He opened his heart to us, his 39-year-old son had taken his own life, leaving behind George’s precious granddaughter. His eyes welled up, he cried, we held his hand, and listened to an all too familiar story, his guilt and shame on display. “If only I had recognized the signs, if only I had said this or done that.”

I looked deep into his tear-filled eyes and reminded George that his son died not of suicide, but of a mental illness. Some illnesses lead to death, not all diseases can be cured, and it makes no difference what we do or don’t do. Even the most competent medical professionals cannot cure every patient. His son was suffering from a terminal disease, his suicide was simply the final act of the disease process. “George, look at me. I have been down this road in my church and in my own family and I am telling you that you are not responsible for Shawn’s death. And equally important, George you need to know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Disease, addiction, depression, death, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Suicide is not an unforgivable sin. Shawn is loved and safe in God’s hands.”

The mystery of coincidence. Was it a coincidence that Felicia and I ended up with George this day? Was God’s hand in there somewhere? I don’t know. I am not that smart. What I can tell you is that George and I embraced as I walked out of the sales office. My friends, our humanity is shared with the people of every land, race, culture and religion. We are more alike that we are different. Keep your heart open to coincidence, it may not be a coincidence at all.

One beggar telling another where to find bread, I am your

Pastor Jim

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