I was just reminded of an incident that happened a while back and that speaks to the difference between God’s action and coincidence. It feels like that’s a good thing to consider as we walk into Christmas celebration. Faith is believing in something unseen. And at Christmas it feels good to consider in what we put our faith.
The incident took place at the closing of the church I founded in a shopping center. Nine years after it began we were shutting it down. It was sad, but it seemed clear that it was the only choice. We held our last worship service, got our books in order, hauled off all personal items and were left with all the standard “non-interesting” pieces of church- tables, chairs, shelves, small rugs, music stands, desks, platforms… those kinds of things. We sent out word to area churches that if they needed any of these items they were welcome to come on this particular day and time and take anything they wanted for free. We set up a small crew to help carry, take down names for those things that were too big to fit into some vehicle and went about the clearing.
I went off for lunch at one point and when I came walking back into our space people were immediately calling me to the phone. Mark, a pastor friend, was calling to ask about a particular item. He said, “Geoff, you know that podium you use for preaching, I was wondering where you got that. I want to get one like it.”
He was speaking of a conductor’s stand I bought from which I preached. It looked like a music stand but it was plexi-glass and very wide. I would have my notes and a book or two and even some other papers on it when I spoke. I had chosen it specifically for preaching and that’s how it was used through the life of our church. Now it sat in the midst of all the music stands, just waiting to be carried off in the bunch.
I said, “Mark… do you know what’s happening here today?”
He said he didn’t and that began my story of our situation. He was stunned, disappointed and left wondering. I concluded by saying, “So, if you want it, it’s yours.” We made arrangements to meet because he lived and worked some miles away. He was starting his own church at that time and had been thinking through what to use as a pulpit when he remembered mine.
It occurred to me, as I pulled it out of the crowd of black music stands that something had happened. On this random day, at this random time Mark called for this particular stand. The stand, which was designed for a totally different purpose, had been specifically chosen by me for the preaching and teaching of God’s word. It was a dedicated instrument. No one in our place ever allowed it to be used for anything else. People always asked if it could be moved. It had become sacred by its use… special. That day, when everything was sailing out the door, this one item was called for particularly.
What occurred to me was that God laid claim to it. When I hung up the phone I thought, “God’s saying, ‘You can let all the rest of this stuff go, but this piece… this is mine.’” It continued and continues now, as far as I know, in that singular purpose – the preaching and teaching of God’s word.
Just a bit of wonder there and it makes me wonder… coincidence or God? Why would you put more faith in coincidence than God? Like the Higgs Boson… a thousand scientists stood outside, all night, to get the chance to see the Hadron Collider try to demonstrate this particle was real. Up to that time they couldn’t see it and couldn’t measure it. They could only see an effect, a “bump,” they interpreted as evidence. That’s what we call faith.