What is our appropriate response to life? How are we to respond to the events of an ordinary or a not so ordinary day? Life is the stuff that happens to us while we are waiting for life to arrive. In this place we often look past what is already here in search for something that is probably not going to come our way.
We strive for success, knowledge, power, wisdom, relationship, control and security, and find ourselves over an over again falling short of the goals we set or hope for our selves.
We look around and see others who appear to have more than us and either give up or double up our efforts to achieve. Daniel Kahneman, Noble prize-winner, when asked what the formula for success is answers as follows: “Skill + luck = success”. To be a great success the formula goes this way, “Skill + great luck = great success”. If this is true, and experience and reading tells me, on all probability it is, then what is our response to life as we now experience it?
How do we live with the randomness at the centre of all existence? We couch randomness in the language of choice and causality and forget what happens is not necessarily about the choices we make or a cause we can easily identify. A whole range of seemingly unconnected factors come together in a perfect storm resulting in the situation we find ourselves in. Sometimes this is indeed a happy coincidence, other times it is disturbing and/or tragic.
We were watching the story of the development of the A380 super air liner recently, and in it they discussed the incidence in which one of the Rolls Royce engines caught on fire. The cause? A small drop of oil had fallen onto one of the rotors in the engine which, when it got hot, caught fire. A random event no one could saw happen. I noticed also that someone is suing Malaysian Airlines over the crash of MH370 because they, and I quote, ” failed to ensure the aircraft safely reached its destination”.
I find it interesting people perceive life is not dangerous, vulnerable and random, that somehow we can render life harmless, controllable and predictable. Frankly I do not wish to live in such a world. How far have we come that we take the adventure out of life, that we see death as something we can in fact avoid, or at least put off, and not understand that it is death, the loss of life, that gives its essential value to life?
In each of the three stories Luke gives to Jesus, there is only one response: “Rejoice with me……….” In each of these stories someone has experienced misfortune. One the bad luck of losing a coin, another a sheep and yet another had a son leave home inappropriately. For those around them, each event would have been a catastrophic experience.
A shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one. It doesn’t seem like a big loss, he still has 99 doesn’t he? Why would he not be satisfied with what he had and put the loss down to something that just happens? Everyone loses a sheep now and then don’t they? Foxes, injury, illness or walking off the edge of the cliff? Why would you spend the time looking and leave behind the 99 you already have? Aren’t you putting what you have at risk? Who is watching over the ones left behind?
The theme is repeated with the woman, probably a widow, who loses one silver coin and has 9 remaining coins. She stops everything she has to do and pulls the place a part to chase down the elusive coin. She still has 9 but the washing stays unwashed, the kitchen untidied and the meals unprepared as she searches for 1, 1, coin.
The prodigal son, or the prodigal father, depending on how you see the story, reminds us that it is not just objects that get lost, but people, subjects of our love and relationships, who go missing. They or we make decisions separating us and leaving us searching for ways to reconnect and rediscover each other. This story is tragic. A headstrong young man demands his independence and embarrasses his father, and family, in the eyes of the villagers. He leaves, and his grand scheme unravels. and he finds himself returning home with his tail between his legs. His father, who has been waiting for his return, comes out to meet him. His brother doesn’t, and doesn’t want the lavish party his father throws. It seem unfair as he has been faithful and not ever had such a party thorn for him.
In all three stories, there is only one response to the onlookers, doubters and critics, “Rejoice with me…”
If our first response is to rejoice we will
Embrace and accept the situation. Not all situations end with us finding the precious item we are looking, but if it’s like my office, I always find something else I lost along time ago! This not a frivolous statement. If we reflect on our situation we will indeed find something we have lost, a new perspective on a situation, a greater understanding of what we already have, an awareness of new possibilities hidden in old hurts and frustrations, and more. And we are to rejoice in what we discover.
Recognise and value others. For those who lose objects, we may be tempted to respond, it’s only 1 sheep? What’s the point? But that 1 sheep is valued and has a value to the farmer and because of that the farmer is compelled to seek it out. In reference to the prodigal father, both son’s are of value and the older son is being challenged to see, not only what his brother means to his father, but what he also means to him, party or no party.
Shift from self to others. We often judge a situation from the outside, from what we value, from our life experience and dismiss what it means to others.
Rev Ben Gilmour, a friend of mine who is the minister at the Paddington Uniting Church in Sydney, has just returned from a trip to Jordan and writes:
“We are told by the media that refugees are bad people, just money hungry (economic) or possibly even terror agents. What I witnessed was families just like yours and mine, trying to make the best of it in the face of real terror.
The stark reminder that I can’t get out of my head is that, I saw my sister in the face of refugees, my mum and my dad, my nephews and nieces, with all the human dignity and love and complexity that family brings here. There was no us and them, it was only us.”
Rejoice with me as we reclaim our humanity and begin to live out of the wonder and wealth found in everyday life. Rejoice with each other as we stand together against the random happenings that define and influence our existence. Rejoice with those like the Syrian refugees who are able to find hope in circumstances we often judge and critique without standing where they are standing.
Once we begin to rejoice we recognise the sufficiency of God in all situations and begin to see God at work where once we only saw reasons, causes, faults, failures and hopelessness. The power of rejoicing to unlock possibilities lies in its ability to get us to stop looking at I, me, mine; and to give permission for God, others and each other to blossom and celebrate who they, we are, what is possible and what is already here.
Rejoice with me…