I went to the retirement worship service for a pastoral colleague. He was a seminary classmate, a friend and godfather to one of our kids. Pete is a very laid back hippie-type. The hippie-style ethics of love, acceptance, peace and goodwill easily meshed with his Christianity and he faithfully served the Viroqua area for 29 years.
Here’s an example of Pete’s laidbackness: At dinner one evening at his house, ice cream was brought out for dessert. Pete’s little son was eating a pickle and he decided to try dipping the dill pickle into the open ice cream bucket to see what the combination would taste like. Since Pete was dishing the ice cream, he saw the whole thing happen, and with a twinkle in his eye he did nothing to stop it. Most parents would have stopped it, and shamed the child, but Joe tried it and decided it wasn’t worth a second go and moved on to his next exploration of the world around him.
Pete, due to his laidbackness, also managed to do something that I never would have dreamed of. When it came time to do offering there were no offering plates. Pete served a three-point parish and as happens when more than two people are doing something, everyone assumed that someone else from one of the other two churches was taking care of that. They adjusted on the fly. Pete grabbed his antique Milwaukee Braves hat and started it around. Someone else took the empty cooler with which they had brought their potluck contribution and started using that as an “offering plate.” A few others grabbed some gallon Ziploc bags from their picnic basket and those were filled as well.
I praised Pete at his post-worship roasting. “Pete, you managed, as only you could, to combine three disparate metaphors. In this sacred offering you managed to ‘pass the hat,’ and have ‘cold cash’ while maintaining ‘transparency.’” Amazing.
When I think about Pete I think about serendipity. Serendipity is when the Holy Spirit is in charge of coincidence. You’re thinking about someone and suddenly that someone calls you. That’s serendipity. You don’t know what to do about dinner and suddenly your spouse comes home with the restaurant gift certificate he won that day. It is amazing how often interesting coincidences happen in our daily lives and it is quite possible that it is serendipity – the Holy Spirit in charge of coincidence.
So often we see the Holy Spirit in a great and grand way doing fabulous things for great and grand people. Part of that might be the feeling that our lives are unexciting. But part of it might be a lack of recognition and acceptance that the Holy Spirit just might be in the middle of the small things.
I go to a nursing home because someone has called and I end up meeting another person who says, ‘Pastor I was so hoping you would come.’ I don’t have the heart to tell them that I came to see someone else — and maybe they were the one I was really supposed to see. Serendipity.
One fall we had been hit with a bunch of unexpected and unplanned expenses. We had seven mouths to feed. That hunting season we got five deer. Good luck? Serendipity?
We are encouraged as Christians to be humble, but maybe God is looking out for us in quiet, yet profound ways. The kids used the refrigerator door as a ladder and broke one of the plastic shelves. I went to the appliance dealer to order a replacement. An impossibly slow and obtuse customer had decided she was important enough to occupy the whole store staff.
Not being able to follow the demons of my lesser nature because I was wearing my clerical shirt, I followed my nose to some hot cider. While I drank it I filled out an entry form for God-knows-what — I was killing time. The day before Christmas the appliance dealer calls to congratulate me on winning a Maytag Bravo washer-dryer set in their holiday drawing. That was the God-knows-what drawing that I entered only because of an incredibly obtuse woman and because I wouldn’t show my Old Adam while dressed like a pastor.
People believe in UFOs. Is believing in serendipity really that big of a stretch?