Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coincidences happen…

The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word… It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live. We also must give words to what we are living. If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing. When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it.

Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
Time and again over the course of my life I have found myself stumbling across this connection between what is said, and thought, and what is. Words have real power, power beyond mere emotion. Words change things, not just the way we look at things.

When prayers are answered, prophecies fulfilled, there will always be sceptics standing on the touchline waiting for the chance to claim that it was all coincidence. But coincidence is a slippery term, that can as easily turn and bite the hand of the one who uses it dismissively. For instance, the Wikipedia definition of coincidence opens, “Coincidence is the noteworthy alignment of two or more events or circumstances without obvious causal connection… A coincidence does not prove a relationship, but related events may be expected to have a higher index of coincidence.”

William Temple once said, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.”

We are deep into the territory of the Eucharist here. In many ways the Eucharistic Prayer seems to me to be the heart and source of all prayer in the Kingdom. And here the words do things. When we repeat, as he commanded us, Jesus’ words, “Take, eat, this is my body…” we are saying something that is true beyond symbol and description. Jesus said, “…this is my body,” and, “this cup… is the new covenant in my blood.” His words changed things. He meant them to. (Matthew 26.26; Luke 22.14-20) There is a co-incidence, a being-together-in-the-one-place, of bread, and word, and flesh, that we ignore at our peril. As Paul said: “…all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves.” (1 Corinthians 11.29)

When I pray in Jesus’ name, whatever I pray is prayed within the co-incidence of the Kingdom, the co-incidence of our eternal life in Christ and our temporal life in the world (John 17.14.16) and it has literally real significance. As Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14.13) No wonder things happen when we pray. (It’s worth noting that Jesus says he will do what we ask. This is not a blank cheque for worldly goods or selfish ambitions. Jesus cannot act against his own character. As he says a couple of verses earlier, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (John 14.10-11))

Coincidences? I should say so…

No comments:

Post a Comment