Over the weekend, I was watching a series of classic Halloween movies. For many soon-to-be stars, these movies were their onscreen debut. One of the channels I watched discussed how these classic films came into being. That drew me to a deeper search about the movies, their cast, and their directors.
While I was looking at some of their biographies, a little window appeared on the side of the screen, displaying ads for some of the latest items I had viewed or ordered online. I understand that many websites have ways of looking over my shoulder so to speak. I am sometimes overwhelmed with a variety of pictures and videos that companies hope I will view, visit, and possibly make a purchase. And though the internet has become an encyclopedic source for me, I also am aware of these other pieces which are a snapshot of how I interact with the internet.
The same is true when I write these reflections or prepare a sermon. I discover much more than I can include in a single message. The thread of connections that are revealed from the search is sometimes wondrous and amazing. Searching one Bible passage invites me to discover how words or phrases which resonate with me can be found in other places. New connections, increasing my understanding of how awesome our Lord is, come from the way God has written and is writing the words of the Bible on our hearts.
The Shema, an ancient Hebrew prayer we first read in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, becomes the greatest commandment in Matthew 22: 36-38. There are numerous illustrations of our Lord as a shepherd in both the Old and New Testaments. “His steadfast love endures forever” is a refrain frequently sung in the Psalms and embodied in our Lord’s salvific acts from Isaac to the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, my preparation work leads me to look through either my Strong’s Concordance or my Hebrew one. Both share how a particular word is present throughout the Bible. Some words like ark (in English) appear mostly in one book. In Hebrew there are two distinct words for ark. Noah’s Ark (tevat Noah) and the Ark of the Covenant (aron ha-berit) are not used interchangeably. The information each word search reveals is like those ads which appear as I focus on the task at hand.
Those side journeys are often as enriching as my reason for reading a passage or reflecting on one of my favorite Bible verses. God is renewed in the word whenever I conduct these searches to discover connections I never realize existed. These revelations are ongoing and affirm God’s love for each of us.
Need I say that the same happens with people? There is a series of books by Squire Rushnell called When God Winks. The premise of these books is that there are no coincidences. There are moments in our lives when God nudges us to meet and journey with others in subtle ways. Sometimes we are aware of these nudges. More often, we only see God’s work in our lives when we take the time to look back.
I close with this task for you. I encourage you to tell a story of how a chance meeting has impacted and influenced your spiritual selves. Maybe you assisted with a food pantry or community meal and made a connection with one being served or another worker. Has that connection become a lifelong friendship? Is it possible you were part of a Women’s Circle that provided lap blankets, baby blankets or prayer shawls, and you saw someone wrapped in one at a grocery store or waiting room? Have you had a conversation with a visitor to your church before or after the worship service, only to meet that person a few days later, with a smile or a nod, realizing that this person is no longer a stranger? How is God speaking to you today and each day? And Amen.