The more I think about it, the more interesting it becomes. Chance encounters are very interesting things. It's very easy to become deterministic about things, assuming that everything is somehow orchestrated in heaven and we, if we are not careful, become little more than animated characters in some grand cosmic play.
On the other hand it would be wrong to assume that somehow God is not involved int eh detail of our lives and the people we meet. Somewhere we have to find a balance. Here are two recent "chance encounters" that I've had that suggest to me at least that God is on the case!
The first happened a couple of weeks ago. I'd taken the TRX plunge and thought I'd go and try it out in the local park. The basketball hoop provided a great anchor point, and it felt great to be outdoors exercising. The TRX is quite a challenge to master some of the more adventurous exercises, but at its simplest it's challenging enough for a beginner like me.
Having completed my routine, I dismantled the TRX and set off home. The gate to the bowling green was open and I popped my head in to see what was there. Just at that moment someone came out and we began talking. He offered to introduce me to the club who were there setting up for an event that afternoon. We had a chat and I think I might go down one afternoon and start to build a relationship there. But that's the not the whole story. It turns out that the person I met just happens to be the Outdoor Sports Officer for the council, and we got talking about outdoor fitness, PT stuff and sport. He invited me to a meeting about sport in the local area. How cool is that?
Perhaps PT and therapy will come together in the life of the local community.
The second meeting happened at the gym. I'm not particularly fond of being indoors, especially when the weather is reasonable. Machines don't really help with fitness, they isolate muscles too much. Great for strength but not for functional fitness. Anyway, I go from time to time and this time I;d just about finished when I got into conversation with another member. Turns out he's interested in sports massage, so I gave him my card. It also turns out that a friend of his has just bought the pub in the village and wants to make it a more family friendly place.
Now these are just two chance meetings, but I can't help thinking that God is at work somewhere in all of this. Firstly, it was really encouraging personally to have these conversations. The more I think about my situation with my denomination, the more frustrated I become. Things like these two meetings fit into out exploration of connecting with a community and seeking to live mission ally in the midst of that community. It is a walk both of faith and of exploration. But apparently I'm on leave of absence so none of it counts as ministry. Tomorrow I'm doing a funeral for a family that has just gone through a still birth. tonight I'm visiting another family about the funeral of an elderly family member, and then tomorrow another visit to family that lost a baby at two days. does that sound like someone who is not involved in ministry?
I'm not for one moment suggesting that traditional, church based ministry, is not open to these sorts of encounters. It always has been for me. So I don't want to harp on about the leave of absence thing. Th point is this: God is at work in my community. All around there are probably signs of his creative engagement with people that I am missing because I do not yet have the eyes to see. I've spent so many years focussing on the internals that I've lost the ability to see beyond the walls and confines of a gathered community. Chance encounters help break you out of that box, and at this time they also remind me that I am still engaged with the kingdom of God no matter what anyone else might think.