Last Sunday I preached on the story of Joseph from Genesis, chapters, 37-50. I wore a tie-dyed t-shirt in order to pay homage to the 1985 Peters Township High School production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat. The Director of that musical, Barry Wood, decided to stage it in a 60’s flower child motif. That musical was the one and only time that I ever participated in a theatrical production. Mr. Wood, seeing more in me than I obviously saw in myself, decided to cast me as the lead. It turned out to be the highlight of my senior year in high school.
Monday morning I awoke to a Facebook Messenger notification. It was from a woman named Janie, who also went to Peters Township High School and was in the same 1985 musical. She was letting people know that Mr. Wood wasn’t doing very well. He was in a rehab facility and was very down. She asked all of us to send him a card or something to cheer him up.
A coincidence, as defined by Webster, is “a remarkable occurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.” To which I would add, “that holds a special significance to the person experiencing said causal connection”. What are the chances that I would make a reference to a man, that I hadn’t thought about for thirty-six years, in a Sunday sermon. Just to wake up on Monday morning to a message from a woman, that I hadn’t talked to for thirty-six years, about that very same man? And to top this whole coincidence off, the message was a call for us to reach out to Mr. Wood, because he wasn’t doing very well.
This is where my “special significance” addition to the definition of coincidence comes into play. If Janie had sent me that message on any other Monday, I would have most likely seen it, read it and left it. Now before you get all high and mighty on me, like you would never be that cold and callous, remember that the point is about my “special significance” addition to the definition of coincidence. Don’t get lost in the apparent lack of compassion that my confession reveals.
What made Janie’s message powerful was not the content of what she shared, but the context in which it was received. I received it less than twenty four hours after referencing Mr. Wood in a sermon. This context gave me the perspective that God was up to something. This context gave me the perspective that God knew what God was doing when he put the story of Joseph, thus the memory of Mr. Wood, into my life. For it happened one day before I would receive a message asking to spread some love to Mr. Wood. Which resulted in me sitting down and writing a letter, thanking him for taking a chance on this senior in high school, who had never been in a musical.
All of this leads me to a different definition of coincidence: When God chooses to remain anonymous!