Do you believe in luck? Just about 30 seconds of internet research reveals that Australians lose more in gambling per person than any other country in the world. So apparently a lot of Australians believe in luck.
While there is nothing directly in the bible about gambling, it does warn us about the love of money and attempts to get rich quick. Believing in luck is believing there is a power greater than God which God does not control, which can provide for all our needs. So gambling is like worshipping another god, what the bible calls an idol.
Mathematically, there is no such thing as luck, only chance or odds, which are totally impartial; and there are many factors that can affect chance.
Not long ago there was a survey which tried to find the answer to this question: are Christians more lucky than other people (because of prayers being answered for them)?
When the researchers put together their results, this is what they found:
Christians are likely to feel more positive about life because they are more likely to
chat to strangers and so they are more likely to discover coincidences, same things happening for two different people;
meditate or enjoy a time of quiet. In meditation we discover our inner self and resolve our inner conflicts;
expect others to be pleasant and so they have a greater acceptance and ability to work with other people;
believe that negative events will eventually work out for the best.
So the researchers who were investigating luck concluded that Christians are not more lucky, but they are more positive about life, and so they feel lucky.
And why do we feel more positive about life? Because we have made a decision, a decision to trust. It is just exactly the kind of decision we need to make at this time in our parish life, collectively and individually, to trust that God has only good things in store for us.
It is good psychology to make beautiful inner decisions. It is good psychology to think things like: I am worthy, I am likeable, I can work for and achieve my goals. To trust, to have a life built on trust, supports such thinking. Especially learning to trust in our dark times. This includes asking God, how do you want me to pray. I tell him what I want, but then ask him how he wants me to pray.
Jesus invited people to place their trust in God. This is so important that we have again a reading from John’s gospel, in which Jesus says: ‘Eat my flesh, drink my blood, and you will have eternal life.’ He invites us to take his life into ours, and make a decision to trust him. It is a decision that we make and keep making for a lifetime. Have you made that decision today yet?
But this is no easy message. We would rather trust in luck or our own strength. And it has always been so.
John in his gospel describes the falling away of many of Jesus’ followers. John shows us that Jesus attracted people rapidly as he began his work. There were so many people coming to Jesus in Judea where the capital Jerusalem is located that he withdrew from there to the countryside in Galilee.
But then as people listened to Jesus and what he was teaching them, they did not like it, and they began to fall away. This rings so true it has be what really happened. Only someone who was there could have noticed this and then told about it. It also gives added truth to the story, because a false gospel would be saying how successful Jesus was.
When Jesus began asserting his divine nature, how he is the bread of life come down from heaven, first the crowd, and then some of the outer circle of disciples fell away: they found his teaching too difficult to take.
It was too hard for some of his followers to accept, and they no longer wanted to be associated with him, so they left. Then Jesus gave his 12 disciples, his close group of learners, the same choice: did they also want to leave him?
God gives us this tremendous freedom. But just as we can decide against Jesus, so if we are going to follow him we also need to make a decision for him.
I often wish that God had made it easier for us. St Paul saw this fickleness all around him. He said that Jews want miracles and Greeks want something that sounds clever. Instead we have a hidden God who wants us to be free to decide to love him. If we actually saw God, his presence would be so overwhelming that we would have no freedom to choose. So God has made himself hidden, to give us the room we need to be able to choose to love him.
God’s hiddenness is most present in Jesus. He came as an ordinary human being. And then he dies, on a cross, like a common criminal. St Paul describes it as Jesus giving up all his rights as Son of God. Paul says this is the mystery that was hidden for all ages until that point in time. The cross is the mystery, and it is also God’s revealing of God’s self. What has been revealed is the God who makes himself low so we can be lifted up. Jesus shows us the God of love.
One of the early Christian theologians said, ‘what is not assumed is not healed.’ What this means is that Jesus had to be fully human, not half human. He had to come down to the level of our human life, and to the place of sinful suffering, or that part of our humanity would not have been healed. If God was a great conquering hero, we would just have another supreme master lording it over us. But God is not like that at all.
The mystery has been revealed, and yet we still don’t always like it. We can be just like that crowd in Galilee that found Jesus too difficult in his claim to be the bread of life.
We must count the cost of being his followers. Jesus calls us to carry our cross just as he carried his. He wants us to be people who don’t hold on to our self-made achievements. He wants us to be people who serve rather than who want to be served. He wants us to be ready with our towels to wash feet.
We have been drawn together this morning by the Spirit of God, to share in this meal at which Jesus presides. It is so that we might become equipped to take this faith and share it with the world. Only some in our generation will respond. We are asked not to be successful but faithful, to trust in the Son, to be one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.