Good Fortune or Small Miracles?

IMG_0046A sermon for Sunday, April 19, 2015. Given by Dr. Jeff Sutherland.

Hello everyone!

When Rob asked me if I wanted to write something for church, I think I surprised him with how quickly I wanted to wrestle the pulpit from Nancy and him. I thought about what I could say to you that you have not already heard before from far wiser people than me.

I remembered being told that the secret to preventing people from falling asleep when you are public speaking is to tell stories. I have three little stories that happened to me in the last few years that I would like to share with you now.

Rob, and my cat

The first story involves Rob, and my cat. Yes you heard it correctly, the Reverend Canon Rob Park and our 21 year old cat. We had gotten her and her sister after our honeymoon. Amoré and Ariel were their names. Ariel had died when she was 15 but Amoré was still kicking around.

Rob and Wendy were visiting Darlene and me for Easter communion 2 years ago. Prior to their visit our poor old cat was not doing so well. She was probably on her tenth life. She had lost weight and was given the name, zombie cat, by a friend. The last two years had not been good to Amoré and she had been known to take walks perilously close to our pool.

On the day of their visit, we knew that she had been fighting that much more to keep going. We comforted her and kept her close. Rob asked us if there was anyone that he could say a prayer for and knowing that our lifelong companion needed help to let go we asked him to say a little prayer for her and give her the message that she could let go. Rob humored us, although I think he probably thought we were crazy and he gave a blessing and prayer for Amoré. Very soon after that Rob and Wendy left us for their next home visit. It couldn’t have been five minutes later that I watched Amoré take a deep breath. That was her last breath. What a fortunate event for her and us… To pass away naturally amongst her family.

the infamous, ice storm Christmas

My next story takes place during the infamous, ice storm Christmas. The Saturday night before Christmas we were just getting into the van to go to our friends Christmas party. As we left we noticed our Christmas lights suddenly go off. The whole neighborhood was dark. Liking to party, we continued on our way to our friends, thinking that the power would be quickly restored. As you all remember, that night over the next four hours, the rain turned to ice. By 10 o’clock, the eerie sound of trees being torn apart as they could no longer bear the weight of the ice on their branches could be readily heard. Darlene was scrambling to get some of our batteries for my equipment charged at friends who still had power. By 11 o’clock, we decided that we would have to face our house without power.

You probably wouldn’t know it by looking at me but I am very dependent on electricity. I need it to charge my computer that allows me to talk, power my chair so I can move, and at that time, before my ventilator, I needed it to power my bipap machine so I could breathe easily when sleeping. In our home, I need electricity to power my elevator to take me upstairs to our bedroom.

Without power I would have to be carried upstairs by my friends who probably had a little too much Christmas cheer. Obviously, this caused me to be a little anxious; I could envision them dropping me halfway up the staircase. We were just about to make the transfer from my wheelchair to the hands of my inebriated friends when the electricity came on. Darlene and Zach sprang into action and quickly got me in the elevator and whisked me upstairs. After I was safely upstairs, the power as suddenly as it came on, went off again. My friend on the Sunday morning had a feeling we were in for a long power outage, scoured Brampton and got us one of the last gas generators. With that and multiple extension cords we were quite comfortable upstairs in our bedroom. Ben figured out that low wattage light bulbs had little effect on the generator so we had light throughout the house. I don’t think I ever entertained so many people in our bedroom. Four days and nights passed until the power went on and I could go downstairs again. Later on we found out from a friend who works at Halton Hills hydro that the power came on for only five minutes in the four days. I was very fortunate for that sliver of power to happen exactly when I needed it and for having a friend that had the foresight to go looking for a generator for my family.

every little thing that could go wrong with me did go wrong

My final story occurred last August. During the first week of August every little thing that could go wrong with me did go wrong. My feeding tube got blocked; I had a fever and an irritating rash. After two trips to the emergency, they decided to admit me to the hospital for observation because I was feeling crummy and my blood work was off, we all had the expectation I would probably have a short stay. After saying good night to Darlene, Zach, Benjamin and Nathaniel, I settled in my room and had a good night’s sleep. The next morning, Thursday morning, Darlene arrived early and on her way in saw my doctor at the nurse’s station. She got me up as she has been doing for six years and I suddenly couldn’t breathe anymore. Darlene put me back in bed and watched as my tongue went into spasm, blocking my airway. She quickly called out to get the doctor. When he saw me I was already a dark shade of blue. An arrest was called and the team made its way to my room. It would be two hours and I would alternate in color from waxy white to blue two more times before I was stabilized. I still remember with intensity not being able to breathe. I had no doubts that I was going to die. Random thoughts fired through my head until all went black. It seemed like an eternity passed until I opened my eyes and saw the people working on me. I was still alive!

Having worked in the hospital I know when the best times to have something like this happen are. 9 o’clock on a Thursday morning would have to be up there as one of the best times. All of the critical people are there, fresh and ready to face any crisis.

I shudder to think what the result would have been if I had not been in the hospital when this occurred.

I think I am very fortunate to still be alive!

Good fortune or small miracles

I have shared with you three stories that I think all have a similar theme. The theme some might characterize as a person having very good fortune. The best, of all the endless possibilities, occurred on each of these occasions.

What if it wasn’t purely luck? Could there be another explanation for these fortunate events? Could there have been some divine intervention looking over me and my family? Good fortune or small miracles, that is the question that remains to be answered by each of us.

I think we can all think of similar situations when everything has lined up for us and we have experienced extremely good luck, without questioning how it has occurred. Maybe all of those lucky events were moments when God was helping us find a safe passage. Events when God was actively participating in our lives but we weren’t able to fully appreciate it.

We have to believe in miracles to see them occur in our lives.

We have to believe in miracles to see them occur in our lives.

Good fortune or small miracles? I think it all depends upon if you are able to believe in the power of God.

The prayer after communion comes to my mind. During that we all recite, “Glory to God, whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” Do we truly believe in what we are saying?

I prefer to believe that God is watching out for each of us. That belief gives me strength and comfort.

Please join me for a little prayer,

Thank you God for looking over us and our families. For giving us the resources to keep wanting to be alive, loving and supportive families, a welcoming church community and great friendships. Finally, thank you for enabling us to see the many miracles that occur in our lives.