Micah 6: 8; Mark 5:6,7,8
Do you feel lucky….or blessed
This week we are remembering Mary Tyler Moore. I think it would be hard to find anyone who disliked her. First there was the likeable, quirky and sometimes silly Laura in the Dick Van Dyke show. Then the more mature single woman who was building a career in broadcasting. I would imagine many American women would have wanted to be her in roughly first half of her life, a kind of icon of American womanhood in the sixties and seventies, and the rest wanted to date her. I mentioned the first half of her life, because she suffered a lot in the second. Even though she grew up with an alcoholic mother, we would consider that young Mary because of her looks and the opportunities that came to her was lucky, in her career at least. Sometimes it’s timing. Would Mary Tyler Moore have succeeded had she been born fifty years later? Would she have had the right voice? Sure she had talent, but success also comes with a lot of luck. Look at any person who made it big in entertainment or sports or politics, there has to be an element of luck. When I still played tennis, a tennis partner of mine once said that in sports you make your own luck. But do we think that’s true. Sure you can set yourself up for luck, like the bridesmaid who stands just in the right place for the bride’s garter, but can you make it? But, friends, luck is so deep in the human psyche. The idea of making our luck. It’s kind of magical thinking and it can easily lead to obsessive compulsive behavior. But there are lucky numbers and lucky shoes and lucky whatever else…
Roughly a billion and a half people celebrate Lunar New Year again this weekend. Envelopes of lucky money are being passed around. We sent some off to our kids already, small red envelopes with crisp new bills. Family members are on their best behavior. Great movements of people are taking place. The stage has to be set for the New Year. Luck is an important concept, luck and how to guarantee it. We all have a little bit of that lucky thinking in us, but also very few of us would bank on the lucky numbers and behaviors paying off for us. We really fall back on them to lessen our anxiety.
This made me think about the difference between luck and blessing. “Blessed are the ones who…,”Jesus preaches. Mary Tyler Moore, who was lucky in her career, taught us something about being blessed also. She challenged the idea that single women without a man couldn’t be happy and fulfilled. Society didn’t believe that kind of woman was blessed then. Society has a lot of those assumptions. Linda Schiphorst McCoy (sermon notes)writes: “Happy are those who have lots of money and can go anywhere, do anything, have anything they want. Happy are those who are successful and well acclaimed in their businesses or professions. Happy are those who are healthy, or those who have good marriages, or who have perfect children. “Happiness is, in John Powell’s words, an inside job.” If we stop to think about it, we are all smart enough to know that happiness does not come as a result of money or material possessions or from any external source. Sometimes we let ourselves believe that having all the outward looks of happiness actually means we’re happy. However, being blessed doesn’t have anything to do with external circumstances. The point Jesus is trying to make is that being blessed is not found where the conventional wisdom of the world would have us believe. In essence, Jesus turns things upside down, and offers the reverse of what we might expect. The feeling of being blessed can be experienced in some unlikely places, and is a byproduct of our manner of living and our attitudes toward life. Part of the assumption here is that God wants us to be happy. That’s God’s intent for our lives. Jesus knew that unhappy people tend to be self-focused, and look on the gloomy side of things. People who feel blessed, on the other hand, have different characteristics, and tend to be more energetic, decisive, flexible, and creative. They tolerate more frustration, are more forgiving, and tend to be more willing to help those in need.”
In the end, friends, luck is a tenuous thing, and may be dependent on a lot of factors. In the end luck we cannot control. If we could, we wouldn’t be able to call it luck anymore. Being blessed is totally different. Feeling blessed is not dependent so much on what happens to us. Luck is. Being blessed is an inside job. It is about acknowledging God’s grace in our lives. That is why those who suffer can be blessed, not just because what will happen to them in the future, but because they have discovered an inner light. We have all met some amazing people I am sure who have shown us that you can feel blessed even though their lives appear to be so miserable. May God make us see our blessings.