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May the Odds Be Forever in Your Favor!

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Odds of getting a hole in one? 5,000: 1. Odds of being struck by lightning? 567,000: 1. Odds of winning the nearly billion-dollar MegaMillions jackpot this past January? 302, 575,000: 1. I’m curious. How many of you have ever made a hole in one? How many have been struck by lightning? As I thought. Very, very few! But I will wager that quite a number of you bought a ticket for that January lottery, even though it’s over 60,000 times more likely that you’ll sink a hole in one and over 525 times more likely that you’ll be struck by lightning!

“Why?” asked a newscaster the night of the MegaMillions drawing, given these incredible odds, did otherwise smart and faithful people take a shot? “Because,” she concluded, “against all odds we’re still in love with hope.” Reminds me of a favorite scene from the classic if risqué comedy Dumb and Dumber. The geekiest guy on the planet asks a sophisticated, wealthy, and attractive woman what the odds were of their getting together. “Not good,” she says, as kindly as possible. “Like one in a hundred?” he presses. “More like one in a million,” she apologizes. But instead of being devastated, the face of Jim Carrey’s character lights up as he gushes with hope, “So you’re tellin’ me there’s a CHANCE!!!”

Now that we’re solidly into yet another Easter season, we remember that even St. Paul said that if the church is wrong on this preposterous resurrection claim, “we are of all people most to be pitied.” But what are the chances? You know, that a dead man actually becomes alive again in the flesh? Be honest. Pretty slim, don’t you think? No, wait, who are we kidding? It’s impossible, empirically speaking. Why would the church, the Christian faith, hang so much on such great unlikelihood? Well, we might say that it’s based more on belief than proof. You might say that as strong as memory is (it had never happened before), hope is stronger still.

But let’s just for fun zoom out to the really big picture, shall we? The odds of your father ever meeting your mother were around 20,000: 1. The odds that their initial meeting eventually produces children is 2,000: 1. Which makes the odds of your being born 40 million: 1. No, wait! The odds of ANYONE being born to them is 40 million: 1. But considering that the average woman has about 100,000 eggs and the average man roughly 4 trillion sperm in a lifetime, that pushes the odds of YOUR specific existence to 400 quadrillion: 1 … Mind blown! But we’re just getting started!

Your being here on this planet requires another statistically impossible chain of events; namely, that every single one of your ancestors through 150,000 generations all the way back 4 billion years to when the first single-celled organism met and produced children, the odds against which are 10-with-45-zeroes-after-it: 1. Oh, and it’s not just that they reproduced. The one right sperm has to meet the one right egg in every one of those generations, the odds against which are 10-with-2,640,000-zeroes-after-it: 1. By comparison, the number of atoms in the entire universe is estimated to be only 10 with 80 zeroes after it. Meaning that the odds that you exist at all are as near zero as anything ever known to humanity…yet here you are, reading all this tedium, amazed by it, questioning it, checking the math, or whatever.

It simply isn’t possible that you’re here or I’m here. And yet…and yet, here we are, pondering the mysteries of the universe in a very personal way, and the promise of the God who in Christ loves us so much that not even sin and death can thwart the victory of that love. So yes, faith, hope, and love abide, these three. But if you exist, then how much more with the God who both lives and loves you are all things possible? May the odds be ever in your favor!

Note: Statistics noted above are gleaned from the following article: “Your Odds of Being Alive”. I don’t claim to be smart enough to verify the claims mathematically.

Walking with you,

NC Synod Bishop

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