What’s your favourite word? Mine is serendipity. It’s a word which reminds us that life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans. In modern society we have an obsessive desire to be in control of our lives and to forecast the future. We don’t want to leave anything to chance. Yet the world has been changed more dramatically by serendipity than by human planning.
The word ‘serendipity’ comes from Serendip, which was the old name for Sri Lanka. Horace Walpole made it up from a children’s story called The Three Princes of Serendip, who, as they travelled, ‘were always making discoveries by accident or sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.’
Today marks a serendipitous event which changed the course of history. On 12th October, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on an island in what is now The Bahamas, believing that he had arrived in Asia. This was indeed the beginning of a new world. For Europeans, it ushered in a new world of empire, power and domination. For the indigenous peoples, it was the beginning of a new world of exploitation, enslavement and misery.
Our lives are serendipitous, and the sense of a future that is outside our control can be very frightening. Yet the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God’s plans for us are for peace and not evil, and for a future full of hope. Dear God, help us today to trust you in all that we do, and to remember the words of St Paul, that ‘neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Amen.