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Relational God, relational world

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

For several years now, GCI’s auditor has been a firm named CapinCrouse. Some time ago, on a trip to our Home Office, their lead auditor mentioned that she grew up in a small town in South Dakota. Pleasantly surprised, our Treasurer, Mat Morgan, replied that he hailed from the same town! As the conversation ensued, she mentioned that her father was a long-time police officer in that town, and Mat (now both surprised and a bit chagrined) realized that he had received his first traffic ticket from our auditor’s dad! (I think Mat would want me to mention that he was just a teen at the time.) Anyway, all of us were reminded that, just as the Disney ride song says, “it’s a small world after all.”

Perhaps you’ve met someone for the first time, only to learn that you know some of the same people, or that your parents attended the same school at the same time. I’ve had such experiences, and the theory sometimes employed to explain them is called six degrees of separation. As illustrated below, the theory states that any person on earth can be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.

Wikimedia Commons, used with permission

There have been several tests of this theory, including the Small World Project at Columbia University where the project team instructed a large group of “searchers” to send out multiple emails intended for a particular recipient that they did not know. The catch was that they could not send the emails directly to the intended recipient. Instead, each email was sent to a person they already knew, who was then instructed to forward it on to someone they knew, etc. The hypothesis was that the email would eventually reach the targeted recipient. Unfortunately (perhaps due to lack of cooperation), most of the original emails never reached their target. However, confirming the six degrees of separation theory, hundreds of emails eventually did reach the intended recipient in six or less steps.

Used with non-commercial, social-media license

Though the six steps of separation theory needs further testing, its premise has been confirmed in research, and in our experience as we’ve discovered multiple, unexpected connections with other people. Such experiences should not be a big surprise to us, understanding as we do that our tri-personal, relational God created a relational world. And it’s not just humanity that God placed in relational networks—all creation exists in a relational web that reflects the fact that our triune God is relational in his being and doing. As part of the Body of Christ (the church) we participate in Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the Spirit. It is in and through Christ, by the Spirit, that we are interconnected with each other. No wonder we crave good and right relationships!

Angels at Mamre (Holy Trinity) by Rublev
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

At lunch recently, State of the Heart Ministries Director, Ross Jutsum, shared with me a “small world” story of his own. He later sent me this write-up:

On a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia to serve in our GCI congregation there, I spent a couple of days helping a dear and long-time friend of Tammy and mine—Martha Williamson, best known as Executive Producer and main writer of the television series, Touched By An Angel. Martha had asked me to record some piano music for a movie that was based in a restaurant where there was a grand piano and singing waiters. I played and recorded the actual piano music “backstage” on the set, while a tuxedo-clad Canadian actor was on camera “finger-syncing” what I was playing.

Ross and Tammy Jutsum

On the first break from shooting, I introduced myself and learned that the actor’s name was Glenn. I complimented him on his excellent “finger-syncing,” and asked what he did for a living. He answered that he was a composer. I then asked where he studied composition, and he replied “at the University of North Texas.” When I asked what years, he replied “1990 to 1994.” He also told me that he had completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition. I responded that I had been in attendance those same years and had received the same degree in conducting! In further discussion it became clear that we had been in some of the same classes and seminars. I explained that Martha had asked me to play the various tunes for this movie because she had heard me do something similar in the 1970s in Pasadena, California, where I was supplementing my income teaching at a small college.

During the next break in filming, Glenn approached me and asked if that college in Pasadena was Ambassador College. I answered is was, and asked how he knew about AC. He told me that while he was a doctoral student at North Texas, he was also a member of the WCG/GCI congregation in Fort Worth, Texas! We both had to admit that this was not blind chance—surely it was a “divine encounter.”

The magnitude and importance of the interconnectedness of God’s creation is something I appreciate more and more as I grow older. Whether pondering the micro-scale of quantum mechanics, or sharing in a gathering of hundreds of people at a family reunion, I find joy and amazement in experiencing God-ordained relationships, which I see as indicators that our triune God, who created and now sustains the universe, is inherently relational.

Thankful to recognize we are in relationship with God and one another,

Joseph Tkach

One thought on “Relational God, relational world”

  1. Hi Joe; This all very interesting.To take this down the road a little bit, we all have same FATHER,the same BROTHER,the HOLY SPIRIT.How’s that for a NATURAL hat trick?Boy I hope some of you are hockey fans!!!!!!!!!!!!Keep the updates coming.Regards,Ernie.

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