Sunday, April 30, 2006

God is a Surprise.

David Dubay
St. Philip’s
3rd Sunday After Easter

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Here for lectionary text.

I don’t like suprises…I think it stems from the first 7.5 years of my life…we were an Air Force family and from 6 months after my birth until the 2nd half of first grade we moved 6 times, lived in 4 states. As a family unit we were a well oiled machine…the terrain and the accents changed for us… our routines, furniture and support system did not.

Lisa and I did our best to find out the sex of each of our children well before their births…we didn’t want any surprises you know…like a boy that has a pink room and silly things like that. That probably corresponds to my skill at surgically opening and then rewrapping my Christmas presents when I was a child…I couldn’t take the suspense…I wanted no surprises… But I’ve gotten used to surprises…after all I work with people… people can be surprising

And...I learned a number of years ago…that Jesus is just full of surprises…That the Lord God is not quantifiable… I learned that He was not always willing to get with My program or my agenda so that I can’t have the control that I want over my destiny.

Up until that amazing moment in the upper room he had surprised his disciples at almost every turn…

In fact the whole story is full of surprises…

Jesus was:
A king born in among barnyard animals, who took his naps as an infant in a feed trough, the messiah and savior of the world was not born a noble birth of royal parents but from a group of monotheistic nomads, merchants, craftsmen and fishermen who, over the millennia, had become the scapegoats and whipping boys for the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and now the Romans…
Yes he was a descendant of King David…but that was centuries before.

He had escaped Herod’s mass infanticide.
And, we learn that, in his early adolescence, he failed to join up with his parents on a religious field trip and left them to go to church to study God’s word. Not common for a 12 year old of any era.

His first miracle was at a party.

His disciples were not the learned and elite.
Jesus hand picked his closest followers from all walks of life…which amazingly included a Jewish tax collector who was an opportunistic pawn of the Roman Govt. A fisherman who was a tad reactionary and a political dissident bent on the destruction of Rome. But Jesus was not bent on the destruction of Rome…he was bent on the destruction of hell…that was a surprise!
He healed on the Sabbath… he forgave people’s sins right in front of the Priests and scribes…He said things like “pray for your enemy” “Love your neighbor,” “ Pay your taxes.” And “leave what you think is safe and follow me. For I, Jesus, am the way, the truth and the life…I am the gate through which you may reach the Father…My Father…”

Surprising….surprising….even shocking….but true.
All true.

He spent much of his ministry telling his disciples what was going to happen in the future…and he gave them glimpses of that future life by performing miracle after miracle. And….what a surprise….they didn’t get it.

The scriptures tell us to feed the hungry….He fed 5000 people with scraps enough for about 4 people….In the kingdom to come there will be no death…He raised the dead so that they might catch the drift…. He gave sight to the blind, the deaf regained their hearing…the lame walked and the diseased were made whole….all in plain sight of the disciples and still Peter denied him, still Thomas doubted him…and still Judas betrayed him…. surprising…
but after his death the most surprising thing of all happened….Jesus did what he said he would do. He came back…

St. Luke tells us that He came back to that little room on the second story of a house …filled with distraught and confused people and brought them the surprise of a life time.
This time the surprise was that death was no barrier to God… and that we, you and I, and the disciples are invited to share in eternity…alive!....

I think of the unfathomable event in the upper room and I admit I have a smile on my face… It must have been the most unnerving moment of their lives…there they were discussing the stroll that Jesus had just taken with two disciples on the road to Emmaus…. Jesus had shown them the clear connection between scriptural prophecy and it’s fulfillment in His life as messiah.
Jesus was not the new Moses…Jesus was the answer to the big question….
How will God deliver His people? Does God keep his promises?

While they are discussing all that Jesus appears and says, “Be at Peace”, why is this so surprising to you!!?

He then spends the next few moments convincing them that he is not a ghost…look, he says…I’m solid….watch me eat this fish…see…it doesn’t fall to the floor…I’m real…. Surprise!

Then they understand… finally, finally the disciples understand.

Then Jesus shows them the whole picture from the creation of the universe through God’s covenants with his chosen people, through the work and message to the prophets…to the exact moment of their time together in that room…

And he opens their minds to the scriptures…and the disciples; through their writings, eventually bring that moment and that scriptural insight to us…in the Epistles.

But the most unbelievable thing…the biggest surprise to me…a 21st century man, is that Jesus still has His hand in the lives of His people. Down through the centuries God’s Holy Spirit has been so active that from that small band of frightened men in that upper room, the face of the world changed.

A faith that was labeled a small town cult by the Romans became “Christianity” and millions know the love of Christ, the saving Grace of Christ, the surprising Joy of faith in Christ….today...2000 years later.
What I’ve found, however, is that there are people who don’t want that love, or that power, or that blessing in their lives…because they have little fear really. They don’t have many moments of uncertainty…they are certainly not cowering in any room…they are hard chargers…they are destiny makers…they have God in their pockets. That continues to surprise and sadden me. People who live by the odds…by calculation…like I did….Until Jesus came into my life and said…let me run things….my yoke is easy…be at peace and hand me the steering wheel
Jesus is not my copilot. Jesus is my pilot. And when we let him take over, Lisa and I both are blessed by that. Ask her about how the Lord cared for us in Seminary we finally gave Him our future…

And there’s more…There are people who love church but do not know the living Christ… There are seminaries that teach social justice in place of salvation. There is a media determined to water down real faith and replace it with a consumer driven church that is afraid to take a public stand on anything that might upset the neighbors.
And Jesus says to us…even in the middle of all that… “Peace be with you…When it comes to believing in me why are you having such difficulty… were your parents afraid to tell you about me? Were your God parents not doing their jobs? Were your priests afraid that you might not like them if they told you the truth about me?”

Don’t worry.” He says, “I’m still here.” “I’ve come to change your life…to open YOUR mind to the scriptures….to fill YOU with the Holy Spirit… and it won’t hurt….and it won’t be embarrassing…and it won’t be weird…be at peace...because I’m not a ghost…I’m not someone’s good ideas put to paper. I am the Lord God come to fill your life up to the brim with NEW LIFE.”
Think you don’t need that? or think it’s too difficult to attain? Think it’s not for you?


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