September 24, 2021
The surprise party is for you and you really are surprised. There is no special occasion and flowers from your spouse arrive at the door. A phone call comes from a relative that you thought had forgotten you long ago. Out of nowhere you are invited to lunch by someone with whom you never expected to spend time again. Surprises are a part of life. Sometimes they are welcome surprises. Other times the surprises are shocking and painful.
The Scriptures contain some upsetting surprises. In the Book of Numbers, Joshua is upset because two men who were not in his group were prophesying in God’s name (Numbers 11:25-29). In the Gospel of Mark, John is upset because some people not in his group were acting in the name of Jesus (Mark 9:38-48). Joshua was told by Moses that those prophesying were legitimate after all. Jesus tells John that if the people acting in his name are not against him they are for him, so let them be. Surprise! God works through whomever God chooses. Both Joshua and John thought they had exclusive rights to work in God’s name. They failed to be open to letting God surprise them. They had decided how God should work rather than being open to how God was actually working.
We can learn from Joshua and John that as believers it is essential to be open to the many surprising ways God works through other people. We can become so sure that we have got it all figured out that the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives is stifled. If it feels like our lives are rather dull and uneventful, maybe we have closed ourselves to the possibility of being surprised by God. If we think our way of going to God is the only way and everybody else is losing out, God cannot easily surprise us. If we have absolutely closed the door to certain people because we think they have got nothing to offer us, there is not much of a chance of God surprising us through them.
Perhaps it is time to renew our openness to being surprised by the work of God’s Spirit in our lives and the lives of others. God’s Spirit often works through people we least expect. If we let that Spirit work, we just might be surprised!
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector