Did you know over half of Americans really dislike surprises, especially surprise parties? Maybe you are part of this group that doesn’t like changes to your routine, or you don’t like losing a sense of control. Whether you like surprises or not, they are, surprisingly, a hallmark of Christian life as Elijah and Jesus showed us today in the readings.
Surprisingly, Elijah does not find the all-powerful God in the powerful winds, earthquake, or fire. Rather God was found in a tiny whisper. Certainly, God spoke to Jesus in a loud way last Sunday at the transfiguration but those “big” events are special occasions. Elijah’s experience reveals God’s “normal” way to reach us is in the quiet moments, and in the quiet of our heart.
For His part, Jesus in the Gospel surprises the apostles by walking on water. After having seen Jesus, feed 5,000 people, heal scores of people, and calm a storm down, I wonder why they were surprised. Jesus’ parables and teachings were just as surprising, how can the first be last?
If we have learned anything about God the Father from Jesus, it would be that our God is a God of surprises. Why did He come as a baby? How can He give us His flesh to eat? And how does His death bring life? With centuries of heresies and scandals how is it the Church still exists?
Perhaps the easiest explanation to surprises is that they remind us that God is infinite. God will always be beyond our understanding. God will always be beyond our expectations. This resonates well with His words, “My ways are not your ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) So what are we to do? Do we give up trying to understand or grow in God because we think God is too unpredictable? Do we say if God is not in the obvious places, we no longer need to come to Church? Neither of these are helpful responses.
The answer is always to turn to virtues. The virtue that is most helpful, I believe, is openness. The same openness Mary showed to let God use her and bring her Son into this world without the help of a man. The same openness that Jesus showed in accepting the cross. Openness to God is openness to surprises and openness to do things in a new way because if we ever think we have God all figured out, we are in for a big surprise.
With a heart for Mission,