As we begin a new Connexional year, I wonder what surprises are in store for us, as individuals and as a circuit as we journey together.
Which reminds me of a story: A little three-year-old boy opened the birthday gift from his grandmother, he discovered a water pistol. He squealed with delight and headed for the nearest sink. The boy’s father was not pleased. He turned to his mother and said, “I’m surprised at you, Mum. Don’t you remember how we used to drive you crazy with water pistols ?” The grandmother smiled and said, “Oh yes, I remember.”
Life is often full of surprises.
Now in the New Testament, we see and we are told, that Jesus surprised his countrymen. Perhaps more accurately one should say he shocked them. For when he went home to preach in Nazareth, the neighbours were to say the least amazed, if not incredulous at the words of Jesus. One said in a kind of stunned puzzlement, “is this not Joseph’s son?”
Consequently, the longer Jesus talked, the more their surprise turned to anger, at last they drove him from town and would have flung him from a cliff. Luke Chapter 4 Verse 29.
It must be said, that Jesus surprised the people of his day, because they were unprepared to find anything, they could call prophetic, in the form of a carpenter’s son, who was from a well known family, in the local village.
For without doubt, Jesus surprised the people by what he taught. For in a culture that valued legality among themselves and retribution against their conquerors, Jesus surprised them by honouring grace and love and forgiveness.
Jesus also surprised his friends and neighbours and countrymen by those he associated with. For Jesus lived among peasants and fisher folk, speaking and ministering to sinners, or those who were seen, identified as sinners. Now Jesus illustrated the ideal of being a good neighbour, with the story of the hated Samaritan, who as we know, responded to the plight and human need of a man who fell into the hands of robbers on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. So Jesus surprised the people of his day, his friends and neighbours, perhaps even his family by His words and actions.
But Jesus, even surprised his followers, by claiming that he had no special privileges of immunity, from those who opposed him. He tried to advise, even forewarn his followers, about what was to come. And yet, we still find them, left in a disarrayed and shocked state, when he went to the cross; and risked everything, upon their understanding of his words and his life.
Of course there were a few people in those days, who had begun to reflect on what Jesus had said and did. They came to see that the life of Christ, represented, in the words of Paul, “a more excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12 For Jesus’ teaching, provided a new set of values. A new way of living. In fact, they provided a new way of looking at reality and of ordering society itself.
Now for those who had heard of him, and believed, that in some wondrous way, God revealed his purposes in Jesus, there was a need to find a metaphor, a phrase to express their sense of gratitude. And so from the analogy of human experience, and with a sense of what would be, the most precious human gift, came those beautiful, wonderful words, of John chapter 3 and verse 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.”
As I said at the beginning, Life is often full of surprises. But surely, it is the greatest surprise of all, that the Creator of this universe, who made light shine out of darkness, is the same God who revealed in the person of Jesus Christ that he cares about each of us, about you and me. It is He who invites us to know Him, to Love Him. Yet He does not coerce, but asks us to learn and follow the teachings of Jesus, to find a new and more excellent way of living, a life of harmony with God and man.
Therefore to conclude, In the spirit of God’s own gift, we ought to find, ways to surprise others, with acts of kindness, concern, and love. For each of us, is made in the image of God, who gives good gifts, the greatest gift being his Son Jesus Christ.
Consequently, will we take up the challenge, of surprising our neighbours and friends and the stranger who is in need, with acts of kindness, generosity, and love.
Though perhaps not, with the gift of a water pistol.