Marlpool United Reformed Church
Life is often full of surprises - some more pleasant than others. Maybe every surprise brings an opportunity to do things differently and to make the most of the situation. Lent and Easter were also seasons of surprise for Jesus’ followers. ‘Hosanna!’ turned into ‘crucify!’ during holy week. People’s initial expectations of a conqueror king turned into disappointment, regret and even bitterness. For others, the turn of events triggered fear and shame, coming from their association with such a seemingly weak and powerless king. Nevertheless, it appears that Jesus was trying to tell them: ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland’ (Isaiah 43.19).
As I often say, God is always doing something new, however strange it looks like to start with. God’s people expected freedom from captivity, justice for the oppressed and punishment for the wicked. So they were rather surprised by the offer of freedom from the power of sin for all, comfort for the oppressed and mercy for the wicked. On that Cross, Jesus did not punish the sinner but took all of our sins upon himself. Jesus chose a temporary death over a glorious life as an earthly king. Because of such humble obedience, God ‘exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Christ is Lord…’ (Philippians 2.9-11) It was an incredible surprise to the disciples. Jesus still ended up being a King, but not the way they wanted, not even the type of king they expected. Jesus became the King of all, the Lord of all, with the power and authority to save whoever he wishes. Jesus also gifted the Church with the gifts of unending love and amazing grace.
So today we are blessed as Christians to have such wonderful Divine gifts at our disposal. We are blessed that we can claim them for ourselves every day. As we are blessed, we are also encouraged to surprise others (particularly those who deserve it the least) with love and grace. Those two gifts are from that surprising ‘old rugged’ Cross, which is just utter nonsense to philosopher and a stumbling block to those obsessed with laws and rules (1Cor 1.23). For on that Cross, full of surprises, there is unending love like the rivers, there is amazing grace like the floods. Those are precious treasures to enjoy in unbroken wonder and to share contagiously.
May the God of surprises bless us, as Spring finally sets in.
Yours in Christ, Bachelard