In the Spring of 1980 I called my boss and told him I was going into the ministry. “You got to be kidding,” he said, with total amazement. “Yes, it’s true,” I replied. I have decided to give up my sales career in the medical equipment field and be a minister. I was in my early thirties and since college I had been in sales and marketing. My undergraduate degree was in Business Administration. My decision to leave the business world and enter the ministry came as a surprise to a lot of people.
Have you ever been surprised with astonishing news? Has a change of events caught you off guard? Has God intervened in your life and made what seemed impossible a possibility?
When God told Abraham he would have a son at the age of 100 he laughed. “You got to be kidding,” he must have thought to himself. Imagine, his wife, Sarah, was 90 years old. For God to give them a child at that age would have been preposterous.
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My wife has a co-worker who recently turned 40. A few weeks ago she discovered she was pregnant. She and her husband were not attempting to have a child. In fact they had been told by their doctor that the likelihood of having another child was improbable. However, they were surprised to learn that their family will be expanding later in the year. Needless to say they were shocked, but pleasantly surprised.
God surprises us all the time. Here at St. Paul’s we have been considering the purchase of an electronic keyboard for our church organist. The item was not budgeted this year and other priorities have been placed ahead of it. Surprise! A family lost a loved one recently and decided to purchase the keyboard in memory of their mother. The instrument will be here in time for Easter, thereby enriching our music capabilities for the Easter Season.
God never ceases to amaze me. I believe that God surprises us every day but we are not accustomed to giving God the credit. We tend to credit surprises to our own hard work or just call it plain old good luck.
We tend to live our lives without the expectation that God will surprise us. Rather than be optimistic we tend to say things like, “that’ll never work,” or, “there’s no way.” We also live with the age old problem that “we get what we deserve.” God, however is always creating and intervening and because of God’s grace, great things happen. God is a giver of surprises and wants us to believe that a surprise can come at any moment.
When I was called into the ministry in 1980 I began to make the transition from the business world to a life of ministry. I was well into my career and the complexity of making that transition seemed impossible. But from the day I said “yes” and surrendered to the will of God, to the day I gave my first sermon was 120 days. Both educational and financial windows opened for me to make that journey. I never ceased to be amazed at how God works. God is absolutely incredible and over time I have learned to be patient with God and watch things unfold.
That is not to say that change isn’t a struggle, for it can be. For Sarah and Abraham to have a child in their later years must have been a tremendous challenge. For a woman to give birth is a struggle in of itself. In the process of transition life can be like a roller-coaster. There are ups and downs, twists and turns, that keep us off balance. Nevertheless, it is a journey on which we are not alone.
To understand that God can do the impossible we have to be willing to surrender to God’s impossible ways. Because we are people who like to be in control that is not an easy task. “Walk before,” God said, “and be blameless.” In other words be willing to make the journey and yield to God’s will.
I believe that surrendering is one of the most difficult tasks we face as people of faith. We are so influenced by a world that has to be in control and fosters individual independence that we are not in the habit of letting go and yielding to God.
In the beginning, Abraham bulked at the possibility of having another son. As time went on, God made a believer out of him making good on God’s promise. Sarah did in fact give birth to Issac. As the rest of the story of Abraham unfolds, we find him surrendering to God even when it made no sense.
God promised the family of faith would grow and it did. In spite of denying the impossible with laughter, Abraham and Sarah become parents a second time. God expanded their family and the faith community continued through their lineage. One of the greatest legacies we can give our children and grand-children is the promise that faith will continue and that the presence of God will be with them forever. To accept the ridiculous and absurd ways that God works in our lives is to live with a bold faith.
The God we worship is full of surprises. The God we worship can do the impossible. The God we worship promises us future growth and the continuation of the faithful forever.