Dear Friends in Christ:
Each Easter, we hear the same story of shock and surprise experienced by everyone at the empty tomb as well as by the appearance of the Risen Christ. Every year. What a surprise it is though, the surprise that changed the lives of the first disciples and changes our lives. The surprise of God’s grace, God’s love given to us and for us, the gift of life, both here and now, promised for all eternity. No other surprise can be so transformative.
Surprises can be fun—such as the year I turned 30 and was surprised by my wife in an unexpected way. Totally unsuspecting, I walked into one of the Sunday School rooms where I taught confirmation and, upon opening the classroom door, found the room covered entirely with black balloons. Surprises can be so lovely; and admittedly there are some which are not so happy—sudden death, car accidents, or diagnosis. By their very nature surprises catch us unaware, maybe unprepared by the changes our lives will experience. Yet we know the truth of surprise, God is in it! Always, God is with us, just as God in Christ Jesus changed the world with the surprise of the Resurrected Christ.
The stories we hear in the weeks following Easter’s Resurrection are full of surprise, especially as told in the Acts of the Apostles. From Jesus’ appearances as the risen Lord, to the wind of Pentecost blowing and giving the disciples a new language and hearing, to the ways lives were totally transformed, thinking of Paul in particular, but also all the people baptized and living as the family of faith, the surprise of the Resurrection sets off a change of events that continue to this day. We who are baptized live a new life.
Each year following Easter Day, we have the season of Easter. In that time, we celebrate and give thanks to God for our baptism.
Easter catches those first disciples unaware, and changes them forever. God gives them not only a new vocation, but new ways of living life in community. God works mighty acts of transformation in those first disciples, empowering them to tell the story of Jesus, to share the good news with those they meet, and to be open to the power of God leading and guiding them. They develop the spiritual habit of welcoming the unpredictable and surprising God, and wrestle with the promptings of the Spirit and the changes to their understanding of their religion and how it is lived out.
We too, as disciples of Jesus, have been transformed by God’s mighty acts of surprise. Our lives are different because we have met the risen Christ. We too can cultivate the spiritual practice and habit of welcoming the unpredictable and surprising God, and wrestling with the changes the Holy Spirit prompts in us and our faith community.
Perhaps in this season you will undertake doing some acts of love and surprise in the world. You might pay for a stranger’s lunch or treat a friend to a surprise dinner out. Invite someone you do not know well to join you for a walk at Berg Park or invite them out to lunch. If you see a first responder out in public, thank them for the job they do. Thank a teacher, a medical professional, your mail carrier, or the garbage man for the job they do, surprise them with a small treat. Most of all though, listen for God and all the many ways God surprises us with love, grace, and peace. Give thanks daily for those small or large surprises.