No one is more surprised than I am that I’ll be serving as the Lead Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Orlando until Christmas.
I was finally getting the knack of being retired, overwhelmingly content in our new home, enjoying a second cup of coffee and a long walk before going to worship with my wife on Sunday morning. I was surprised to hear that my long-time friend, Tom McCloskey, was retiring early. I was surprised that after days of deep conversation and prayer, Martha and I felt led to say “Yes” to the invitation. And I’ve been surprised by the emerging clarity of the way I might be helpful in preparing this church for new leadership ahead. But then…
Surprised by God
Thinking about this biblically, I should have learned that surprising faithful people is God’s idea of a good time!
- Abraham and Sarah were so surprised that they laughed in the face of God…and God laughed with them.
- Moses was so surprised by the burning bush that he had to take off his shoes.
- Miriam was so surprised by God’s deliverance at the Red Sea that she burst into singing and dancing like the lead in a Broadway musical.
- Zechariah was so surprised by Elizabeth’s pregnancy that he was speechless for nine months.
- The fearful disciples were surprised when Jesus calmed the stormy sea.
- Mary and the other women were surprised when they found the empty tomb and the disciples were so surprised by their report that they called it “an idle tale.”
- Everyone was surprised when the Holy Spirit showed up on Pentecost with wind and fire and everyone heard the good news in their own tongue.
- Peter was surprised to learn that people who had been excluded from the covenant were now included in the Body of Christ.
Followers of Christ who live deeply into scripture should always be on the lookout for God to surprise them with new challenges, new opportunities and new callings. This is, after all, the God who told Isaiah, “Look, I am about to do something new!” Then God went on to ask the disturbing question, “Do you not recognize it? (Isaiah 43:19)
There’s no question that God intends to do new things in the future. The question is how clearly we recognize it and how obediently we live into it.
So, beginning September 2, I’ll be “back in the pulpit again.” Consider this my personal invitation to come join us! And please pray with me that the Holy Spirit will surprise us with the new things that God intends to do in the next chapter of the long history of this church and that together we will recognize and live into it.
A Hero Passing
Though it’s not a surprise, the death of Senator John McCain and the response to it provide a stirring contrast to the painful polarization of our political culture.
Among all the well-deserved words that are being spoken, I would add that whether we voted for him or not, we never had any reason to question his integrity, honesty, moral character, or sheer human decency. We could agree or disagree with his policies, but we never doubted his commitment to place the good of the nation above his own self-interest.
One of his finest moments came when he was accosted by a woman who claimed that Barack Obama was an Arab. Without hesitation, he took the mike from her and said, “No. No, ma’am. He is a decent, family man and citizen with whom I have disagreements on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is about.” And as he neared the end of his life, he asked President Obama to offer a eulogy at his funeral.
That’s the kind of leader we need and that’s the kind of people we need to once again become.
Grace and peace,