Salvation By Surprise
Preparing for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, One Day Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 71:1-6
Old Testament: 2 Chronicles 36:11-21
Gospel: John 1:43-51
Holy God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring healing to all wounds, make whole all that is broken, speak truth to all illusion, and shed light in every darkness, that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen.
The God of the Bible achieves his purposes through the unexpected. God calls Abraham and Sarah in their old age, well beyond child-bearing years, to have son— the child of the promised inheritance to Abraham and his descendants. God chooses Isaac’s son, Jacob to continue the promised line even though his brother Esau is the older son and by culture and custom should be the one instead. God designated David as king, the youngest son of Jesse whose older brothers are battle-hardened warriors.
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That’s Nathaniel’s question to Philip upon learning that Philip had found the long-promised Anointed One. Nazareth? Really? A little village in Galilee, a province most Jews considered to be backwater, redneck territory? In a world where place judged a person’s status almost as much as wealth, the idea that God would choose anyone from such a place sounded absurd.
But God works God’s will in surprising ways, so that at the end of the day no one can claim to have accomplished only what God can do. Only God can give a child to an elderly couple. Only God can choose the younger son for his own purposes. Only God can call a young shepherd to be a king that no one else even considered. Only God could choose a young Pharisee named Saul, Public Enemy #1, to carry the message of Jesus after he persecuted Jesus’ people. It is God at work in the world; we can only cooperate with that work.
We must always be prepared for God to work outside the boxes of our own making. If we need everything to be predictable, nailed down, in order—if our ducks always need to be in a row—perhaps Christianity is not the faith we seek. But if we seek an adventure where the roadmap is not always drawn clearly and where the next stop will be somewhere not of our planning, then perhaps the adventure we seek is the one the New Testament calls “the gospel.” If so, then we are in for some excitement.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Only God can make it so.
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