"Yes, we'll come."
The first sounds more planned than surprising, but since plans aren't always fulfilled, I'd say it was a blessing that God granted for it to happen.
Yesterday, we made a glorious Cobb Salad (which my mother was inspired to make from Miss Jen's lovely post), involving such scrumptious ingredients as grilled chicken, bacon, pine nuts, chives, parsley, mint, tomatoes, avocados, and homemade dressing, all atop piles of glorious homegrown greens. So different and delicious!
Such an abundant and scrumptious feast, which we prepared yesterday afternoon, needed to be shared, so we invited a young married couple over for lunch after church. Thankfully they were able to come, and we had a great time fellowshiping and discussing the sermon, gardens, government, and summer plans.
Where did you come from?!?!?
The second surprise came when I entered the sanctuary a bit late for church. The singing had already begun. And there was Jonny, my 22-year-old brother, standing in our row, back home from college when we hadn't expected him to get into town until this evening! What a joy that he could join us in praising God! It was not hard to have a greatfull heart to the Lord during the worship songs after that surprise, let me tell you! :-)
Not Safe, but Good!
The third surprise was the sermon. Anyone who goes to our church knows that Mr. Beard, our preacher, is rather unconventional. In some ways the sermons are predictable. We do expositional teaching from the Bible, mostly verse-by-verse, and very rarely does Mr. Beard preach a topical sermon. Maybe twice a year. But his preaching style is such that he relies on the simplicity of God's Word (with a blunt and sometimes sarcastic sense of humor) to keep attention.
But today's sermon, which did come out of the text in Acts we've been studying, was more surprising than usual. After Communion and the last song, Mr. Beard came up to preach- dressed in a hockey helmet and pads, gloves, pool noodles duct-taped to his legs as pads, and a surgical mask. You can be sure his interesting protective gear grabbed everyone's attention! He took the stuff off after a while, but surprises continued.
It was all about safety and risk, and the ridiculous lengths we go to to try to avoid pain and danger, when we actually can't. O course swine flu came up. How could he not use such a silly example of hysteria?
Here are some of my notes:
The most deadly thing you can do is be alive - it will kill you.
Sometimes we act as though safety were equal to morality and goodness, but are they?
Government: "It's against the law to do dangerous things! Let us protect you by making more laws about what you can't do."
Swine flu hysteria and other paranoia are clearly silly, but as Christians we often live as though risk is sin.
But Peter and John kept preaching when it was against the law, when the risks were beatings, imprisonment, and death. Stephan's speech before the Sanhedrin was not safe - in fact it seems calculated to point out all the truths that would upset them the most, and his reward was being stoned to death.
Moses, in rescuing his fellow countryman, was heroic. But he got rejected for it.
We have somewhere wired into us the notion that risk is evil. That losing our house, our cars, our conveniences, our comforts, is bad and sinful. But we can't prove that from Scripture! In fact, examples in the Word abolish that notion.
Was Stephen in sin to be so bold and say such dangerous things? I don't think so.
Main point: We are to live, not try to stay alive. Chose life! Trust and obey! Walk with God every day, and don't fear.
Safety is from God.
Stressing out about safety is an exercise in futility, because we can't make ourselves completely safe!
Of course, don't be stupid or foolish. Don't do dangerous stuff for the wrong reasons. But don't be bound up about everything in your life because you think it's all about to go bad.
Then he gave one of the best examples I have seen in a long time. Their family has adopted a little boy, A. J. who had been in foster care for nearly all his almost-two years of life. The Beards were his fifth family.
When they first had him, he was tormented by insecurity. Anytime Mrs. Beard took him grocery shopping and turned away from the cart (where A.J. was strapped) to get a box of Cheerios, he became unglued and cried hysterically.
The same thing happened when they strapped him in his carseat and shut the door - in the two seconds he was alone in the car, the little guy panicked and thought he was being left all alone,
He didn't know what it meant to have a secure loving family who would never abandon him. He didn't know their heart and intentions for him were always good, that what felt like abandonment and pain was actually for his benefit.
Now he does.
Last year the adoption finally came through, and our whole church rejoiced. The little guy is 4 now. And towards the end of today's sermon, Mr. Beard said, "Come 'ere, A.J."
I'd bet there wasn't a person in the sanctuary who was not smiling as his chubby little legs ran up the aisle, all by himself, and he climbed the steps to stand with proudly with his daddy on the stage. Mr. Beard picked him up, and asked, "Are you scared, A.J.?" A bold head-shake was the little guy's answer. Then, Mr. Beard put him, standing, on the front edge of the podium.
Now, the stage is probably a good 3-4 steps up, and each wooden step is fairly tall and broad. So he was up pretty high. I'm sure all the moms, and plenty of other people, were cringing at putting such a small little kid in such a dangerous spot! But A.J. kept grinning. Mr. Beard said a few more things as he descended the steps to right below A.J. then turned to his little boy, held out his arms, and said, "Are you ready?"
The little guy jumped right off the edge of that podium. And such a leap as A.J. took, so clearly trusting the strong arms of his father, but so clearly shocking to those of us who like "safety," was the most moving illustration I've seen in a long time of how we can and ought to trust God.
I too can jump joyfully if I really know God. Knowing His nature and character, I don't have to fear anything, neither poverty, nor pain, nor purpetual old-maidenhood. ;) I am safe in His arms. That's the sort of life I want to live. That's the sort of adventure He calls me to to have with Him.
Hope y'all have a glorious Monday, whatever you're doing!