Thursday, August 7, 2008

God of surprise

On July 20, a handful of Oasis Madrid folks went out to La Pedriza to celebrate Christine's baptism. Following is the text of the short sermon I gave. I hope it helps you in some way.


God of Surprise
a short sermon by Troy Cady

God is perfect and we are imperfect. Because of this, God appears to us as upside-down. We worship the God of Great Reversals.

The Bible tells us that, because God is perfectly sovereign, our plans (which are imperfect) often change, because God steps into human history to reverse our spiral towards entropy. Because of this, God appears to us as a God of surprise.

Historically, there have been many ways God has surprised us, but The Greatest Reversal of All is the Christ-Event. No one expected that the Messiah, the King of Heaven, would be born in a barn. No one expected He would work on the Sabbath.

During His ministry, Jesus taught about the Great Reversal, which His very life would embody. “Blessed are those who mourn...Love your enemies.” These teachings run counter to our natural human impulse; they appear backward to us because Jesus is perfect and we are not.

Because of His great teachings (and His miracles), many placed their faith in Jesus. But, even in this we got it wrong. See, those who placed their faith in Jesus never expected Him to give up His life. Jesus told them He would be crucified, but still they did not believe it. His Kingdom would come in a way we never expected, because His way is perfect, but ours is imperfect.

On the third day, however, the world would see that God is the God of Great Reversals. He brings life out of death, victory out of defeat. He demonstrates power in weakness, and descends to the depths so He can carry us on to the heights. He is a God of joyful surprise. And He invites us to walk with Him on this path of joyful surprise. Still, to this day, through His Holy Spirit, He leads us in ways we do not expect. Because of His mercy, He is still the God who steps into history to graciously change our plans. Even today, His ways are still perfect and, yes, ours are still imperfect. That’s why He calls us to simply trust Him when we want to do one thing while He wants to do another.

Christine, you have seen for yourself that God is full of surprises. You have seen that sometimes we have one idea in mind, but God has another. When you came to Madrid, you came with the idea that Madrid would be a brief stop-along-the-way. But God, in His gracious mercy, had another idea. Christine, we are together today because our God is a God of joyful surprise. And today our hearts are filled with gratitude to the God of Great Reversals because you are a part of this family and we are a part of you. Today, we worship the risen Christ together, because He has bound us together through His crazy, backwards ways. Today, we worship Christ together because of the living truth of His surprising death and resurrection.

That’s what your baptism signifies. As you go under the water you are testifying to His surprising death and burial; and as you come up out of the water, you are testifying to His surprising resurrection. You are testifying to this surprising power in your own life, as you’ve experienced it personally. Your life is no longer the same, because faith in the crucified and risen Christ has changed you from the inside out. Christ’s death and resurrection is so powerful, in fact, that it not only has changed the course of past history, and it not only has changed your life in the present, but it will continue to stun us even in the future. Yes, just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, God will step in once again and show us that, though we thought we’d understood, we really didn’t.

In I Corinthians 15, when the apostle Paul taught about Christ’s resurrection, He also taught how its power spills over into the future in still more surprising ways. Here’s what he writes: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: …we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye...For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed…Then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The power of the resurrection can never be imprisoned in the cell of past history. It is something that will yet spill over into the future—and in still surprising ways.

Because of this, Paul continues with a practical matter as to how we should live in the present. Because we will yet experience a new dimension of Christ’s resurrection power in the future, Paul tells us: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

It is for these words that I chose this text today. Christine, I think of you as someone who “gives herself fully to the work of the Lord.” This is because you’ve experienced the life-transforming power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And today I read this text in hopes of fanning into flame even more your heart to labor diligently for the Lord. In this way, your baptism is a commissioning.

See, when you minister to others what you are really proclaiming is this: “I believe God’s grace is boundless because Jesus is alive; He lives in my heart and I want nothing more than for Jesus to live in your heart, too.” And, because our future transformation is certain, you are also saying, from a place of hope: “The life of Jesus is not something that is confined to today. It is also for tomorrow. I serve you because I know that one day ‘we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye…we will be changed.’ One day, we will finally be able to say ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”

In your baptism you are foretelling God’s great work of renewal. So “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” As you are baptized here today, the risen Christ is pointing you to the future. God has surprised you by keeping you here in the present because He has some very special things prepared for you in the future. Today, as you are baptized, you have Jesus and you have His promise to go before you. This is the death and resurrection of Christ, and this is your baptism. A future hope. A future filled with still more surprise.

1 comment:

Heather said...

It was more fun to hear this when you were standing on the big rock :)

You should post that photo :)