When was the last time you were surprised? Do you even like surprises or would you prefer the predictability that certainty can bring? I recently read a fascinating book by Tania Luna and LeeAnn Renninger, entitled, "Suprise." In a world that is rapidly changing, we seek to control our circumstances because it's annoying when your day is turned upside down. Surprises can be inconvenient, like when it suddenly rains soon after you hung your clothes to dry (that's right, in Australia we still hang our clothes outside to dry). But in our pursuit of routine and stability, can we miss the real wonder and delight that surprises can provide for our lives?
Luna and Renninger shared a story of a hotel manager named Eva, who is known to be quite creative. Eva strives to do things to delight her guests who stay at her hotel, such as placing a basket full of sweets in each room. As you can imagine, her guests are pleasantly surprised by this unexpected gift and are able to share their experience through this gift with friends and family. This simple gesture not only benefits the guests but also Eva's business as it creates positive word-of-mouth publicity for her hotel. In fact, one study revealed that guests who have experienced a "delightful surprise" at a particular hotel were 58 percent more likely to return there or recommend it to someone else. It seems like pleasant surprises can be good for business, but can it also be good for our faith?
As you read the Bible, it doesn't take long to discover that God is a god of surprises. In Luke's account of the resurrection, the element of surprise pervades that glorious Sunday morning experience in Palestine. "And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen..." Surprise! God's not dead; He's alive! The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest surprise in earth's history.
Over the next few days at Sligo Church, we will get to experience Ressurection Weekend through uplifting worship, artistic expression, and encouraging messages. But during this weekend let's not allow the predictability of the program to make us lose sight of the glorious surprise that God has waiting for each one of us. If we do, we may be seeking the living among the dead in our own lives. We could be seeking forgiveness in dead formalism, love in dead relationships, success in dead positions, or material possession and healing in dead methods. This Resurrection Weekend, God seeks to surprise us once again just as He surprised those faithful women two thousand years ago.
So as we are reminded again of the resurrection this weekend, let's celebrate with expectation, knowing that God can still surprise us in our lives no matter what difficult circumstances we may be experiencing. We may sound foolish, as did those women when they shared the news of Jesus' resurrection with the disciples, but it will also open us up to the possibilities and wonder that God has awaiting us. Surprise! God is still alive, and the tomb is still empty!