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May 2019

“SURPRISE!”

An Easter devotion by Pastor Ralph J. Mineo

I get surprised all the time, especially by God. It’s not unusual for me use an expression like this when God surprises me: “The Holy Spirit slapped me up side of the head to get my attention.” This happens most often when I make a firm decision, but God has something else in mind.

Such divine nudges don’t really hurt, but they ARE surprising. Truth be told, this happens all the time. Sometimes, part of the surprise is realizing I’ve relied too much on myself. Trusting God, relying on God, is basic to the call of being a follower of Jesus.

So, God shows up and surprises! There’s nothing more beautiful in this life when God shows up!

In a few days, no one will be surprised it’s Easter Sunday. Not really. But the first Easter was a HUGE surprise! The first disciples weren’t expecting the resurrection. Jesus died on the day we call “Good Friday.” He really, truly, actually died. As an ancient Christian hymn (quoted by Paul in Philippians chapter 2) says, “he was obedient to death.” Jesus died.

The first disciples weren’t waiting around to see it happen! They certainly wouldn’t bring embalming spices for a dead body if they were expecting a resurrection. No, death happened. When they arrived at the tomb, they were surprised by LIFE! They were REALLY surprised!

We have many images of resurrection, eternal life, heaven: pearly gates (some envision St. Peter there to greet them), clouds and angels, golden streets (as in the Book of Revelation), a huge mansion with many rooms (as described by Jesus), and so on. It’s very helpful for our human minds to have practical images of heaven. That’s why they’re in the Bible for us. They help our finite minds focus on the infinite gift. But we should never forget that every human image falls short of what the reality will be. We can’t fathom eternity!

There’s a popular contemporary song by Lutheran composer, John Ylvisaker, titled “Borning Cry.” God is the speaker, promising to be with us at every moment of life’s journey. When the song talks about the moment of death, we hear God say, “I’ll be there with just one more surprise.” I LOVE that phrase! It’s my favorite phrase to use about eternity, “just one more surprise.”

Just as the resurrection of Jesus was a surprise to the first disciples, our entrance into eternal life will be nothing less than a huge, glorious, divine God-surprise! No matter how much we think we have it figured out now, it will be a divine surprise.

In the meantime, as we journey through our lives, God gives us glimpses of the eternal surprise. God gives us holy moments and experiences. God is all about surprising us!

I close with a blessing: May God’s Holy Spirit slap you up the side of the head this Easter, and SURPRISE you with amazing grace, love, forgiveness, healing, peace, joy, and all that you need to appreciate God’s gift of eternal life.

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