From the Pastor . . .


A little over 25 years ago I remember throwing a surprise party for my father to celebrate his retirement. There were many preparations to be made: cleaning the house, inviting the guests, planning the event, and getting my father out of the house. I still laugh when I see the pictures of his reaction when he came home and everyone yelled "surprise!"

I also remember a little over 30 years ago having a surprise party for my mother to celebrate her 50th birthday. We did it a bit differently for her. We got many of her friends to "just show up," unannounced, five minutes apart. All just said they wanted to drop in and say hi and all acted surprised anyone else was there. It was amusing to watch the puzzled look on my mother's face as friend after friend arrived . . . until she finally realized what was going on!

Well as you read through Scripture, you'll notice that God often surprises people. Remember how He surprised Abraham and Sarah after they were old and past child-bearing age and told them they would have a son? How about surprising David when Samuel passed by all his brothers and said that he, the youngest, was going to be king of Israel? God surprised Moses at the burning bush, dividing the Red Sea, and the manna He provided everyday for 40 years. Who could forget the surprise a young virgin in Nazareth received one day when an angel appeared to her and said that she was going to be the mother of the Saviour? And what about the surprise Saul received on the road to Damascus? What were the looks on their faces? How long did it take for reality to sink in for them? To realize how God was working in their lives, and how He was working good not only for them but for the whole world?

Now what about you? Have you been surprised lately with how God is working in your life? Or maybe He is still preparing a surprise for you, getting things ready and getting you ready. And when those surprises come, how do we react? What is the look on your face? A joyful smile, a puzzled look, or something else?

Truth is, sometimes we are delighted at God's surprises and sometimes we're not. When God surprised Moses at the burning bush and told him to go back to Egypt, Moses didn't really like that! He was wanted for murder in Egypt, after all. But what joy filled Abraham and Sarah! And what awe David and Mary. Surprises, though, can mean interruptions in our lives, new things, new directions, that can be joyful, challenging, frightening, awesome, or all of the above! And if we have grown comfortable with the status quo, with how things are in our lives, we may not want them.

But at just such times, remember that God has promised that He is working all things for your good (Romans 8). Though they may not seem good at the time, faith doesn't believe what seems to me, but the love and mercy of our Father and His promises. The chief example of this is the cross. That was a surprise to the twelve disciples that seemed the absolutely worst thing in the world, ever! Yet God worked the greatest good through it, which the disciples learned three days later.

So maybe it is in your life. What surprises have come to you lately? As tempting as it may be to judge them now as good or bad, wait. Wait for the Lord, the psalms tell us over and over. Wait to see what He is doing. Wait to see how He is working good for you. Wait to see His merciful and loving hand at work for you. For it is for you. All for you. He is a God of surprises, and the best one of all will be waiting for you on the last day, when you receive a kingdom even greater than you could ever imagine. Surprise!

His servant and yours,

Pastor Douthwaite

Missouri Synod
114 Kingsley Road SW, Vienna, VA  22180
Rev. James Douthwaite, Pastor
Saint Athanasius Lutheran Church