Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Life Will Surprise You

(Read John 19:19-31 and Acts 5:27-32)

We’ve come to expect that certain things go certain ways.

When someone spine is e damaged, doctors pronounce that they will never walk again.

When a woman has several miscarriages and the doctors run tests, she is told she will never be able to have a baby.

When kids are labeled as slow or disturbed, their parents are told they will be lucky if their kids ever finish high school, draining parents’ hopes and dreams for their child’s future.

When a prisoner is released, their parole officer expects to hear of another conviction.

And yet, it happens that people with spinal injuries do learn to walk again.

And yet, it happens that woman who are pronounced infertile do conceive and bear a healthy child.

The kids who no one thinks will succeed do. They surpass the expectations of those who doubted them.

And the incarcerated can be set free and contribute as decent members of society.

A long time ago, all that was expected of women was that they bear and raise children and keep house. Then, society (at least some of them) granted that they could be secretaries, nurses and teachers. Now women can do whatever they choose. They have surpassed the limits once placed on them. Woman can now choose between being a nurse or a doctor. Between being a secretary or the CEO. Between being the teacher or the principal.

At one time, the only thing we knew to do with the mentally handicapped or disabled was to put them in institutions. Now many flourish in independent living situations.

Lorina is a woman in her 50’s that I met in church who is emotionally and mentally disabled. She’s funny and sweet. At Bible study, she said, “When I was just a little girl, people told my mom to lock me up and throw away the key, but my mom said, ‘No way am I doing that to my daughter.’ And look what a great life I’ve had because she kept me. I have my own apartment. I have a job. I have a boyfriend. And I have all of you.” Lorina doesn’t speak up often in Bible study, but when she does, she always touched our hearts and spoke words of wisdom.

What we once considered the norm is not the norm at all anymore. Limits have been broken. Expectations surpassed. What we once doubted possible has proven itself to be possible.

It’s natural to doubt that which we rarely or never see happen. Yet, doubt is a spiritual sickness that the Holy Spirit is continually trying to heal in all of us.

No one can blame Thomas for doubting that Jesus had risen from the dead. I’m sure some of you here doubt it as well. That isn’t something people expect to happen. Just like no one would blame a doctor for saying a patient with stage four lymphoma cancer will not live, because usually they don’t, no one blames Thomas for being skeptical of the resurrection. In fact, many of us can relate to his doubt.

Thomas thought, I’m not going to believe it until I see it. Thomas said, “Until I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20: 25). He wanted proof!

And what happened?

The Risen Christ, the Living Lord came and showed him what he needed to see in order to believe. Jesus said, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (John 20” 27).

And that is what Thomas did. He touched Jesus. He touched his scars so that he was sure it was Jesus Christ raised from the dead. And he believed!

…Do not doubt but believe...

You have heard of the term “doubting Thomas,” someone who doubts until they have proof, and maybe even still remain skeptical with proof.

The Risen Christ has come, is here and will continue to come to heal our doubt of the resurrection and our doubt that life is a blessing and a gift.

Those who doubt see the world differently than those who believe.

Through the eyes of doubt it’s harder to get up in the morning and you have less enthusiasm for the day ahead. You aren’t as curious or friendly or engaged. Blessings are poured upon you and you hardly notice. Miracles happen around you and you take them for granted.

Though the eyes of faith, each new day comes as an opportunity. You get out of bed with hope and optimism, knowing that you will see the Lord among the living in a variety of forms and people, feelings and situations. Through the eyes of faith, you notice the sun and sky, and the sun is brighter, and the sky is bluer. Your heart loves and your spirit laughs.

Our experience of reality comes down to the way we view and interpret situations and people.

What about you? How has doubt obstructed your vision? Has it made you weary that you will never feel better or that you will never find what you are looking for? Has it made you bitter towards your spouse or children or parents? Has it made you angry at God?

When we have never witnessed the unexpected, when we have not seen the outcome we hope for, when it has been a long time since we’ve been surprised in a good way, it becomes easy to doubt.

The resurrection message is for all who have ever doubted. If God raised Jesus from the dead, and he did, then anything is possible. The Book of Acts records the witness of the disciples saying, but Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:29-32).

“We are witnesses!” If you have seen the Living God, witness to that because someone out there is doubting that life and love and peace and joy are possible.

I have seen the Living God, more than once actually, many times. But the most indelible on my memory is when Jesus came to me as a ray of light one morning when my faith was hanging in the balance. It was as if he walked right out of the sky and through my window. And he said to me, “I am the way for you. Follow me.”

I have also seen and experienced the Risen God through the eyes of faith in other ways….

I have felt God’s presence in your presence and in the presence of many people, family and strangers alike.
I have seen God because I have seen the lame walk, the broken healed, the addict set free.
I’ve sent the weather person predict snow and instead it was a beautiful day, sunny, blue skies, 65 degrees.
I’ve seen an angry selfish father change and become loving and giving to his family.
I’ve seen a broken, abusive relationship transform into one of mutual love and respect.
I’ve seen anger turn to apology. Loneliness turn to love. Death turn to life.

Yes, in those ways I know that I have seen the risen Lord.

Have you?

My friends, do not doubt but believe. Life can, no, life will surprise you. The unexpected will happen. The Living God will reveal himself.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. I prefer the latter.” There are two ways to look at the world. One is through the eyes of doubt. The other is through the eyes of faith. I prefer the latter. How about you?

No comments: