OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #314 Palm Sunday and the Unexpected
Yesterday in most churches we celebrated Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is named after the palm branches that people waved as Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the final time. Miracles such as the healing of Bartimaeus from his blindness (Mark 10), and especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11), attracted large crowds who wished to pay tribute to Jesus as he travelled into the city. Shouting “Hoasanna,” they waved the branches and laid them on the road along with their cloaks.
What followed was a week of unexpected turns. Who would have expected that the Messiah might ride on a humble donkey? Or overturn the tables in the temple? Curse a fig tree? To be betrayed, arrested, and executed?
Thankfully there was one more unexpected turn on Sunday morning. Who would have expected the resurrection? Thank God, literally, that He is a God of the unexpected, working in ways we would not predict, and bringing unexpected good from situations in ways we could never anticipate.
We should. This is God’s nature and we see it in the Bible time and time again. It is also the promise of scripture. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28)*
I think this is one of the lessons of Easter week, that we need to be open to the fact that God might do something we don’t expect. This is where we need to be careful when we nod our heads in agreement. Of course we are open, aren’t we?
But are we? Really? Truthfully, we aren’t always very comfortable with the unexpected. We like predictable. We like knowing how things will unfold, and often become quite anxious about the future. This happens both personally and corporately. We worry over the details of our lives, and in our churches we dig in our heals to avoid change. From one side of our mouth we say we want a new work of God in our midst. And from the other side we resist doing something different.
Its part of our fallen human nature. I struggle with this as much as anyone. Years ago I passed up a chance to play in a band. Some friends wanted to clean up a barn and hold youth events. I couldn’t imagine how this would work, and so I missed the chance to be in on “The Loft,” which was based on something Amy Grant started. I am told it was very successful. That’s just one example.
This is to say that I understand the tension and difficulty over change. Nonetheless, the truth remains that if I want to see God work in new and unexpected ways, I need to be open to God working in, well, new and unexpected ways. I can’t change and yet remain the same, just like I can’t stay and go.
I’m thinking a lot about the unexpected during this Easter season. Not quite a year ago, I began to perceive that God might be calling me toward military chaplaincy. This was definitely unexpected since I never dreamed of this when I was younger. I thought it was crazy, and thought Jan would think it was crazy. The idea wouldn’t go away, and Jan didn’t think I was nuts. We talked with friends in chaplaincy and prayed a lot. In September I started the recruiting process. In February I went to Ottawa for interviews. Since then I have been accepted as a potential chaplain and I expect a job offer and posting in late April or early May.
Once my letter arrives from the military things will change very quickly. We expect to be posted as early as July. My senior pastor and our deacons have known for some time and are making succession plans. Last week I informed the congregation of these changes. People have generally reacted in two ways: Sadness to see us go, and affirmation that this as a good fit for me.
There are lots of days I still think this is a little crazy. I’m 46 years old and I have to do basic training. But we can see God’s hand in this in so many ways. Two years ago I felt compelled to get in better shape, and now we know why. Furthermore, the timing is good. Mark finishes high school and Ian will be working. And so, we trust that God will continue to equip.
One message of Easter resurrection is that God often does the unexpected. I don’t know in what unexpected ways God might be leading you. All I can say is, be open to God’s unexpected.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Apr 14 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email email@example.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com