When God Does the Unexpected
I want to continue what I am now calling my series on leadership. Especially as it pertains to spiritual leadership and precisely church leadership. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. It requires discipline, intentional planning and visioning, cooperation, listening, and follow-up. It means also that you can expect the unexpected. Often it is in the unexpected that God usually shows up.
Leadership, especially spiritual leadership is not so much an office you seek, like you would in a political election, though I would submit that to qualify for leadership of any kind, one must sense a call from a higher source, be it God, your community, or nation; that call is not effective if it is a call to fulfill one’s own sense of gratification. In other words, it is a call to feed one’s own ego.
That said, receiving a call to lead often comes to a true leader unexpectedly. Take Jeremiah for instance. Jeremiah hears God calling him not out of a vacuum, but during challenging times for his people. It is during the time of the great exile to Babylon. God has removed the people, mainly all the leaders of Israel, out of the land that God had given to them through Moses.
All of Israel was in a shambles. Its leadership had failed to follow God. God needed someone who would not keep making the same mistakes.
So of all people, God calls a young boy to be a prophetic; a voice for the nation that had gone rogue. No, I am not talking about star wars, though you may now begin to pick up on some of the movies biblical themes. The point being God never gives up or gives in and is more than willing to do the unexpected. No one was more surprised than Jeremiah himself when he heard God calling him.
He was not looking to lead, he was not interested in the politics of his day, he was however concerned about his people, his nation, and where it would be in 10, 15, 20 years and beyond. He could see that things were not good. And so God got his attention.
And here is what he heard God say to him. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah replies; “Oh Lord God, surely I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.
Talk about unexpected, still a teenager, Jeremiah finds himself standing in front of his own burning bush, one that calls him consecrated, not the ground he stands on, but him. And he is called prophet, one who will carry a message to God’s people. An intimidating job for anybody, but especially for a boy. Who is going to listen to him? That is exactly what Jeremiah was thinking.
Well, if the Israelites had still been in their own land, still thinking they were in control, they probably would not have listened to this young, fresh thinking upstart. But that is not where they were. They were in a foreign land, due to their own undoing. Maybe it was time to listen to this new voice.
You see, it took an unexpected turn like sending the leaders of the Hebrew people into exile to make an unexpected call to and unsuspecting lad to lift his voice and call his people to repentance and reform. God did this because it was time to do something new.
Jesus, when he returns to his hometown, once again God does something unexpected. When Jesus begins to read from the scriptures, the people were surprised. While they may have heard Jesus read from the scriptures before, this time they heard something they did not expect; authority, they heard strength and power. They also heard grace. Something about that perplexed them, caught them off guard. Isn’t his Joseph’s son, the carpenter?
Again God calls someone the people did not expect to take a stand to make a statement and to lead a new way forward. It was not something they seemed to be ready for, But you see, God was. And in order to get it started, God needed a fresh new face.
Their surprise led the people to do something they probably never expected to do, they tried to run Jesus out of town, they tried to throw him over a cliff. Mainly because the words of change came first and foremost to them. But then God did one more unexpected thing before the people, he led Jesus right out of harm’s way and on to the next mission.
But as we have been discussing in our bible study lessons over the past few weeks, God has always been in the business of calling unexpected people to move in some unexpected ways, but ways that are no less faithful to God’s purpose and plan. That includes people like you. All of us have a purpose in God’s plan, and if we are to follow it, we have to be ready to expect the unexpected.
God’s purpose is and always has been to establish a covenant relationship with each new generation. It was also to move this movement of faith, the freedom from oppression be it religious, political, or social into a new age and era.
In short, God’s word, meant to be a source of light and life for the world was never meant to be held captive by one people. It was never meant to be a burden heaped on those who were earnestly seeking to know God and to be known by God. But that is what it had become for so many both in Jeremiah’s day and Jesus’s. So, to fulfill God’s call; to fulfill God’s command, it meant taking an unexpected turn and calling on people either who are not expecting it or who we might never expect. Like you and me.
When we are involved in ministry, be it as a pastor, a lay leader, a committee chair or committee member, or as an usher, greeter, acolyte, or whenever we are called to share our faith story, or bear witness to what we have seen and heard from God in our own lives, at the very least we have to learn to expect the unexpected. If we want to expect something different, then we have to be willing to follow God in a new direction. That is we must not get caught in the trap of trying to do the same old things if we want to expect a different result.
Ministry is alive and it functions best when we trust that God goes before us guiding us down paths for his righteousness sake. Not our convenience.
Doing ministry may seem at times mundane, boring, and if we are not careful, that is exactly what it will be, to our detriment. But if it is done right, in those everyday moments of living, when something out of the ordinary does happen or something unexpected interrupts your regular program, if we have learned in faith to expect the unexpected with a willing spirit to go where God leads, that Is when you will find God leading you down a new path, proclaiming a new direction, calling a new people to find a new faith in the God of us all; through you. That is when our work, our effort, our time will be worth it.
God will get us through the tight spots, just as he did Jesus that day in Galilee. Just as he brought Jeremiah through the exile and a nation with him. But we have to be ready for the unexpected. Are you ready? Amen