Theology

Following and Worshipping a God of Surprises

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When the angel Gabriel announced to the virgin that she was pregnant with child, she responded first with a question, “How can this be?” This pregnant girl went to visit her elderly relative, Elisabeth, who greeted her with a word of praise and a question. “Why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, was awakened in a dream with the news. “[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21).” This was good news; there was no need for fear. “God is with us.” Upon the arrival of this miraculous baby, conceived of the Holy Spirit and birthed by his mother, the shepherds in the field received the baby announcement. The angel declared, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10b-11).” This child’s arrival is good news to shepherds too. There is no need to fear.

It seems that upon Jesus’ arrival as a baby on earth, everyone—his mother, his earthly father, his relatives, and neighbors—was surprised to welcome him. In spite of knowing the Old Testament promises and prophecies, even the most devout did not expect him to arrive when he did, and no one expected him to arrive as a baby. When the heavenly hosts finally revealed the good news of his presence, many responded in awe or fear. Sometimes we can wait for something so long that we forget what we are waiting for, and often do not recognize it when it does arrive (even when the promise is right under our noses).

As we move from Advent as a season of waiting into Epiphany as a season of revelation and later into Lent as a season of commemoration, we are reminded of the weariness of the Israelites as they waited for the coming Messiah. We repent of our contribution to this innocent baby’s arrival for the purpose of dying a guilty man’s death. In the wilderness of our sin, we are humbly reminded that God has provided himself as a sacrifice. “Immanuel” came, died, and ascended back to Heaven. He is alive and present with us now. He will return to us again.

As we wait for his return, will we be surprised by him again and again? Will our faith waiver? Will we lose hope? Will we forget the faithful promises as we wait? Will we succumb to our fears?

In the days of wars and rumors of wars, broken political structures, hateful rhetoric and crippled justice systems…in the presence of homelessness and wandering sojourners…in the realities of racism and oppression of the most vulnerable in the world…and as we witness the growing gap between the privileged and those living in extreme poverty…God whispers four words, “Do not be afraid.” These were his words to the scared virgin, her fiancé, and the shepherds in the field. The good news is Christ has come to enter into this world, and Christ will come again. Like them, we can look forward to that day with great hope and anticipation.

The good news is Christ has come to enter into this world, & Christ will come again. Click To Tweet

This baby was so desperately needed and he has surprised us all…

He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross (Phil 2:7-8)!

Without much thought, we understand that “very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:7-8).”

I’m surprised by this Jesus, the one who humbled himself to put on human flesh and then die for his enemies—even me. Because of his willingness and this obedience, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11).”

Our souls are restless and weary. We have been waiting so long.

Our souls are restless and weary. We have been waiting so long. Click To Tweet

Father God, help us not to forget how blessed we are to have a right to life, and the privilege to be called children of God! Help us be a watchful, praying, and patiently waiting people. Holy Spirit, give us a clear vision and focus for the future. Jesus, let us not be surprised or caught off guard by your second coming. Do surprise us daily with fresh reminders of your presence, truth, promises, and the preparation you are making for us. How privileged are we to be surprised by you! When you return to call us home, I pray you find us—your servants—faithful, working, and ready. Help us, Lord Jesus. We need you now, Lord. We need you. I need you now.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Come…Amen.

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5 responses to “On Going to the Sick (in the Neighborhood)

  1. David
    You write….
    “I contend strongly, we must teach our congregations how to go and visit the sick.”

    “Do you see the possibilities of mission in the healing of the sick?”

    Is there an option? If someone thinks they’re “Making Disciples?”
    Aren’t His Disciples expected to “Preach and Heal the sick?”

    Mat 28:19:20 NKJV
    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations….
    **teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you**

    Jesus healed the sick and taught His Disciples to do the same. Yes?

    Mat 10:7-8
    And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
    Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils:
    freely ye have received, freely give.

    Luke 9:2
    And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God,
    and to heal the sick.

    Luke 10:9
    And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them,
    The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

    If someone is NOT seeing the sick healed….

    Are they one of His Disciples?
    Are they preaching the kingdom of God?

  2. Great post and right on the mark. Yes, as pastors we need to teach our congregations to visit the sick, the hurting, and downtrodden. We are an extension of Christ as we spend time “with” them. Folks who have not yet experienced a severe illness, hospitalization, or calamity sometimes do not grasp the importance of this discussion, but people who have suffered through various ailments and maladies know the importance of spending time with these people and bringing the love of Christ to their doorstep.

  3. Absolutely agree, though your description of healing is a little different than we’ve practiced. I like the way you articulate it. Is there not some danger there in communicating “your sickness is your fault and if you’re not healed its your fault”?
    That said, we’ve found sickness to be a profound point where relationships pass from just coming over for parties/dinner to having depth and kingdom influence. We’ve seen folks really touched that we care when they’re sick -healed or not.

    We’ve found it also works the other way – receiving help from friends (christian and not-yet) when our baby was in the hospital brought depth and (I hope) kingdom advancement as well. We made a point to lean some on those “close to the kingdom” in that time when they offered help.

    I like point #2 as well. That’s an area we need to grow. That actually feels like more of a challenge than praying if I’m honest.

  4. This is wonderful, David. A timely Advent reminder that we follow in Jesus’ way (see Lk 1:68, “he has visited …”). After thirty plus years, I can honestly say that visits to the sick or dying have been among the most significant moments of my ministry. Indeed, for one whole year virtually all I recall is the time spent with two young men, as they lay dying, and their families. As for gospel proclamation, perhaps it would be good, with Eugene Peterson, to differentiate kerygmatic language (proclamation) from paracletic language (conversation), the form gospel talk takes at bedside or in other everyday situations. That’s where we can instill greater confidence in our people, even if they never find themselves in explicit proclamatory settings.

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