Today I will talk about the God of Surprises and I will begin with a true story.
In 1998, the Associated Press published a story which captured the attention of their readers and has been reprinted many times since. In 1990, Mr. and Mrs. Sajo Malkoc and their two sons were living near a small lake in Bosnia. One day Mr. Malkoc had to go on a business trip to Austria and when he returned he gave his boys a gift. He gave them an aquarium with two goldfish in it. In 1992, the Bosnian War began and the women and children left town and the men stayed behind to protect their village. Two weeks later, Mrs. Malkoc heard that her husband had been killed and she went back to her village to bury her husband.
She saw that her house had been partially destroyed and she saw the goldfish swimming in their aquarium. She carried them out to the end of the dock and threw them into the lake. She stayed in a refugee camp with her sons until 1995 when the authorities told her that it was safe to return.
When she returned she discovered that the lake was full goldfish. While the war was raging all around the lake, life below the surface was flourishing. Mrs. Malkoc and her sons immediately went to work and set up a new business. Every day they would catch some of the goldfish in their nets and sell them at the marketplace. Their business has been so successful that they have been able to build a new home on the shores of the lake which has always been at the center of their lives.
This little story is parable about how God’s grace is working in our world. During times of turmoil and chaos, the grace of God is still very active. The grace of God is working under the surface. The grace of God is bringing healing to difficult situations. Yes, God is the God of Surprises is causing good things to happen even during wartime.
The Bible says that the history of our salvation is filled with surprise stories with God catching people by surprise by reversing what they expect. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian scriptures contain stories in which the outcome is the reverse of what people expect. In each case God moves in and creates a big surprise.
In the Book of Genesis, we hear that Sarah is more than 70 years old, but thanks to God’s intervention she has a child and she names him Isaac. In the Book of Deuteronomy, we hear that the Hebrews are the smallest of all nations; but God intervenes and they became His Chosen People.
In the Book of Judges, we hear that Manoah’s wife is barren, but God intervenes and she has a child and his name is Samson. In the first Book of Samuel we hear that Hannah is childless; but then she conceives and gives birth to a child and his name is Samuel. In Luke’s Gospel we hear that Elizabeth is quite elderly. But then she becomes pregnant and delivers a child with no difficulty - and he is John the Baptist. Her cousin Mary is a virgin and she conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit and her child is Jesus. In each case, God has intervened and created a reversal of what you might expect.
And the same was true for His beloved Son. In His very first public speech Jesus told the people that His Father sent him into the world to reverse the normal pattern of things. He said that He came to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and to let the oppressed go free. Jesus did not come into the world to defend the status quo. He came to turn things upside down. He came onto the scene to cause reversals.
He did not praise the nobility like most people did. Instead He gave praise to the humble. He did not hate his enemies. Instead, He said, “Love your enemies.” He said, “Do not seek rewards for yourself. Instead, serve your neighbors without seeking any reward.” Jesus pulled off a big surprise in today’s Gospel.
The crowds were thinking that the Pharisees were people with a strong faith because they could quote scripture passages for every situation. And they were wearing large phylacteries as signs of their status in the synagogue.
But Jesus said, “This man who is blind has more faith than the Pharisees because he can see what they can’t see. He can see that I am the Messiah and he testifies that I am the Messiah and he bows down and worships me.”
Once again, we have a surprise. The crowds think that the man who is blind is a sinner and that the Pharisees have a deep faith. But they are wrong because the opposite is true. The man who is blind can see that Jesus is the Messiah and the Pharisees can’t see that. Today we ask the God of surprises to help us to participate in His reversals.
He can help us move from pride to humility. And He can help us move from greed to generosity. Our Savior can help us move from hostile behaviors to doing kind deeds. He can help us move from being persons who are jealous to being persons who give support and affirmation. He can help us move from seeking revenge to granting forgiveness. We pray for the grace we need to successfully complete these reversals.
Our God is the God of Surprises and His Son is calling us to challenge our world by proclaiming that love is stronger than hate and faith is stronger than doubt.