On reflection, a change of plan.
I had planned to write about Halloween, how this recent import from the US has become so commercialised as to cast a dark and unwelcome influence over our children. That is why we are having a counter-cultural Light party for children in the Ministry Centre this afternoon.
But I’m guessing you would expect me to say just that – and it does need to be said. Halloween is not good and it’s not healthy. And it good to hear of Christians holding retailers to account.
But you know all this, at least I hope so. “Vicar slates Halloween” would be the predictable but hardly newsworthy heading for this blog. It’s what you would expect me to say.
You will know that C S Lewis was one of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century – and as such drew some flak, not least from his fellow academics.
But he was not predictable in his writings or in his life, including his conversion to Christ. “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”
Once he was being interviewed. “Tell me, Mr Lewis, why do you disapprove of the use of four-letter words in literature?” His answer completely caught his interrogator off-balance. “Because they are not erotic enough!”
He went on to explain: “They are not aphrodisiac enough. If you look through classical literature you will find that four-letter words are reserved for scurrility, satire and abuse. These are not the emotions that we wish to feel, are we, when we are making love?”
For those first disciples of Jesus it must have been, to say the very least, an exhilarating experience. So often he did and said the very opposite to what they expected. Everyone else fasted – but they didn’t. Everyone else kept the Sabbath – but Jesus sat light to its demands. Everyone else kept their distance from sinners – but Jesus embraced them.
Often they expected him to go one way – and he would go the very opposite, even it meant crossing a stormy Galilee on foot. Frequently he rocked the boat, sometimes literally.
His ministry was often so unpredictable that even John the Baptist started to have second thoughts (Luke 11:1-6). Jesus tenderly tried to encourage his cousin while still remaining true to his scandalous work.
I notice that John Ortberg’s new book, to be published next week, “Who Is This Man?” has the subtext “the unpredictable impact of the inescapable Jesus.”
Of course, as Christians we rely on God’s faithfulness in Jesus. There is a real sense that he has to be predictable in key areas for us to entrust our lives to him. We need to know that in any situation and for all people his promise stands firm: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37)
He may be totally reliable but that doesn’t mean he has to be always predictable. In fact, the one action which changed everything caught everyone by surprise, even though – for the record – he tried to prepare them.
No one (i.e. not even one person) expected it to happen, not even his most intimate friends. Everyone expected his body to stay in the sealed and guarded tomb.
And yet his resurrection changes everything, including the entire course of world history.
And so there is always the sense that when we follow Jesus, we never know what may happen next. “Who would have thought!” has to be the watchword of every Christian as it is of the purposes of God.
Is there an area of your life that you sense God is asking you to trust him enough to do what he says, particularly if you didn’t see it coming? Just think, what step would you take if you really did trust God’s to guide?
And then take it.