Thursday, January 26, 2012

Surprised by the Unexpected God

"We have never seen anything like this." —Mark 2:12

This was the response of the people after Jesus healed the paralyzed man in Capernaum. You know the one where the four men lowered down the man through the hole they made in the roof. 

 I wonder to what degree authentic encounters with Jesus are marked by "our not having seen anything like it." I wonder if knowing God is really about encountering the unexpected. I wonder this because so little that we do in the church seems to be marked by this. How rarely do we respond with "We have never seen anything like this." We all have our ways of doing things, our patterns that are established. I'm not knocking traditions or even liturgies and promoting some kind of free-flowing anti-structure approach. (That argument does not hold water because even those who embrace some kind of "anti-structure" approach to church life actually develop a tradition. They just refuse to see that.)

No I'm talking about the hard work of moving to the other side of our the traditions, not doing away with them. I'm speaking about actually meeting with Jesus and allowing him meet us.

Let me illustrate: Small groups meet and most small group meet around a Bible study discussion. They use a sermon study guide, a Bible study they have purchased or a DVD curriculum. That is the tradition. And talking about the Bible together is a great tradition. Let's not do away with that. But can't we take it further and move beyond the tradition? Can't we engage the God of the Bible and see what the Spirit of God wants to do in our midst?

When I've led or participated in groups that stop with the Bible study, the experience is predictable. We know who will talk and who want. We know who will pontificate and who will miss the point. The discussion will be good but we know there's something more.  When we pressed through to the other side of the Bible study and engaged the Spirit, it always looks different. We walk away thinking, "We didn't expect that!" or "We've never seen that before."

Are your encounters with God marked by the response, "I'm surprised by how God met me"?

Do your small group experiences result in responses like, "We've never met God like that before"?

No comments: