For our first Valentine’s day after we got married, by wife told me she planned a surprise date. She said I needed to get dressed up nice and to have a light lunch because dinner was going to be memorable. My expectations were set for only the best of the best, the most interesting restaurant, the most creative food – she took me to White Castle.
You can imagine my disappointment. She thought it would be cute and funny and White Castle did a whole Valentines day thing with flowers and reservations, etc. My expectations were not met.
Usually when our expectations aren’t met, it’s something bad. When we say something is unexpected, it isn’t a good thing. If we are an ardent consumer of the news or twitter addicts, we might think that unexpected news is always horrible stories of terrorism, violence, or tragedy.
Our readings this Sunday say something different. Our God is the God of the unexpected. In the first reading, Moses seems to talk God out of destroying his chosen people (even if they deserved it). God unexpectedly listens to one of his creations. In the second reading, Paul explains that God took him, the worst of the worst, a blasphemer and killer of Christians, and have made him his missionary disciple to the world. God chooses the unexpected to serve him.
In the gospel, Jesus tells three stories that all feature an unexpected characteristic of God. The shepherd seems to abandon 99 sheep to save just 1. That isn’t what is expected of shepherds. The woman loses a coin, finds it, and then invites everyone over for a party that probably cost more than the coin. Not sound fiscal strategy. The betrayed and disrespected father is expected to punish his wayward son, but instead welcomes, loves, and restores him.
We think we know what to expect from God. Mostly, we’re wrong.
The readings this weekend invite us to be open to the unexpected love, mercy, and joy in our God. What do you expect from God? How do you expect God to respond to your sin? Are you willing to say yes to God and let him surprise you?
Grab your phone and set a reminder – 7 a.m. tomorrow morning – to say this prayer, “God, surprise me today.”