"The Unexpected Guest" is the title of the sermon today. I don't know about you, but I'm not fond of unexpected company. Depending on who it is, sometimes I can warm up to it.
Fortunately it hasn't happened that often in my life. If I were married I could go hide and let my wife handle it. When we had unexpected company in our house when I was growing up, my
father retreated to the living room and watched some sports event on TV. He could do that because folks always came through the back door which led into the kitchen and they generally
visited there and didn't ever get to the living room (the unexpected ones that is). My mother was always very welcoming and gracious, but she was not happy that my father had beat a
retreat to the living room and he always had to pay for it in some way.
One day, and I'm not sure why she didn't do this earlier, she visited just a couple minutes with them in the kitchen and then said, "Let's go sit in the living room." The first time
she tried that, however, she made the mistake of saying that my father was in watching a ball game on TV, and the unexpected guests declined going in to the living room. Well, the man
went in to watch with my father, but the woman declined and my mother had to stay in the kitchen with her. After that she never said anything about the TV being on or what my father was
watching-she just led them into the living room.
I'm not sure why unexpected company bothers me. Some of it, I'm sure, is that the house is probably not in the right order to receive guests. Another bachelor would understand, but
most women wouldn't. Regardless, it still bothers me to have someone see the house when it isn't in right order. And sometimes, as a pastor, my days are full of dealing with various
traumas in the life of members, so that a quiet space is welcomed, and I can rejuvenate my spirit in order to be there for members when they feel they need the presence of their pastor.
In our Scripture lessons for today we have an unexpected guest in the form of a baby. At least a promised baby to Sarah, who is well beyond her child bearing years. Most women today
wouldn't be very welcoming to having a baby when they were in their 90's. To say nothing of the husband thinking of dealing with a baby at such an age. But Sarah and her husband are
happy, even though in another Scripture passage, we know that Sarah laughs at the idea of her being pregnant as such an age. Which didn't make God happy.
And in the Gospel lesson Jesus talks about an unexpected intruder, a thief. He also talks about those who were left in charge of something while the owner was away and the unexpected
early arrival back of the owner.
Most folks think of this passage in terms of Jesus' return. That we should be watchful and alert and not caught off guard. But it is so much more than that. We know from other
passages that Jesus tells us that he comes to us in the form of strangers needing our help. Folks needing something to eat or drink or some clothing or a place to stay, or even as
Jesus is always the unexpected guest. Jesus can come to you as someone different sitting next to you in the pew on a Sunday morning. Jesus can be the person in line with you at the
grocery store or bank or post office. Jesus can come to you in the person in the car or truck in back of you as you drive who is following too close, or the person who cuts you off in
traffic. Jesus comes to us in persons who need our attention, our help, our prayers.
Jesus comes to us in the persons with whom we need to learn to get along, in the persons who "bother" us, who "push our buttons," in the persons whom we have to learn to forgive.
But Jesus ALSO comes to us as an unexpected guest in persons who bring us unexpected joy and blessings. Comes to us in persons of great faith from whom we draw a strength and example.
Jesus is constantly coming to us bringing us unexpected blessings. But so often we miss them because they come to us through people we don't pay attention to. They often come to us in
people we don't give much credit to or we ignore. So, we miss out.
We seem to have limited vision when it comes to how the blessings of God come to us. As the popular song goes, "We're looking for love in all the wrong places." Granted that phrase is
used a bit differently in the song, but it comes to my mind as a phrase because it's true-we look in the wrong places for blessings and God's love to come to us because we look for them
to come only in expected ways.
So, today, welcome any different person who sits next to you in the pew. They can be someone you know. But it is not by happenchance that they sit next to you. And even it if IS the
same person as usual, they, too, have a blessing to bring to you. And be aware of the waitress or waiter in a restaurant you might go to today. Or a person in line at the grocery store,
or the clerk. They bring you a blessing. And they also bring you a blessing if they are someone who irritates you. You can know that Jesus is coming to you in that person so you can
learn what it is within YOU that let's that person irritate you.
And especially as you drive, be aware that the driver you may want to curse at because of their driving and how it affects you-be aware that Jesus is coming to you in those persons
and you need to learn to bless them and pray for them that they don't hurt themselves or anyone else because of their careless driving. And especially recognize Jesus coming to you if
you feel any "road rage" welling up with in you. Jesus is making you aware that you need to change that feeling.
When Jesus walked this earth he was NOT always a welcomed guest. There were folks who did not want him around. There are folks who ran him out of town; folks who wanted to stone him;
folks who pleaded with him to leave their area.
Today, those are some of the kinds of folks through whom Jesus comes to us. Be aware. Be aware that the folks we have the most difficulty with in our lives are the folks through whom
Jesus comes to us. It is indeed a blessing to learn a lesson through folks that upset us or bother us or know which buttons to push. Because as soon as we recognize Jesus is coming to us
through them so that we will learn to NOT be affected by them in a negative way, OR react to them in a negative way, we will receive an incredible blessing of peace and calm.
And also be aware that Jesus brings us wonderful blessings in ways that we don't expect. But we have to be aware, alert, open to them in order to receive them. Don't shut the doors on
possibility. Start being open to the incredible possibilities of the fullness of God. God comes to us through Jesus as an unexpected guest, and God comes to us through the Holy Spirit
bringing us untold blessings in the most unexpected ways. Be aware. Be alert. Be open and receive the fullness of God's blessings.