Beyond our Regular Programming

Pastoral Messages | May 2, 2024

These days, it feels like nothing makes the news, at least not “above the fold” or before the first commercial, if it isn’t Caitlin Clark, campus sit-ins, the war in Gaza (remember Ukraine?), the Trump trial, or polls in the presidential race. Credit to the QC Times – they do regularly have worthwhile local stories on the front page. But the “regularly scheduled programming” of the top stories, run over and over again, still becomes somewhat deadening.

Aren’t there interesting things going on in South America? What’s happening in the art world? What’s the most interesting new building to go up anywhere in the last year? Finding tidbits like this in our daily news cycle is refreshing and invigorating, surprising us with things we didn’t even know might be interesting.

The Bible reminds us that God is rather fond of surprises, as well. Ask Sarah, who learned at age 90 that she would bear “the child of promise.” Or Isaiah, who was called to prophesy to God’s people and then told that they would listen and listen but not understand! Naomi figured she would spend a lonely widowhood in her later years until Ruth promised, “wherever you go, I will go.” Saul thought he was the man for the mission of persecuting followers of Christ, until he was commissioned by God to be one of the chief recruiters. Time and again in scripture, we see how life’s “regularly scheduled programming” is interrupted by something that takes us beyond the expected.

In our life of faith, seeking out what is beyond the regular programming can be just as invigorating. Do we think we know the Christmas story? We can read just one of the gospel accounts – Matthew or Luke – and find what surprises us about it. Are we familiar and comfortable with worship at one of St. Paul’s weekly services? We can try one of the others and see what it offers that we might not even know we would appreciate.

In the Heart | Soul | Mind Bible studies right now, we are reading the New Testament book of Mark because passages from it will be featured as the gospel reading nearly every Sunday from June through November. Delving into it, we have discovered that the gospel was probably written in order to cope with one of life’s big surprises. Mark’s community had hoped for God to send Jesus back as the Messiah to reign over the whole world from Jerusalem. Roman armies shattered that hope when they destroyed Jerusalem. Rather than hold onto that hope against all odds, or give up on the idea of God entirely, Mark looked at the Jesus story with new eyes and told it in a new way. He found new meaning in old stories that assured the community they were still on the way in the kingdom of God.

We are on that way, too. It’s a way that doesn’t necessarily always run straight or make the turns we expect. Watching for the surprises is one of the best ways to stay alive and engaged in the journey. Digging deeper into the sources of our faith gives us the resources to push on in the journey when the familiar path gets overgrown or too steep. Quite often, it is when God calls us beyond our regular programming that we find the greatest assurances of the journey, that God will be with us wherever it takes us.

-Peter A. Pettit, teaching pastor

One comment on “Beyond our Regular Programming”

  • Anke Maass

    May 3, 2024 at 5:12 am

    Absolutely love this reminder to keep being refreshed in some way

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