Anticipating the Unexpected
Summer is finally here! How do I know? The temperatures have risen making the chance of frost is nearly non-existent, the neighborhood children are out playing in their yards, and our gardens are finally growing. What feelings of anticipation does summer bring? Anticipation of picnics or camping trips? Vacations and bike rides? Watermelon and lemonade? I know for me it is all these things and more.
Anticipating something we are looking forward to is different from anticipating something that we do not desire. In May I was in Portland visiting my family when I realized that it was the 42nd anniversary of Mt St. Helens’ eruption. Prior to the eruption, Mt. St. Helens was a dormant volcano that had the shape of an ice cream scoop. Then, in a matter of 2 months, everything changed. Anticipations ran wild about what was coming when the first small earthquakes began on March 16, 1980.
On April 1st an eruption occurred that sent an ash plum 20,000 feet into the air. Many assumed that the worse was over when the mountain seemed to return to its dormancy in late April. Then, in early May, the mountain came alive again, culminating with a major eruption on May 18. The devastation of the eruption was unimaginable. Mt. St. Helens’ summit slid away in the largest debris avalanche ever recorded. Prevailing winds blew millions of tons of ash eastward across the US, causing complete darkness in areas of eastern Washington.
We cannot anticipate the unimaginable for even advance warning cannot prepare us for what may come. This was true for Jesus’ followers. Jesus had told them of his coming death and resurrection and yet, when these events occurred, they were shocked by the unimaginable.
A couple Sundays back was “Ascension Sunday” when we remember the unimaginable event of Christ ascension into heaven. Acts 1 tell us that as Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples stood staring into heaven wondering what had just happened. “As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:10–11) Unimaginable.
Last Sunday, June 5, was Pentecost Sunday where we remember the unimaginable events that followed Christ’s ascension. Once again, though Jesus had told them he would not leave them alone, they had to wait to realize the fulfillment of his promise.
Prior to his death, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26) Prior to his ascension, Jesus told them, “...you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Then, on Pentecost Sunday the unexpected happens.
Just as no one could anticipate what Mt. St. Helens’ eruption would bring, neither could Christ’s followers have imagined what was to come at Pentecost. Acts 2 says, “Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4) The Holy Spirit was the promised coming power that empowered them to be His witnesses. Pentecost not only marked the birth of the church, but it also completed the mission for which Christ first came. At Pentecost the Father sent the promised Holy Spirit to dwell within all who believed.
What are you anticipating for your summer and beyond? Though we cannot anticipate the unimaginable, we can look to the one who can. Our only sure hope in life is to anchor ourselves to the one that does not change. The words of Christ and the promises the Father gives will hold us fast. We may tempted to want to see the fulfillment before we accept the promise, but this is rarely an option. That is why we are called to walk by faith.
We are to live trusting in The One who knows us better than we know ourselves, The One who created life. Such trust is not fatalistic, but trust that anticipates that the Lord will do the unimaginable in us as we place our faith in Him.