Was anyone more surprised than the disciples to see Jesus alive? True, He had tried to tell them in advance that He would be raised back to life, but the idea of resurrection was beyond their comprehension.

Jesus' resurrection should be a sign for us, too, that God has not run out of surprises. I recently visited several congregations that I thought had probably seen their best days. The last time I had visited them, not only was attendance sparse, but the age of those present made it easy to project how few years of life yet remained. Recent visits back to them provided me with a happy surprise. New families, young families, were present. Baptisms were being done and anticipated in the near future! At one location, they were planning to hold their first VBS in years.

This month two more surprises await: Christ Lutheran in Cleveland will dedicate their new facility on May 22nd. After sharing space with Unity on Pearl Road for several years, they have moved to 13812 Bellaire Rd in Cleveland. With the move comes an immediate mission opportunity of a day care. The other surprise is the re-dedication of Prince of Peace in Cincinnati on May 15th. I was treated to a "before and after" picture of the sanctuary last week. It is hard to believe the pictures are of the same space! A deaconess intern will enhance their ministry in the coming year.

Some still have trouble believing that when we sing, "Crumbled have spires in every land," we must include our own country as part of that "every" land. And yet we must not let ourselves be captivated by gloomy reports so that we forget that God is the God of surprising grace. The Church, when it is true to its Master, daily picks up its cross. Its enemies gloat when it stumbles; they rejoice when it falls. But resurrections happen as God's gift. Sometimes we can't recognize what we see before us because it doesn't resemble what we last saw, just as the Jesus who was beaten by the guards must have looked terrible. That is the same when we visit a church that is in the throes of death and we compare its present state with its past glory. But when the Spirit gives them new life, they can be just as unrecognizable, only in a good way.