On Beyond Zebra

I Corinthians 2: 6-13

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” I Corinthians 2: 9

“In the places I go there are things that I see that I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.  I‘m telling you this ‘cause you’re one of my friends. My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!  … So, On beyond Z!  It’s high time you were shown that you really don’t know all there is to be known.”  “On Beyond Zebra,” Dr. Seuss 

As we look at the days of our lives, we realize and recognize the power of God in our “out of the box” experiences.

When I decided to leave the ministry, I had no idea what I was going to do next.  I ended up with an entry level supervisory position at Continental Bank; at that time it was the 7th largest bank in the country.  And then five years later after having become a Personnel Banking Officer, I lost my job at the bank.  I felt both overwhelmed and invigorated, and God led me to a new position as an Outplacement Career Counselor, and now God has led me back to ministry as an Interim Pastor; and here I am at KUC; who would have predicted any of this for me?

In my life I have dared to pick up the chalk and draw a new and additional letter or two:

“I’m telling you this ‘cause you’re one of my friends, my alphabet starts, where your alphabet ends.”

KUC is ready to draw something new, something adventurousome, maybe something never before heard of – a letter you have never even dreamed of.

Remember today’s scripture,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”  I Corinthians 2: 9

It is difficult to think beyond our A-Z alphabet, yet God says to us:  My alphabet starts, where your alphabet ends…

Just when you are comfortable, just when you think everything is running smoothly, just when you might be persuaded that you have your life under control, got it all figured out, and you say to yourself:

“Now I know everything anyone knows from beginning to end, from the start to the close.”

God says,

“No you don’t.  I’m gonna shake you up a bit.  I’m going to do something else now; something new, something unexpected and probably something that is going to make it necessary for you to have to trust me more.”

Paul says in Romans 12: 1:

“I urge you, sisters and brothers…in view of God’s mercy…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is true worship.”

In other words, surrender.  Give in.  Give in to the God who goes on beyond Z.  Don’t fight him.  Guess what, you won’t win.  God is far more concerned with your spiritual growth than he is with your comfort.  Let go!

Life is an ON BEYOND ZEBRA adventure for us all; a true leap of faith.  Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, just when you’re feeling safe and secure in the A-Z predictability, God sends you on a new adventure, a new beginning; and He says:

“My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends.”

A colleague of mine tells the story that for her son’s birthday they went to Universal Studios in Hollywood.  There they went on the Jurassic Park Ride.

It begins with the gates to Jurassic Park opening with the theme song from the movie blaring. You’re in this boat with other people and you are floating through a mechanical dinosaur land. It’s an amazing lay-out. Then you come to a part of the ride… where the Tyrannosaurus Rex appears up above you, coming down at you with his jaws open… you see his long sharp yellow teeth flashing… it looks like he’s about ready to tear the boat to shreds.

Everyone in the boat, of course, is looking up in a panic and the boat just barely misses the threatening jaws. The T-Rex can’t quite reach down far enough. You could hear everyone breathe a sigh of relief, “O good, now we’re safe.”  At that point she thought, OK, this ride is about over… That was the climax… but it was only the beginning!

For it was precisely at that point, as everyone was still looking up, breathing easier, thinking that it was all over, thinking that they were now going to coast easily back over to the unloading zone, that suddenly you plunged down a huge water slide and everyone got totally and completely soaked.  It was absolutely unexpected, but what a thrill, what a ride!

Just when you think the ride is over, God says:

“I’m going to pick up the chalk and surprise you, I’m going to go ‘on beyond zebra,’ and draw one letter more.”

That letter for you today may pull you out of your comfort zone and give you the ride of your life, thrilling and wonderful.

But it may well be that today you are at the end of your rope.  For you it may not be that the A-Z is a comfort zone that God is calling you out of; rather it may be that you are trapped in your A-Z routine and, even in spite of your best efforts, you are feeling hopeless.

I know what hopelessness feels like.  I know the despair that comes from hopelessness, when it seems as if there is no way out.  No options; no possibilities for change; no open doors.

If you are in that place today, I want you to know that the words: “despair,” “hopelessness,” and “dead end” are words that are not in God’s vocabulary. The words that are in God’s vocabulary are: “Hope,” “Joy,” “Expectation,” “Deliverance,” New Beginnings,” “Celebration,” “New Opportunities,” “and, Grace upon Grace.”

There are no dead ends with God, only bends in the road that might look to us like dead ends for a moment, but if you give surrender the steering wheel to Jesus, when you actually get there, you’ll find that the road turns and takes you to the most amazing places.

The cross of Jesus certainly looked like a dead end, didn’t it?  The Evil One did his best and Jesus died nailed to the cross after being betrayed, cursed at, beaten, and deserted. Jesus’ followers were in despair. The gospel of John illustrates this despair when Peter says after the crucifixion and before he knows that Jesus has been resurrected.

“I’m going out to fish.” (John 21:3)

That just says it all, doesn’t it, in other words, “I’m going back to fishing…forget this.”  I am going back to my comfort zone, back to what I did before Jesus called me, back to my A-Z routine.

And Cleopas in Luke’s gospel, shakes his head, sighs and says:

“They crucified him (Jesus) and we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21)

The disciples thought it was the end. They thought the Evil One had won; everyone thought it was over, then something happened. God did His best and He took up the chalk and drew one letter more, a letter we had never dreamed of before.

“You can stop with the letter Z if you want, but not me… because in the places I go, and the things that I see I could never spell if I stopped with the Z.”

And God goes on beyond the power of death that everyone thought was the end of the story and raises Jesus back to life.  And the risen Jesus then appears to Peter, just as Peter had gone back to his comfort zone, fishing, and he says,

“No Peter, don’t go back to the familiar A-Z to what is comfortable; this is a new beginning of a whole new alphabet, a whole new adventure; a whole new fishing experience because now you will be fishing for people, telling them about me.”

Today, God is calling you out of your comfort zone… He is calling you to experience the ride of your life!

When the risen Jesus appears to Cleopas and others on the road to Emmaus, at first they don’t recognize him, they think he’s a stranger, and then as they sit down to supper and as Jesus breaks and blesses the bread, and their eyes are opened… they recognize him in the breaking of the bread.  They recognize that he is indeed the Messiah, who gives them victory over the powers of evil, victory even over death itself.

That’s why there are no dead ends in God’s vocabulary. God doesn’t use the word despair. God’s alphabet starts where our alphabet ends. Not even death is an end for God; God goes on beyond death and carries us from the finite into the infinite and brings us eternal life in Jesus Christ.

So today, I know that we are in the hands of our great and wonderful God, a God who continues to create new beginnings for us all; especially when it seems we are at the end of the road, God will call us out of our comfort zone, time and again, to experience the ride of our life.

“You’ll be surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond Z and start poking around!

So, On beyond Z!  It’s high time you were shown that you really don’t know all there is to be known.”

I leave you with a verse of scripture that embodies the purpose and the plan of our “On Beyond Zebra” God.

God tells us this through the OT prophet Jeremiah (29: 11):

“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Amen!