By Pastor Jenna Couch Zion Lutheran Church, Jubilee
Do you tend to be a person who has high expectations, low expectations, or no expectations about life at all? I’ll admit it. I’m a person that tends to have high expectations. Of myself, of others, of life in general I guess. But, because of those high expectations, I sometimes get disappointed. I’ve had people in my life tell me before, “If you expect nothing, you can never be disappointed.” While in a sense that may be true, I can’t imagine living life without expectations.
Whether we admit it or not, we all have expectations in life. And yes, that may mean that sometimes we get disappointed. But other times, our expectations challenge us and others to be better than they thought they could be. And something happens that is so totally unexpected that we couldn’t imagine life any other way.
Many times, we feel that God doesn’t meet our expectations of who we think or want God to be. We’re really not that much different from the people we read about in the Bible. The God they encountered in Christ didn’t meet their expectations either.
People expected a mighty king; what they got was humble servant who was indeed mighty, but not in the way they were expecting. They were expecting a king who would side with those in power. What they got was a servant leader who proclaimed a kingdom where the least among us are blessed, the poor are honored, and those considered least in the eyes of the world would be given the greatest honor.
They were expecting a warrior; someone who would come with a sword and free Israel from Rome’s mighty grip. What they got was someone that Rome hung on a Cross. And when they hung him on a Cross, they expected that he would stay dead. But he overturned that expectation as well when he rose from the grave and said no to the power of death.
Thank God that the disciples’ expectations of who Jesus would and should be were nowhere near accurate.
What are our expectations of Jesus in this world? We often try to put Jesus in a neat little box of who we think he is or should be, where we think he shows up and doesn’t show up, and who we think he would side with in this world. One of my favorite quotes from seminary came from one of my seminary professors, Dr. Duane Priebe, who always told us in class, “Whenever you draw a line between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ in whatever situation it is; Jesus is always on the side with ‘Them.’” We are the ones that draw the lines. We try to declare who is in and who is out based on our experiences and our interpretations of Scripture and our faith traditions. As humans, we often have our mind set on human things and not on the divine. God shows up in places that we might not expect and does amazing things. Thank the Lord that God takes those expectations and challenges them and shows up where we may not expect.
We buy into society’s expectations of what we’re supposed to look like, how we’re supposed to act, what activities we’re supposed to (or not supposed to) be involved in. Then, we judge each other for not living up to the expectations we set up for them and we shame ourselves for not living up to the expectations that we set up for ourselves or that others have set up for us.
One of my favorite current theologians, David Lose, who is the new president of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, notes in one of his blogs that Jesus comes to us to overturn our expectations we’ve accepted or goals we’ve set and to help us admit that we’ve settled for far less than what God offers in this world. Even though we may be devastated when we discover we’re not getting the God we want, God is with us as we come alive again as we realize that God is being the God we need. (www.davidlose.net/2014/08/pentecost-12-a/ “Peter’s Heartbreak, Accessed Sept.18, 2014)
May God exceed your expectations of love, grace and mercy in your lives and the world, now and always. Amen.