Monday, April 02, 2007

Managing Expectations

I didn't post a sermon this week because I didn't actually write one, but preached 'off the cuff' (or 'by the Spirit' depending on your level of faith!). But it struck me reading the Gospel of the Palms at the beginning of our service and then the Gospel of the Passion in the middle (this was the main morning service) how the expectations people had of Jesus were seriously thwarted and how this led to their major turnaround between the entry into Jerusalem and the the calls of 'crucify him' on that Good Friday morning.

Many expected Jesus to be a sort of religious Rambo, blasting into Jerusalem and ridding the nation of the hated Roman Occupiers. Jesus didn't satisfy their expectations at all - no riding on a warhorse, no shiny chariot, no rousing speeches.

Many expected him to be a miracle worker, with a trick for every occasion - but when there were no blind who could see again, or walking lame people, or revived dead folk, on the road into Jerusalem they too lost faith in him.

And it made me question our expectations of Jesus, and the role of Christian faith in our world today. Some people seem to think that Christian faith is a way of controlling and manipulating our society or our surroundings, either through exerting moral pressure on government or by claiming the health and wealth they consider to be their right. Others seem to think that their relationship should be characterised by miracles every five minutes, and that the only barrier to this is the faith they do or don't have.

How does this grimy, beaten Messiah, suffering and nailed to a cross present to them?

Surely the message of Christian faith is that we don't get to avoid suffering but that God is in the midst of all that we go through? There is no promise that we will have a position of privilege, or of having a hand in the lives of those who do not follow the way of Christ, except through our example and through living and proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ.

And the result of this kind of disappointment? Well some seem to reject the Christ of scripture, opting instead for a sanitised Jesus who simply backs up their own view on life. Or they replace Jesus of Nazareth preferring instead a kind of 'ubermessiah' who again backs up their own views, beating the opposition into silence.

In the end we crucify Christ again if we ignore the message of the cross. That everyone - whoever they are, no matter how undeserving - is loved by and forgiven by Jesus. Everyone is worth dying for. That being a Christian is not glamourous, or comfortable, or a kind of spiritual wish-fulfillment, but that it is about struggle, prayer, our need for forgiveness, about laughter and joy and hope and tears and faith and above all about love. All of this is mixed up and mashed together, not packaged neatly into boxes, or following a do x and y will result scheme.

Life is messy, so is faith. Following Jesus is tough, and worth everything it costs.

1 comment:

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Alastair, life is messy
and getting more messy everyday.

One may not (and should not) discriminate against non-believers, but the pendulum has swung the other way, we are getting to the point where non-believers in society: government, education and health may soon be able to 'democratically' discriminate against anyone who believes in a god.

Disease & suffering are where faith fails, put your faith in money, science and medicine - but I see even the ultra rich still face mortality - no one is exempt.

Hate & betrayal are the order of the day, where it is common place, common currency among the skeptics who have themselves been betrayed, thus perpetuating more lies, more hate and more betrayal - any act of kindness dismissed as weakness, any honest person dismissed as a fool. No one is free from 'sin' but most of us are keen to hurl stones and rocks, myself included.

Sees it all just depends on who has the largest or most powerful catapult. Saaaad, but true!