Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chasm of Disapointment

There are some unique things about Luke’s account of Palm Sunday.
Notice that there are no palms.
There are no Hosannas.
What drew my attention this time was that the people blessing Jesus.
And calling him king are a “multitude of the disciples”.
This is not a crowd from Jerusalem gathered for the Passover festival.
These are the people who know Jesus well.
These are not the crowd that will be calling for Jesus to be crucified on Good Friday.
These are the people who have been with Jesus for some time.
They are people who have heard him teach, preach, and heal.
They don’t fully understand yet what it means for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem.
Even though Jesus told them that it will be here that he dies.
I wonder how much they will be disappointed by Jesus death.
There expectation on this day is that Jesus will be triumphant.
And yet to be the Messiah for Jesus means to die and give his life.

It got me thinking about our own expectations of Jesus.
How are we disappointed by him?
What are our expectations of Jesus in our lives?
Many people believe that having faith in Jesus means never having anything bad happen to us.
They see Jesus as the one who can solve all their problems.
They see Jesus as the one who heals every ill.
For example, just this week I was talking to someone who was telling me that if we only have enough faith God will heal our diseases and cure us.
I suggested that it does not always work out that way for everybody.
They responded by saying, “Those people didn’t have enough faith.”
Are we to suggest that Jesus died because he didn’t have enough faith?
In fact, the story of Jesus death suggests the opposite, that Jesus had enough faith to face death without fear.
Jesus knew that God works through death to bring about something greater.

The story of Palm Sunday and Holy week can help us to have realistic expectations about what God does for us in our lives.
Jesus teaches us that the world is a place that brings death.
That to be human means to live in a world of uncertainty, a world where death comes at any moment.
What should have been Jesus crowning moment, his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, was really what sealed his fate.
If only Jesus comes to Jerusalem quiet and without a lot of hoopla.
If only his disciples would stop screaming and making a fuss.
If only he doesn’t go into the temple and turn over the tables of the money changers.
But the story of Jesus is not a fairy tale where the king destroys the evil people and wins the day.
Instead it is God’s story of ultimate sacrifice.
It is a realistic story of what our world is really like.

At our Christian education meetings we will have Bible study.
And we were talking about our expectations and the reality we live in.
One of our teachers, Rene Maurer, was sharing with us a spiritual revelation he had one night.
We have on the one hand our expectations of how things should be.
And on the other hand we have the reality of how things are.
Think of Easter celebrations we have with our families.
We all have certain expectations of how those should go.
We have visions of kids happily wearing beautiful new Easter outfits, and happily standing for the family Easter picture.
We have visions of happy uninterrupted time sitting around a table eating the Easter ham, talking and sharing funny stories.
But then we have the reality of kids who don’t want to wear new clothes, or pose for a photo.
We have the reality of that relative that really gets on our ever last nerve.
We have the uncle who has too much to drink and starts telling inappropriate stories.
We have the mother in law who makes derivative comments about the food under her breath.
 We have the father who only wants to watch basketball on television.
Our expectation of a nice time with family becomes a nightmare.
And we begin to resent those in our family who don’t do their part to make it a nice day.
So we have our expectations and we have reality.
And we spend most of our time in between those two things in what Rene called, “the chasm of disappointment.”

That is a very difficult place to live.
It breads resentment and hurt feelings.
Live their long enough and well…you stop trying to have time with your family.
You miss out on life because you just know that it won’t live up to what you want it to be.

The same is true in the church.
Barbara Hemphill and I met this week to make up a list of people to call and ask to help with the meatball dinner.
We had a list with names of people I had never heard of before.
Barbara would say well this person became, “disenchanted”.
It is easy to do.
Just as there is no perfect family there is no perfect church.
They are filled with imperfect flawed people.

So what can we do?
How can we avoid the chasm of disappointment?
Well in our Gospel one thing that people could have done is listen closer to what Jesus actually said.
He told his disciples on three separate occasions exactly what was going to happen.
Jesus had no dissolution about what was going to happen.
Jesus knew people and knew that they would not deal well with his message.
He knew that people like Herod and Pilate did not want to give up power.
He knew that the chief priest and scribes would be threatened when he took away their ability to make money.
He knew that his disciples would flee because they were scared.

Christianity is a faith about the truth.
It starts with a confession of our sins, and a need for God to intervene because we cannot correct them on our own.
Christians should not be in the chasm of disappointment because we see the world as it is not as we want it to be.
Jesus taught us that the world is a place filled with sin, and violence.
The only answer is to put our trust in God.

So perhaps to avoid the chasm of disappointment we can be more realistic about our expectations of other people.
We can see that the reality of the world is not as it should be, but as it is.

That will only get you half way there.
The other half is that we realize that we are here to serve others.
This is the lesson of Jesus death, he did not come to make himself a hero, he did not come for his glory.
But he lowered himself to serve us.
We say it all the time that Jesus died for our sins.
Jesus gave himself for us.
And so we can make our reality better by seeing our job to serve others and make their time better.
We are not having Easter dinner so we can have the perfect Easter, we are having it to serve our family and make their lives better.

In doing this we close the chasm of disappointment.
We see the world and people for what they truly are, and in service to them we try to work with it.
I would suggest many of us do this.
I have friends who sometimes drive me crazy, but I will always say, “well…that is just so and so, and I love them anyway.”
Let me suggest that to live in the chasm of disappointment does us no good.
It does not help us spiritually.
But to live in reality and to love divinely makes our lives more full.

This is what Jesus taught us.
That the world is what it is.
But the great love of God has overcome the world, and given us the ability to live in joy by serving others.
This Holy Week may Jesus help you to find your way out of the chasm of disappointment so that you can live in joy of Easter morning.
And share a nice meal with those that you love despite their flaws.

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