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Great Expectations

3/1/2015 Second Sunday in Lent  The text for today is Mark 8:31-36.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Great Expectations – I think Charles Dickins wrote that book, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  It’s been so many years since I read it that I can’t even remember the story line.  But, I’m sure that it must have had something to do with some pretty lofty expectations!

We all have, you know.  We all have great expectations.  What we envision may never make the pages of a well-read novel, but that doesn’t mean that our expectations aren’t important to us.  We dream about them.  We strive for them. How we view reality is colored by them.  And dare say that there are a bunch of them that most of hold in common – like:

  •          We expect to live in this country, full of freedom and wealth, a place where wars are fought over there and peace is common at home. Sure, we don’t live in the Ozzie and Harriet world of the past.  There are some problems, but we don’t expect those problems to end up at our doorsteps.
  •         We expect that our children will have a better life than we have had. They will be wealthier and healthier, even if we don’t expect them to   be wiser.
  •         We expect that we can have a baby when we want one and we expect that we can prevent having one, without practicing abstinence, when we’re not ready to raise a family.
  •         We expect that we will be able to get a good education and training for whatever field we wish.  And, we expect our children to get into whatever college they want to attend and that there will be money available to pay for it.
  •         We expect that we will be able to support ourselves into old age and that if anything should happen to us, we expect our family and friends to stand by us – or at least know when to pull the plug for us.
  •       We expect to have long lives, even though the average age of a person 100 years ago was about 45.  We expect that medical break-throughs will keep coming, curing whatever ailments come our way.
  •          We expect good jobs and good pay.  We expect to own at least one house and that every driver in the household will have their own car.  And, when we retire, we expect security and enough money so that we can enjoy those years to their fullest.

But, are all of these expectations reasonable?  Or are some of them pipe dreams?  We know that our idea of the ways things ought to be doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes, our expectations are shattered by reality, much in the same way that Peter’s expectations of Jesus came crashing to a halt by a cross.

Now, Peter, like most of us, was a reasonable man.  His expectations of the messiah were informed by the past and were mingled with the hopes of his present.  So, he expected that the Christ would be a powerful and mighty ruler, a person out of the lineage of David, a great king who would restore Israel to its former glory and save the people from the tyranny of Rome.  Peter expected the messiah to be a warrior who would lead the people into final victory, a savior sent from God who was armed with the shield of God.  He expected a righteous and just man, a man to be looked up to and respected, but he didn’t expect what God sent into the world in Jesus.

When Jesus told Peter that his expectations were not in line with God’s plan, Peter simply wasn’t going to buy into it.  For, a mighty king was someone who should be honored, not rejected.  And his life should be free from the type of suffering and death that Jesus described.  God’s plan simply did not fit Peter’s expectation as his expectations, like ours, were limited to what he could see and experience in his lifetime.

But, God is not bound by human experience.  God thinks outside of the little box that we create for ourselves.  God’s great expectation involves the salvation of the entire world, not just a little piece of it.  For, all of creation groans, so all of creation is in need of redemption.

What Peter didn’t know was that God’s plan was massive.  It involved the past, the present and the future.  It involved all of creation.  And, unlike our expectations which we sometimes have little control over achieving, God was going to make certain that His expectations became reality.  So, God sent the messiah into the world to suffer the penalty of our sin.

Unfortunately, there was and there is no magic formula to transform this world and make people into something that they are not.  People are people and God knows this all too well.  God knows what He created.  So in order to bring about everlasting change, God had to put all on the line.  God sent his only begotten Son into the world, knowing that lasting change would involve a cross.  For, it was only through suffering and death that Jesus could lead the way to final victory, a victory mightier than our expectations for this world, a victory which stands firm forever, a victory based on the hopes and promises of our God.

Peter was expecting an earthly king to restore an earthly kingdom because his hopes and dreams were based on what he knew and on what he hoped to experience in his lifetime.  But, instead of what Peter expected, God sent his Son who would be crowned king with the thorns of suffering and death in order to change our world by freeing from death those who believe in Him and opening for us the doors of God’s kingdom.

May we see in this King the fulfillment of God’s great expectation for us and for the world in which we live.  May we relish the new reality that God has given us.  May we find in Jesus more than what we could ever dream of accomplishing or having in this world.  May we bear witness to all that God has done in the name of Jesus Christ, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



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