Posts Tagged ‘Rod Bower’

Not up to our expectations?

July 8, 2017

Pentecost 5 -2017

Matthew 11:15-19, 25-30

Marian Free

 In the name of God who defies and exceeds our expectations. Amen.

Some things just don’t live up to our expectations. For example, I found the musical: “Phantom of the Opera” truly disappointing. I had gone with high expectations, but the show left me feeling that something was lacking. “Les Miserables” on the other hand, has never failed to impress whether it be musical or not, stage or film.

The same is true of people. We build up a picture in our mind of someone we have never met, only to find when we meet them or come to know more about them our ideas were quite wrong. A week or so ago the TV programme Compass featured the controversial Anglican priest from Gosford. Rod Bower is known for the sign outside his church that sometimes makes it into

Example of Sign at Gosford Anglican Church

the national news and frequently features in my Facebook feeds. With no information other than Rod’s slogans, I had formed the idea that he had to be something of an extrovert. Compass began with a clip of him setting up the sign and clips of him leading and speaking at demonstrations – both of which suggested to me that he was happy to put himself out there, to engage with people and to be a public figure. However when the journalist interviewed him, he revealed himself to be intensely introverted – to the extent that he found joining parishioners for coffee after church difficult. In reality, Rod was the complete opposite of what I had expected.

It is human nature to create expectations about people and events. By and large we don’t like to be caught by surprise so we prepare ourselves. If we are traveling or attending an expensive show, we do a certain amount of research to ensure that our money is well spent and that we won’t be disappointed. If we are inviting a speaker to a conference we do a certain amount of background research to ensure that they will deliver. In the case of someone whom we have never met, we use the information to hand to create a picture in our imagination. If the person is very different from our expectations we might find ourselves either disappointed or pleasantly surprised.

Jesus found himself in a lose/lose situation. He did’t seem to fit any existing expectation. If he had behaved like John the Baptist – neither eating nor drinking – he would have been rejected as a “wowser” or a “party-pooper”. On the other hand, if he came eating and drinking, he would have been accused of being a party-animal or libertine. At this distance, we have no really clear idea what the first century Judeans expected of one sent by God. Some, it appears, thought that John the Baptist really did fit the bill. He was an ascetic, a prophet who challenged the status quo. People flocked to hear him and to be baptised by him, but the establishment who found both his message and his life-style too confronting did not accept him. Jesus on the other hand appeared to be too ordinary, too much “one of the people” to be the “holy one of God”. It is not that he couldn’t please some, Jesus felt as though he couldn’t please anyone.

Even though Paul and our gospel writers have done a great job of combing through the Old Testament looking for texts that demonstrate that Jesus does conform to the expectations of the anointed of God, their efforts demonstrate never-the-less that it is impossible to find an exact fit for Jesus. Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say explicitly what the people of Israel should be looking for. In fact, some of the expectations contradict each other – the suffering Servant of Isaiah for example, is the opposite of a king of the line of David. As a result of the confusion, by the beginning of the first century there were a variety of expectations. These are evident in the Dead Sea Scrolls or other inter-testamental writings. People variously thought that God might send a king or a prophet or a priest or perhaps that Elijah would return to save the people. Even so, given their rejection of Jesus, it does seem that above all the people of Judah expected a king or at least a soldier – someone who would free them from the foreign oppressors – the Romans.

Despite what our gospels imply, there was at that time no one, fixed, expectation of the “one who was to come”. It was no wonder that Jesus was not universally accepted as the Christ, no wonder that the crowds found it so easy to turn against him when it seemed that it was all going sour.

Jesus simply didn’t fit. He was not a king, or a soldier or a priest. He was not convincing enough to gain the approval of the leaders of the faith and as a result was ultimately unable to maintain the loyalty of the ordinary citizens.

I am sometimes asked: “Why didn’t the Jews believe that Jesus was the Messiah?” The answer lies in today’s gospel – Jesus was not what they expected him to be. Despite everything – his teaching, the healings, the miracles – Jesus did not live up to their expectations or their hopes. He didn’t gather the nation together as a united front against Rome, against the Gentiles, against the hypocritical leaders or even against those who failed to keep the law in its entirety. As a Messiah Jesus was nothing short of disappointing and, to cap it off, his mission ended with his ignominious death.

Expectations – we all have them. What if our expectations of Jesus are the wrong ones? Would we do any better than the first century Jews if Jesus were to come again today or tomorrow?

Our task is to let go of our expectations and to develop a sense of openness to whatever God might do next, whenever and wherever that may be.

 

 

 

 


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