What do we expect to see? What do we expect to hear?

December 15, 2019

There is a difference between exploring the unfolding of God’s covenant and the unraveling that sometimes takes place in our lives.   One of those places of unraveling comes with unmet expectations.  Have you ever been underwhelmed?   We sometimes listen to critics when it comes to movies or plays.  There may be some that even have won awards and then when we see them the experience never matches the hype and disappointment ensues.  It can happen with a restaurant, too.  When we go to a high end steak house our expectations are different than our expectations of a burger or taco from fast food.  Our standards get higher as the price is higher.  How often have we walked out of a resultant and said “that is not what I expected?”   In these unmet expectations comes the unraveling that can make our lives miserable.  Whenever we feel that experiences weren’t what we expected, we can lose heart, we can sink into a numbness and it will take a lot to wow us.  Jesus wants to awake us from our slumber.  He wants to unfold a great and loving covenant before us.  The pressure is always on with gift–giving.  Children shake, rattle and try to guess what will be inside something beautifully wrapped.  And even when everything imaginable is there, there is sometimes disappointment.  This unraveling begins with expectations.  The Gospel invites us to look at what our spiritual expectations are.

John the Baptist, a speaker of truth, confronts the people of the day and asks them what are you looking for?  What did you come out to see?  He is truthful and tells them he has water of forgiveness, but the One to follow will Baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.  John invites the listeners to realize we will be overwhelmed by the One who is to come.  When was the last time we were overwhelmed spiritually?  Jesus tells His disciples earlier in the Gospel that the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear.  This is beyond anyone’s expectations.  He is real and He is the Messiah.  He longs to overwhelm us with a covenant that is divine, a covenant that will never be broken.  Even our sin cannot break it.

As I think over my own selfishness of opening up gifts as a child, there were a few years when my expectations were not met.  I can remember finding myself shedding tears on the pillow when things did not go well or fast enough.  That selfishness brings me to the great leap of faith in the wonder of this covenant that is unfolding.  God is never disappointed with us.  God has never had any expectation of us other than we are broken, born with original sin.  We each are a child of God with an inclination to sin.  He sees our selfishness, our self-centeredness, our jealousy.  In all of this He makes a commitment to Baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.  He chooses to redeem us.  Beyond all of our expectations is a God who expects to be nothing less than we are, a people on a pilgrimage to the sacred and holy.

What God sees in us is overwhelming.  Can we find His eyes, His heart?

Reverend  John J. Ouper