(New Lay Ministers in Hopedale, Labrador)
Expectations Can Define Mission
By Bishop Chris Giesler
Several years ago, I met a friend at my favorite Indian restaurant for lunch. I had not been there in several years, and I eagerly anticipated that first trip to their buffet to sample a little bit of this, a little of that, and a lot of my favorite, “Chicken Masala”. After settling back into my seat and taking a moment to give thanks for the feast, I loaded that first piece of chicken, dripping with that delectable sauce, onto my fork. Then, closing my eyes, I put it into my mouth and took that first bite. My nose instantly picked up the scent of that wonderful mix of Indian spices, but when I bit down on the piece of chicken, I suddenly knew that something was not right. This was not chicken; it was tofu! In my excitement to load up my plate, I had failed to read the label on the buffet table that clearly said “Tofu,” not chicken.
We are a people of expectations, aren’t we? We want to be satisfied; we want to be happy; we want to get our money’s worth; we don’t like surprises. Why? Because surprises are things that we don’t expect.
Look at the crowds on Palm Sunday. It was a party! An almost out-of-control celebration erupted out of nowhere. Why? People thought they were getting something. Jesus had garnered a reputation as one who could heal the sick and comfort the downhearted. He was known for his compassion towards the poor, and the great majority of the population of Israel at that time was dirt poor. He was speaking their language. Jesus was also known as an inspiring leader, teacher, and preacher; as such, he came to be seen as the one who could rally the faithful to rise up and kick the Romans out. So, as Jesus made his way into Jerusalem on this particular day, selfish expectations ran high! “We can get something out of this man!” As the week wore on, however, Jesus spoke more about giving to a greater cause than he did about getting things.
In your mind, fast forward from this scene of joyful expectation, to the Good Friday scene. It looks very different. No huge crowds for the Good Friday procession. This time there are no palm branches or clothes spread on the road. Why did the crowds leave? I’ll invite you to read the Gospel accounts that run from Palm Sunday up to the arrest of Jesus. Those Moravians who read the “Readings for Holy Week” have the perfect resource, so take advantage of it. Over the next few days, here is what Jesus taught:
- Jesus talked a lot about commitment. Before Jesus entered Jerusalem, the rich young ruler asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus invited him to give his wealth to the poor and come and follow. The man could not do it. By contrast, Jesus lifted up the poor woman who gave all she had into the Temple treasury. Even though she gave only a few small coins, she sacrificed everything she had.
- While Jesus drove out the money changers and animal dealers in the temple, he invited in the outcasts. The sale of sacrificial animals to those in town for the Passover was a great fundraiser for the Church of Jesus’ day. But most of this activity happened in the area set aside for the foreigners to come and pray, and Jesus was angry about this injustice. But, you don’t mess with a successful fundraiser.
- Jesus began to talk more and more about sacrificial giving. He said to give water to the thirsty, give your time by visiting the sick and imprisoned, give food to the hungry, and give clothes to the naked. Read Matthew 25! Give, give, give! The crowd wanted to hear something else.
People wanted the quick road to personal and political happiness, but Jesus taught, lived, and gave witness to a life of deep meaning. A life lived with a mission to take God’s love to all people in tangible ways. He lived to include the outsider and advocate for the marginalized.
Walk with Jesus again this week and see how your life can move beyond seeking for yourself and move to a place of joyful giving to others. Walk with Jesus this week to move your life beyond seeking to be superficially happy to a life of deep meaning, purpose, and mission.