Questions and Reflections

July 2015

A reflection on 2 Samuel 11:1-15: David and Bathsheba

Our first reading is from 2 Samuel 11:1-15.

When it comes to Bathsheba, we can't read this story as a love story. David and Bathsheba didn't meet at a party or at a gathering with friends. David spotted her, desired her, and ordered her soldiers to take her. In this story, Bathsheba doesn't speak. We don't hear from her perspective. All we see in the story is that the soldiers came to take her and she went with them because she didn't have a choice. David's power allowed him collect women and so he did, with Bathsheba as his victim today. She returns home, washes, and eventually realizes she's pregnant. David does all that he can to separate the pregnancy from him before arranging for Bathsheba's husband's death. This is not a beautiful story and it's difficult to witness David's actions here and align it with the image of the little shepherd boy who defeat Goliath so many years prior. This Scripture, when read closely, focuses solely on David. He, and he alone, is responsible for his actions. 

So what do we do with this text? It's part of Scripture so we can't ignored it. It's part of our heritage and proclamation as well. It's also a piece of Scripture that is lived out in the lives of women and girls all over the world who are raped and assaulted. Scripture doesn't try to run away from the human story. Instead, it reflects honestly the darkness that exists in our world. 

Maybe one thing to take away from this text is the fact that we know Bathsheba's name. Scripture is notorious in not recording the names of women. Even Jesus's ministry among women and with women supporters is not recorded fully. But in this story of violence, Bathsheba's name is there. We know her husband and have hints about her family life. She's not just an object but is a person with a name, history, and story. She's known. And that knowing is not just something that God does. We're called to be like God and know others. Women are not objects. David's actions are not holy. His exercise of power in this way is not what God wants. God wants all to be known and to thrive because, when we follow Bathsheba's story, that's what happens to her. She thrives in spite of what David does to her. But thriving after violence isn't God's desire. God's hope is that violence doesn't start at all. 


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Doughnuts [Sermon Manuscript]

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

John 6:1-21

Pastor Marc's sermon on the July 26, 2015 (July 26, 2015) on John 6:1-21. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


Imagine - for a minute - that’s it the end of a busy day. And let’s say it wasn’t a very good day either. Everything that could go wrong, did. We’re cranky, tired, and we just want to go home. But first, we’ve gotta eat. So we head to our favorite comfort food place to grab something tasty and easy. But when we get there - something’s going on that we didn’t expect. There’s a line. And none of the people in line seem to be from around here. They’re staring at the menu longer than they should, and when they order, they keep messing up what they’re saying. And some of these people are ordering food for like 20 other people who are all standing outside, half-in-line and half-out, making it so no one really knows where the line is or where it’s going. Now that’s pretty annoying. But as we closer, we realize the line is filled mostly with high schoolers. They all seem to be wearing brightly colored matching t-shirts. When they speak, we hear these strange accents from places like Long Island, South Carolina, Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. And even though these kids have been up since 7 am, after only a few hours of sleep the night before, they’re all just so happy and polite - high fiving each other and strangers and bragging about it on social media - like the kid who claimed he received over 1100 high fives in one day. That, in some ways, is kind ofwhat the ELCA Youth Gathering is like. 30,000 Lutheran youths and their adult chaperones, from all fifty states and from countries all over the world, converged on Detroit last week. We ate in their restaurants. We walked their streets. We explored their hidden graffiti works of art in parking garages and alleyways. And we delayed traffic when, after our nightly gatherings at Ford Field, we walked a mile and half downtown to find the shuttle buses that would take us to our hotels 45 minutes away. With this many spirited Lutherans in one place, and all of us in brightly colored and matching tshirts, downtown Detroit looked, in the words of a local, like a bag of Skittles exploded all over the place. But this giant bag of Lutheran skittles didn’t descend on Detroit just to hang out. We weren’t there to only enjoy ourselves. Instead, we came to a city that some had written off - and we came to live our faith out loud. Because God has a habit of being in the places where we don’t usually look. So we came to Detroit to see what God was up to and to see just how God was going to change us in the process. 

In our gospel reading today, we’re jumping ship, so to speak, from the gospel according to Mark into the gospel according to John. And we’re going to be here, in this chapter, for the next five weeks. So the chapter starts with Jesus in the area he grew up, along the sea of Galilee. Now, the region of Galilee wasn’t a popular place. The people there were fishermen and farmers, poor and mostly rural. The people there spoke in a funny accent and weren’t highly thought of. Most believed that nothing good could ever come out of Galilee. But this is where Jesus is, preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. And as he continues his work, a large crowd gathers around him - because, as John says, they saw the “signs that he was doing for the sick.” 

Now, that word, “signs,” is important. Jesus is casting out demons, healing the sick, curing diseases and making paralytics walk again. Jesus keeps doing these miraculous things - these acts of healing that we wish would show up more often in our daily lives. But the writer of John never calls these acts miracles. Jesus is never just a miracle worker. Everything Jesus does points to who Jesus is. So as this crowd of 5000 gathers around him, right around Passover, Jesus has them sit down. And he takes from a youth in the crowd two fishes and five barley loaves - a kind of bread usually avoided. There’s no way that such a measly quantity of food could feed 5000 people. But, in Jesus’s hands, it does. From this poor quality bread, everyone is fed. From what little they had, 12 baskets are leftover. From their scarcity, comes abundance. 

One of the main components of the ELCA Youth Gathering was that every youth and adult would spend one day serving Detroit. The ELCA partnered with local non-profits throughout the city to put us to work serving the community in ways that the citizens of Detroit needed and wanted. The projects we did ranged from helping stock a newly established diaper pantry, repainting murals inside public schools, boarding up abandoned buildings or installing new community gardens all over the city. Each day, 10,000 people would board hundreds of buses that would take us everywhere. And the numbers from what we accomplished are pretty amazing. 600 neighborhoods were affected. Over 300 vacant homes boarded up. 3,200 vacant lots were cleared. 36 urban gardens installed. 99 picnic tables built. And over 1 million diapers donated to launch a citywide diaper pantry for families in need. As a church, our hands did a lot. 

Now, our team from CLC contributed to those numbers as well. We, along with churches from Wisconsin, Ohio, and Minnesota, were sent to the Eastern Market - a giant farmer’s market serving 80,000 people every Saturday. And our mission was twofold. First, we would head out into the brutal heat and sun to clear some vacant lots of litter, debris, and other gross things. And then, with our muscles sore, our faces sweaty, and our legs covered in cuts, ticks, and bee stings - we’d then head into the market to do an even scarier thing: we’d walk up to people we don’t know, talk to them, and share what Eastern Market is doing for their community and what it could do for them. So after a short five minute presentation about the Market, and with a handful of maps and schedules for when the market was open during the week, we were sent out, to talk to people who perfected the “silent/no eye contact” New York style brush off. 

I’m proud of all the kids who did this because I know it’s not easy to talk to strangers - especially when you’re hot, sweaty, and you haven’t slept much in a few days. And people were a tad weirded out, and rightly too, when these youth in matching religious t-shirts came up to them and started talking and asking questions. We totally came off as a little Jesus-y. But we weren’t there to hand out tracts. We weren’t there to try and convert people to become Lutherans. We weren’t even there to talk about ourselves. We were there to simply tell these people about their city; about their market; about all the things going on in their community. We were there to raise up their abundance; to bring to light all the amazing things they were doing, and to be a sign that their city was hope-filled and not hopeless. The people of Detroit - they so graciously welcomed us, smiling as we took over their favorite places, shouting words of thanks as we blocked their traffic for miles - letting us know that they loved their city and wanting us to see all that their city had to offer. We know that folks have written Detroit off. We know that many see Detroit as a scary, fallen, or a place that the right kind of people just don’t go to. But we know that Jesus is there. And where Jesus goes - that’s where we go to. 

Today’s reading ends with Jesus walking on water. His disciple are in a boat at night when they’re caught in a storm. The wind howls. The waves crash on the boat. They’re not moving and they don’t know how to get out.  And that’s when Jesus comes. In this story, Jesus doesn’t still the storm. He doesn’t calm the winds down. He doesn’t talk to the disciples about their faith or if they’ve doubted him. Instead, Jesus enters the storm. He walks straight into the scary, dark, and unwanted places. And when he gets in the boat with his disciples, all he asks is that they they don’t be afraid because Jesus is in their boat. Jesus is in our boat too. He’s in our storms; our struggles; our dark places and our fears. He’s with us when others have written us off and when we have written ourselves off too. And since he’s with us - since he’s willing to walk into our storms, into our darkness, into our struggles and fears - then we’re called to be like Jesus; to walk with our neighbor in their struggle; to find the stranger who is trapped in darkness; to see where the storms are and head straight into them because, like Detroit - Jesus is already there - so we should be there too.



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What Times is It? [Sermon Manuscript]

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Mark 6:14-29

Pastor Marc's sermon on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (July 12, 2015) on Mark 6:14-29. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


For those keeping track at home, one thing you’ve notice about my preaching is that I focus on the first four books of the New Testament. Week-in; week-out, the words coming out of my mouth have something to do with the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And that’s on purpose. I decided, for at least one year, I’d focus all my preaching on these four stories of Jesus. That’s a promise I made to myself. And it’s also a promise that I wish I could kinda break. Because - on this day when we’re celebrating K’s baptism and where we’ll commission Colin and Case as they head to Detroit for the ELCA’s youth gathering - today I’d really like to preach on something other than the beheading of John the Baptist. 

Today’s story starts immediately after the lesson we heard last week. Jesus and his twelve disciples are preaching, healing, and casting out demons. They’re making a name for themselves and word has spread so that even the new King Herod - the son of the Herod who was on the throne when Jesus was born - learns what’s going on. And what he hears - scares him. Herod doesn’t know who this Jesus is - but he’s worried that he’s already met him in the form of John the Baptist. So Mark launches into this flashback story that’s pretty incredible. It’s pretty gruesome too. King Herod arrested John the Baptist and threw him in prison because John isn’t afraid to call Herod out. Now, John specifically brings up Herod marriage - but there’s more to this story than just being a tale about morality or just some 1st century celebrity gossip. The family Herod belonged too had a long history of playing brutal political games to maintain their power. Sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, would scheme and plot against each other, trying to gain an upperhand and install themselves onto the throne. And these schemes were deadly, making the politics in the tv show Game of the Thrones look civilized. So during one of these struggles, Herod married his brother’s wife to strengthen his control over the throne. When John the Baptist calls Herod out, he’s attacking that promise of power that drove Herod and his family to do whatever it took to gain that power. John is making a very political statement, calling into question King Herod’s authority to rule as a minor puppet king in the Roman Empire. Faith; love; even God - none of that is included in this promise of power at all. 

So it’s no surprise that a promise shows up in today’s text. The text says that Herod liked what John said - that Herod actually knew that John was a man from God. Herod could hear the truth that John spoke - but Herod’s power consumed him; it trapped him, causing him to make and keep a promise that led to John’s head being served on a platter. 

Now, I know that some of our promises are like the promise I made to myself about preaching on the gospel readings. This is a promise that I could actually break - and it really would be no big deal. No one would get hurt, no hearts would be broken, and unless you knew about the promise I made to myself - if I had preached on Ephesians today, no one would have been the wiser. And I bet some of us are carrying similar promises right now. But we also carry more than just these little promises. We carry our little broken promises too. If we’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions - well - now that it’s July - how are all those going for us? That promise to wake up a half hour earlier every morning to work out. That promise to be a little more patient this year when we’re talking to our kids, our family, or our friends. And that promise to just be a better listener - even though we don’t really know what to do to make that happen. We’re good at making promises. But we’re also good at breaking those promises - even when we have the best intentions - to keep them. Sometimes - something gets in the way. Sometimes - someone else entices us. And sometimes - a part of ourselves that we don’t really know about shows up in an unexpected way. That’s the thing about promises. They can be beautiful - powerful - amazing things. But the promises we make can also be the very things that undoes us. 

So let’s live into God’s promises instead.

And that’s what a baptism is - really. It’s about God’s promise to each of us. My bet is that K. - as smart and precious as she is - she probably can’t quite yet make promises on her own. She can’t promise Tyler that she’ll give up her toy when she’s done with her turn. She can’t promise here mom and dad that she’ll do her homework every night and be home way before curfew. And K. can’t even promise God that she’ll never forget to say her prayers. K. can’t make promises - but God can. Today, she’s going to hear God’s promise to her. She’s going to hear that Christ died for her. She’s going to hear that she’s part of Jesus’ family - and that God’s promises to her can’t be undone. We don’t know exactly where K.’s life will take her - but we do know that Jesus’s promises will never let her go.

Today’s gospel story is a flashback. King Herod remembers what his promise cost the one who dared to speak God’s truth to him. And Herod remembers this story when he hears about “it;” about Jesus in the villages - about the disciples curing the sick; about these nobodies casting out demons, and telling folks to turn back to God’s promises of hope, love, and forgiveness. K. can’t articulate it - but today she is now part of God’s mission - a part of God’s journey. And we’re part of this journey too - called to love the world whether we’ve been brought into this faith journey when we’re 42 days old or when we’re 42 years old. We’re here to be one of those 12 - sent to live into God’s unbroken promise - to speak truth to power; to show the world what the world is truly like; to point out when our own promise as a community, as a country, as individuals has been broken - and to turn us back into God’s promises of healing and love - casting out the demons of hate, privilege, power, and control. We’re called to love so that all people can become people where our promises are never broken. Today, the number of Christ’s disciples is going to grow by one. Today, K.’s is going to join those twelve. She, like all of us, is called to live into God’s promises - to trust that God’s promise to us can’t be broken - and live like this world is truly being changed - so that a feast only for kings and those who do anything for power - is now becoming a feast of hope and love, with endless loaves and fishes for all.  Amen. 


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A Reflection on 2 Samuel 6: David and the Ark

Our First Reading is from 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19.

When you think about Indiana Jones, what do you think of? I think about his clothes: that whip, the hat, and that leather jacket. They are fantastic. But beyond his wardrobe, what makes Indiana Jones great is also just how terrible he is as an archaeologist. He breaks rules, taking objects away from where he found them before he properly records where it is found and why it was created. He's obsessed with objects but not with the people who created them. Indiana Jones is terrible at his job - but he sometimes does get something right. At the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Ark of the Covenant is about to be opened, Dr. Jones tells his companion to close her eyes because God's presence isn't only wonderful. It's also dangerous.

Today's story from 2 Samuel shows David bringing the Ark into Jerusalem. The Ark traveled with God's people ever since God delivered the ten commandments to the Israelites. After they were smashed on the golden calf, the pieces were gathered up and placed into a large box. The ark is part of God's stuff, containing God's word, promises, and presence. David desires to bring God's stuff into David's capital city. But this journey has issues. In the verses we don't read today, a man is killed when he touches the ark. The ark brings blessing and also danger. David doesn't know what to do so he hesitates before deciding that the Ark needs to come home.

As members of Christ's body, we talk a lot about God's presence. We ask for God to be with us in our worship,homes, and families. But God's presence can also be a fearful thing. To have God present means that we have to give up our control. When the Creator of the Universe is present, we can't really compete. But our Sin is that we still try to. We know that God can bless us but God's presence also undermines our own power and control. Our control is a scary thing to give up. But the beauty of our relationship with God is that our fear doesn't define God's love for us. Instead, God promises to come us anyways and it's up to us to embrace this God who loves us even when we don't love God


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A reflection on 2 Samuel 5: David takes Jerusalem

Our first reading today is from 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

In today's first reading, David is finally declared king by the people of Israel. The elders gather with him in the holy city of God where the tombs of Sarah and Abraham, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, are located. This is the city where David's kingdom begins. But this city isn't Jerusalem because Jerusalem hasn't been conquered yet. Jerusalem won't become Zion and the City of David until the 7th year of his reign. That length of time is a gap in the story that we carry with us. We tend not to remember that Jerusalem was something else before David moved in.  

On this weekend when we celebrate the declaration of Independence, I think today's text from 2 Samuel invites us to consider our whole history, including the parts that are our gaps. Let's not just remember the signing of the Declaration at Independence Hall but also how our first form of government didn't include the US Constitution. Our story is fascinating, bigger than just the narrative we might experience at a 4th of July Fireworks show. In our history is depth, complexity, pain, and wonder. We have our flaws and our strengths, destructive and life giving events. There is a reason why we're sometimes called part of the Great Experiment and that experiment only works if all parts of it are known and examined. We shouldn't be afraid of what our story tells us because, as we see in Scripture, God is comfortable with complexity. God isn't afraid of working through difficult or wonderful times. Our brokenness is just as much a part of us as our successes and joys. And we shouldn't think that God is included in only one part of our story. God isn't afraid of our missing gaps. God is present in all of who we are and where we come from. God is in our gaps. And God loves us in spite of the gaps we have. 


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Hometown Blues [Sermon Manuscript]

[Jesus] left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Mark 6:1-13

Pastor Marc's sermon on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost (July 5, 2015) on Mark 6:1-13. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


A few summers ago, Kate and I were leaving our old church in Astoria, Queens, heading north on 37th street, when we ran into a street fair along 30th avenue. Now, running into a street fair in New York City during the summer isn’t a strange thing. They’re kind of all over the place. It’s where we picked up $20 dollar bed sheets, cheap aviator sunglasses, and more street meat and fried dough then is probably safe to consume. But this street fair was a little different because one of the vendors wasn’t normal. Right in the center, around 34th street, a stand was set up by the Discovery channel. People, as they walked by, were being asked to stop, take a extra long cotton swab, and scrape the inside of their cheeks. Discovery was putting on a tv show trying to find out where all the people from a street fair, in the most diverse place in the country, actually came from. By taking cotton swabs of our cheek, little organic cells could be safely taken and analyzed. And by looking at our DNA, and comparing our basic building blocks with the basic building blocks of other people from all over the world, we could find out where our ancestors, from thousands of years ago, came from. We could find out our old, old, old, old, old, old, old - hometowns.

Today, our gospel story from Mark has an odd story about hometowns. Jesus is continuing his ministry of healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching a vision of God’s kingdom that people are having a hard time getting. So after hanging around the Sea of Galilee and speaking up in synagogues scattered throughout the area, Jesus heads back to his hometown. He’s back to where his parents are, where his sisters and brothers live, and where there are people who knew him when he was just “this high.” Jesus is back in the place where he grew up - and it doesn’t go well. Jesus’s preaching isn’t received. His new job as a wandering preacher, traveling from place to place teaching and healing, doesn’t match up with people’s expectations of what an eldest son should do. It’s like they just had a big family gathering, maybe kinda like the one some of us had yesterday, and as the conversation got to jobs and relationships - maybe there’s someone in the family who’s not really following the career path or the direction that everyone thinks they should. That tension - that conversation - is exactly what Jesus experiences here. Jesus isn’t fulfilling his expectations. There’s nothing in his past to make people think that Jesus is suppose to be the powerful religious teacher that he is. He’s the son of a carpenter and with a mother, brothers, and sisters who need him to get back to his “real job” to take care of his family. Jesus’s hometown can’t see Jesus as anything more than what they expected him to be.

So what are our expectations of who we’re supposed to be? 


Now, going back to that DNA swab, it took about six weeks to receive the results of the analysis. And even though I knew it was going to take that long, every time I opened the mailbox, I was hoping the results would be there. I kinda knew what I’d find, since, well, being brown and hispanic means that more than one of my ancestors crossed the Bering Sea a few tens of thousands years ago. But what I was looking forward to was what I didn’t know. Was I connected to some people living central Asia? Do I have a great-great-great-great-great grandmother who use to hang out on some small island near Japan? When it comes to all that makes me, me - including the people and places I and my ancestors come from - just how connected to others am I? 

Jesus seems to play with this idea of connection too. When he’s rejected by his hometown, pushed away by their expectations of who he’s suppose to be rather than who he actually is - what does Jesus do? He goes out. He heads into the small villages to do what he does. He gathers his closest disciples and friends, folks who are, like him - the unexpected -  tax collectors, fishermen, and farmers - and they are told to do as Jesus does. They head into new places, teaching about the love that God has for all, healing those who need healing, and casting out the demons that keep people separated from those around them. Jesus doesn’t let his hometown’s expectations interfere with what’s he’s called to do. He’s going to go out and love. He’s going to heal the sick. He’s going to preach God’s kingdom and reconcile people to each other and God. And he’s not going to let expectations limit what God’s kingdom looks like, what it does, or who’s welcome to be a part of it. This carpenter’s son isn’t about keeping our expectations - he’s all about keeping God’s. 

Now, when I got back my report from my DNA scan, the piece of paper and map that came back didn’t much I didn’t already know. Certain markers in my DNA and cells showed that my ancestors left Africa, headed east, took a few pit stops in China and Afghanistan, before spending waaay too much time in Siberia before passing into the Americas and spreading, quickly from Alaska all the way to the tip of Chile. But what was awesome in that packet I received was a special invitation. I was invited, along with everyone who stopped by that vendor booth at that street fair, to wake up super early on a Sunday morning and head to Astoria Park. A few hundred people gathered - and formed this giant human map. We modeled what our ancestors did so many years prior - we moved from place to place, leaving our hometown and our homelands to strike out to somewhere new. We connected with our ancestors who didn’t let the expectation of staying local - of staying the way they were - stop them from heading someplace new. We, like our ancestors, are called to be something new. The people who saw Jesus grow up couldn’t imagine that he’d be something brand new. They couldn’t imagine that God, through Jesus, might be doing something worth noticing. Instead, they saw this carpenter’s son - healing, preaching, and loving the world - and they wondered why he wasn’t just standing still. 

We carry with ourselves these kinds of expectations. We carry the expectations of our parents about where we might end up or where we might go. We carry the expectations of our family - of our friends - of the people around us - who have seen us grow up. And we carry with us the expectations we give ourselves: how we’re going to be with our family, how we’re going to raise our kids, how we’re going to find the right kind of career success, and be that special person we’re supposed to be. These expectations are a part of us. They are part of what makes us who we are. They can propel us to amazing places, providing the focus and energy needed to help us change our world. And they can do the opposite, burying us in dirt that we’ll never dig ourselves out of it. But our expectations aren’t God’s expectations and we shouldn’t mix-up the two. Because this God whose own Son was rejected by expectations is the same God who pushes through our limitations to bring about something new. God’s kingdom isn’t about limiting expectation; God’s kingdom is about opening up larger connections. When we’re confronted by expectations - by those from others and by those we bring with us - we’re invited to do what Jesus did - and bring in God’s ever expanding patience, hope, and love. God’s expectation is that separation should never takes the place of healing; that pain should never takes the place of hope; and that fear should never stops us from being God’s love no matter what. God’s expectation is that love, healing, hope, and peace be all that we do. Because even when Jesus felt the pressure of expectations crushing down on him - he still couldn’t help but heal those in his hometown who were sick and needed him. God’s kingdom can’t be stopped by our expectations - so let’s live out God’s expectations instead. 



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