Beyond Our Expectations
June 23, 2019
1 Kings 19:1-15a, Galatians 3:23-29, Luke 8:26-39
The following is an edited transcription of the video as the sermon was preached without a text.
I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations this week. We all have them, right? We expect our lives to go a certain way, we expect society to behave in a certain way, we expect our families to behave a certain way, we expect the world to function in a certain way. And we expect God to interact with us in a certain way, whether we admit it or not.
But our readings today from 1 Kings, Galatians, and from Luke all fly in the face of these expectations. Our expectations are turned on their heads in all three of these passages.
Our first reading from 1 Kings, is the story of Elijah. Elijah, just before this moment, has defeated the prophets of Baal in the most epic, block-buster movie finale fashion. If you’ve never read it, go back to XXX. It is an event that displays the power of God in the world. So you would expect Elijah to on top of the world. To be celebrating, shouting from the mountain-tops, “Do you see what God has done!”
But that’s not what happens. Our expectations are turned on their head and Elijah finds himself in the midst of a deep depression. He wanders off to the wilderness, eventually finds himself alone, and curls up under a tree and goes to sleep.
When the angel arrives to waken Elijah, I think we would expect a very different moment than what we get. We would expect a cheerleader angel, “C’mon Elijah! Get up, let’s go! You’ve had a great victory—it’s time to be celebrating, not sleeping.”
Instead the angel comes and offers Elijah food, and drink, and allows him to rest.
Once Elijah has rested, he heads for the mountain at Horeb where again our expectations are turned on their head. Because we expect God to show up in the midst of the fire, of the earthquake, of the noise. We expect God to show up in a way that its impossible for us to miss!
But God, instead, shows up in the silence.
God turns our expectations on their heads.
In our reading from Luke’s Gospel today, God does the same thing. We learn that Jesus has crossed the Sea of Galilee and has gone to the land of the Gerasenes. For us, today, this bit of geographical information doesn’t mean much—but for those in Jesus time, it was incredibly important.
Because the land of the Gerasenes, across the Sea of Galilee, was the land of the immigrant, the foreigner. They are not Jews, they are different.
There he encounters a man possessed by demons and he heals him—just what we would expect.
But then the man asks to join Jesus, and we would expect Jesus to agree and invite him along. But that’s not what happens. Instead he sends him to minister in the midst of his own people.
In our reading from Galatians today, we hear how God continues to turn our expectations on their heads.
Because we expect our world to continue on much as it always has. We expect the divisions that have grown up in our world, racial, religious, socio-economic—to continue on, because that’s just the way it is.
But God says different. Paul reminds us there is no division between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. All are loved by God. All are the same before God. All are beloved children of God.
God turns our expectations about how the world should work on their head.
And God calls us to help show that transformation. To help turn the expectations of others on their heads. To show such beyond expectation love for the stranger, the immigrant, the lost, the lonely, for those who have been cast out by society. To love and to welcome beyond expectation.