The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r168.htm
s168g04 Baptism of Jesus Lockleys 11/1/04
"the people were filled with expectation" Luke 3.15
I'm sure that there are many fans of "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoons so I suppose you all saw the one in the Advertiser before Christmass where Calvin was writing his annual letter to Santa. This year he had written: "Dear Santa, Every year at this time I send you a list of what I want for Christmas ... and every year you callously ignore it and bring me practical things I don't want at all. What's the deal?! ... Are you insane?? Have you gone senile?? Can't you read?? Or are you just a vindictive, twisted elf bent on destroying little kids dreams?!?! ... Hobbes, reading these words, suggests "You might want to sleep on this one" to which Calvin replies: "I know, but it feels good to write it."
In my usual twisted way I immediately thought that this is sometimes how we approach God. When we look at the world, with all its difficulties and strife, how people's legitimate hopes and dreams are so often shattered, we might also think of God who created all this, as vindictive and callous.
The parables of Jesus often make reference to people who hate the landowner or who think that the king is a hard taskmaster.
And while it is good to have our little fantasies at Christmass - that next year will be better - or that God might bring the kingdom in all it's fullness tomorrow, methinks God sees our reality rather differently. Just as really loving parents give practical gifts, God also gives us practical things - not the Ducati motorcycle or the G5 Macintosh I might covet - but human companionship. Some of the most enduring gifts parents can give children are self respect, respect for others, openness to others yet caution when dealing with people.
I find it interesting how difficult it is to encapsulate a "worthy" way of life. I had never quite heard it expressed so succinctly until recently - how do people who have been brought up all their life to "mind the pennies" cope with the words of Jesus: "Give and it will be given unto you". I wonder if the worthy sentiment behind "saving for a rainy day" actually exists in the Bible?
When I've heard some Christians talk I have begun to think that sometimes "expectation" is made into a virtue. Or, as I think about it more precisely, the confidence a believer has that his or her expectation will be fulfilled by God bears a direct relationship to their likelihood to receive it. If only I believe enough, God will do this. Or God will reward my belief with action. If I have no where else to whom to turn, God will acknowledge my predicament and act.
In a revealing passage, CS Lewis talks about the blowing of the magic horn to summon aid. The "goodies", in dire straits ponder if and when they should sound the horn. "If your Majesty is ever to use the horn,' said Trufflehunter, "I think the time has now come." ... "We are certainly in great need," answered Caspian. "But it is hard to be sure we are at our greatest. Supposing there came an even worse need and we had already used it?" "By that argument," said Nikabrik, "your Majesty will never use it until it is too late." (Prince Caspian p85)
We can make god into someone dependent on our dependency. In this view God likes to be needed. "God knows what we need, but likes to be asked." Most likely if God spent his or her time fulfilling each and every whim that comes to our mind, will God have time to do anything else? Much of our prayer ought to be us sorting out our own priorities rather than trying to dictate what God's priorities should be.
If Calvin is going to be always disappointed if he considers Santa Claus really only as an open cheque book, we too are likely to be disappointed if we look at god similarly.
But also God does not look at us favourably if our cheque books are fat and open too.
God certainly looks at each of us, looking to bless whatever contribution we make, but the emphasis is on the blessing God wants to bestow, not the size or the quality of the contribution.
The good news is that we too do not look at others for the size or openness of their cheque books
The good news is that god doesn't expect things of us, or of others, and so we too can accept people for who they are, without expecting (more) from them.
Links to other sites on the Web:
About the author and links.
To a Lectionary Index of Archived Sermons.
To a Scriptural Index of Archived Sermons.
Back to a sermon for next Sunday.