The Gift of Shattered Expectations

 
36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was
now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen
Luke 19:28-40
 
Laying down cloaks was an act of homage for royalty. By riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, Jesus was making a public declaration that in fact he was the King and the Messiah that had been prophesied about. People were out of their minds with excitement. They put a cloak on the donkey, put Jesus on its back, and laid cloaks on the ground. As the crowd swelled, people were swept up in the celebration and they shouted,
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”
 
Their day had come. Finally!
 
Except that one problem still remained. Who they thought He was, and who He actually was were two different things. Don’t you hate that? Isn’t it frustrating when things don’t turn out the way you thought, or when people aren’t who you expect them to be? The people’s expectations of their Messiah King were going to be completely crushed. He wasn’t going to miraculously free them from Roman rule. In fact, He was about to fail miserably according to their most long-held, dogmatic expectations.
 
And that was only Day 1 of Jesus’ last week. Every day that follows, Jesus continues to disappoint by turning expectations upside down.
 
In his last week, Jesus likens the temple to fruitless fig trees, calls out the hypocrisy of temple leaders during the moneychanger’s drama, and lifts up the Samaritan as the example of hospitality and neighborliness over religious leaders who ignore someone in dire need. To top it all off, he affirms the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume as the only disciple in the room who actually knew what was happening; her act preceded Jesus’ washing of the feet. And the list goes on!
 
When I read the scriptural account of Jesus’ final days, I am left with one prevailing thought— that Jesus was making sure His followers would embrace the “outsider,” the “marginalized,” and the “powerless” as those who have gifts necessary for the community of faith. Jesus put them right in the middle of the discussion— he brought the “margins” into the center of the faith dialogue. And it bugged people. More than once, the religious folk were described as indignant when Jesus went down this road of honoring the dishonorable. This way of thinking is just too threatening and upsetting.
 
A friend of mine calls it “deconstructing” the status quo. CS Lewis called it “shattering expectations.”
 
I first heard this CS Lewis quote here at Street Psalms.
 
“My idea of God is not a divine idea,” CS Lewis says in A Grief Observed. “It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins.”
 
Lewis sure was right about that one! The idea of a Messiah who empowers marginalized people by bringing them into the center of the community of faith ruins everything. It could get you killed.
 
Nobody likes having their ideas about God, faith, or church shattered. Yet, perhaps, we should hold things loosely and consider that maybe, just maybe, these moments of shattering are gifts of God’s grace. They can serve as reminders to not be misled by our own best ideas of who we think God is. In humility, we know that we only see in part. God help us if we think we see it all.
 
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, who comes to save us.” Save us, Jesus, from our own best ideas of who you are. Shatter what keeps us from seeing you.
 
 
Rev. Lina Thompson
Pastor, Lake Burien Presbyterian Church
Longtime Friend and former Board Chair, Street Psalms