I Chose the Mustang

Gospel of Luke 4:21-30

My first car was a 1981 Ford Mustang. It was blue, it had tinted windows and leather looking plastic bucket seats. I had worked and saved money and right before the start of my Junior year in high school my parents and I drove to Casper, Wyoming, wandered the lots of every used car dealer, searching for the “perfect” car. The perfect car that I could afford, that is.

My father had helped me narrow the list to 2 cars. The 1981 Ford Mustang, the car I wanted, and a blue 1984 Ford Escort, the car my father wanted for me. The Escort was newer, had less miles, got better gas mileage, and overall was in much better condition than the Mustang. I chose the Mustang.

I remember driving that car home listening to Van Halen on cassette thinking I was the coolest kid in the world. I had worked hard, saved money, and now I was driving a car of my very own.

A car, for me meant freedom. I could now go where I wanted, when I wanted, and I would no longer ask permission to borrow my mother’s Buick. The Mustang was cool (though to be honest the 80’s were the worst period of design for the Ford Mustang) and I could play my music on the stereo as loud as I wanted. I didn’t so much buy a car that day, as much as an idea. An idea that fulfilled an expectation.

Expectations are funny. We all have them. We all believe in things, events, places, and most especially, people. The word expectation is defined as: “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” A simple enough definition indeed, but what isn’t contained in this definition is the power, influence, and control our expectations have over our behavior.

Our expectations oftentimes drive our relationships. They influence our interactions with one other. They dictate how we work, if we work, and how we save or spend our money. Expectations dictate where we go, why we go there, and what we want when we get there. They determine how we behave in different social settings and how we expect others to behave. Our expectations have an impact on who we are, what we do, and what we want from others.

In today’s Gospel Jesus confronts expectations.

Today’s Gospel picks up right where last week’s Gospel leaves off. Jesus, after traveling the region of Capernaum, had arrived in his home town. His friends, relatives, and acquaintances were eagerly looking forward to his arrival and the miracles and signs that he would do there.

Instead, Jesus challenges their expectations and chastises their lack of understanding. Instead of performing wonderous signs and miracles he reminds them of the Old Testament stories about the widow and Naaman, both Gentiles. He reminds them that these Gentiles received blessings from God and how the rest of Israel, God’s chosen people, continued in their suffering.

He confronted their expectations in regards to birth-right and who is deserving of God’s blessings and, in essence, told them that their expectations were wrong. Their response to being told that their expectations were wrong is very similar to ours today. They were disappointed, which then turned into resentment, and then into anger, and in their anger, they rejected Jesus.

We do that.

We too have expectations of Jesus. We expect that Jesus will fix all our problems, eliminate our struggles, and make others think and behave the way we want them too. And when he doesn’t. When he doesn’t make money magically appear, or miraculously fix our broken water heaters, or cause those who are in opposition to us to align with our thinking, we become disappointed, resentful, and angry.

Jesus came to save us and to be our friend. A friendship founded in and fostered in love. He loves us and he expects us to love him and one another. When we altar that expectation we then run the risk of responding to Jesus the way his friends, relatives, and acquaintances did. We run the risk of rejecting him and denying him the opportunity to treat us as a friend.

Though I thought that all my expectations were met by that 1981 Ford Mustang, in time I learned that I had made the wrong choice. The inherent problems of a well-used car began to become evident shortly after I had purchased it. Now, knowing hindsight is 20/20, it is okay to say, because it taught me a lesson. A lesson that I frequently have to re-learn, but nonetheless, a lesson that is essential to my Christian walk.

That lesson is this: to put needs ahead of wants and live in love with God and with my neighbor.

My father witnessed that love to me when 1) he recommended a car that would have met my needs, and 2) allowed me to make the wrong choice. Today, as you come before this altar, I challenge you to examine your expectations and to ask God to help you align them in love…his perfect and all-encompassing love.

Has anyone ever experienced a disappointment?

Gospel of Luke 3:1-6

Has anyone else ever experienced a disappointment?  I have.

Speaking for myself I have a tendency to exaggerate the potential benefits of an anticipated experience, encounter, or event.  This is something I have done since I was a child.  I have a very vivid early childhood memory around a family trip to visit my grandparents who were living in Colorado at the time.  I remember being so excited about the visit that I had convinced myself that mygrandparents were going to meet us somewhere along the journey.  There is no rational reason for my expectation, but I do remember that every time we stopped, no matter the location, I fully expected to see my grandparents there waiting for me.  In fact, I had so convinced myself of this that at one rest area I ran up to an elderly couple crying out “grandpa, grandma” only to discover they were not at all my grandpa nor my grandma.  This particular experience embedded itself into memory not only because of the embarrassment I experienced, but more sodue to the disappointment.  I rememberbeing very disappointed that my grandparents had not “come out” to meet me…atsome random rest stop…100 miles from their home.

Unfortunately, that is not the last time in my life when I created and allowed unrealistic and fantastical expectations to distort my thoughts or dictate my behavior.  I have done this many times.  I have done this with jobs, promotions, vacations, with things, and I have done this, far too many times, with my relationships.  In the anticipation of something wonderful I have many times distorted that wonder with unfounded desires.

In today’s Gospel Luke confronts expectations.  He challenges his readers to examine their expectations about the Messiah.  The Messiah who was promised to restore Israel and save the world.  The Messiah that Israel and the rest of the world were waiting with great expectation.

Luke challenges his readers expectations by building a bridge.  A bridge that brought the prophecy of the Old Testament across the chasm of anticipation and places the realization of the expected Messiah in a specific time and in a specific place.  This bridge on which our expectations traveled is called John the Baptist, the desert voice calling Israel to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

In addition, Luke also identifies the geo-political and religious leaders of that time, thereby, establishing a marker, a moment, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his mission.  His mission to fulfill all the promises of God.

What are these promises?  These promises are found in the words of Isaiah which Luke cites in his Gospel.  This central section of the Book of Isaiah, from which Luke quotes, has been titled by some scholars as “The Book of the Consolation of Israel.”  These consolations were given to Israel in a time of exile, a period of time when hope and expectation where all that remained of a once and great nation. These consolations point to an entire symphony of biblical promises to be fulfilled by the Lord.

The Lord will:

  • Rescue the poor and oppressed (Is 41:17; 42:7; 49:13
  • Pour out the Spirit (44:3),
  • Restore Israel (43:5-7; 48:20; 49:5),
  • Come to Jerusalem as King (40:9-10; 52:7-10),
  • Destroy his enemies (41:11-13; 47:1-15),
  • Show mercy to his children (43:25; 44:22; 55:7).
  • Be the Messianic Servant
    • whose mission is to bless the nations (42:1-4; 49:1-6)
    • atone for sin (50:4-9; 52:13-53:12)

All of the expectations, these promises, contained in the Book of Isaiah, which Luke so beautifully brings forward to a time and space when he identifies John the Baptist as the; voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Yet, what meaning can we, the modern-day followers of Christ, hope to find in this Gospel?  What can we, as believers in the witnesscarried down to us through the Apostles and Christ’s Church, hope to claim inthese promises?  I challenge you mybrothers and sisters in Christ that for us; because our faith is firmly founded in our Lord’s 1st coming, and that our hope blossoms in the belief that he is coming again, then our expectations for the future fulfillment of the promises of God are manifested in our actions.

Simply put… are you manifesting the promises of God in your life.  I ask you to examine your life in the light of the promises of God.  Are you responding to the poor and oppressed?  Defending their causes?  Does the goodness of God in you effect and impact the world around you?  Are you merciful?  Are others blessed by you and because of you?

Again, if we truly believe that Jesus Christ came once, as a man for mankind, and we rest our hope that he will soon come again, then ought we not be engaged in his work.  Our work is too continue the work to which we were assigned by the great commission of our Lord, to go and make disciples of all the world through the preaching, teaching, and most importantly living the Gospel.