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Homily for 3/24/13 - L1 - expectations

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  • Fr David Moser
    We all have expectations of what things should be like before we actually experience the reality of what things are like. Sometimes reality far exceeds our
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 24, 2013
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      We all have expectations of what things should be like before we
      actually experience the reality of what things are like. Sometimes
      reality far exceeds our expectations and sometimes we are disappointed
      because reality doesn’t quite measure up to the image that we had built
      up in our minds. This dissonance between our idea of something and its
      reality is the basis for much of the driving force of our lives as we
      strive to live up to an ideal that we carry about in our minds. We also
      have expectations of others and our opinion of them is often determined
      by whether or not they live up to our ideal of them. Such dissonance
      between reality and expectation, both of ourselves and others, is the
      source of our psychological joy and sorrow, frustration and
      satisfaction, even hope and despair.

      In the Gospel we read of the calling of the Apostle Nathaniel by his
      brother Phillip to come and follow Christ. In meeting Jesus Christ,
      Phillip was convinced that he had found the Messiah. In some way, we are
      not told how, Jesus sufficiently met Phillip’s expectations of Who the
      Promised Messiah would be and therefore when Jesus said to him, “Come
      and follow me” Phillip was ready to do so. Not only that, but he also
      went and sought out his brother Nathaniel to share the good news that he
      had found the Messiah. Nathaniel, however, had a different reaction to
      the news that Phillip brought. He was skeptical. He had his own
      expectations of Who the Messiah would be and nothing that Phillip had
      told him lived up to those expectations. The only thing that Phillip
      could say to convince him was “come and see”, hoping that in meeting
      Jesus for himself, the Nathaniel would be convinced of the truth.

      The Hebrew nation was chosen by God as the instrument of His salvation.
      Through them He gave His promise to the world that He would save the
      world from the tyranny of the evil one. The promise was given that there
      would come a Messiah, a Savior, who would deliver His people from their
      enslavement to sin and would bring them joy by restoring their communion
      with God. The Jews preserved this promise and the expectation of the
      coming of the Messiah, the promised One, Who would accomplish our
      salvation formed (and still today forms) the core of the Jewish
      religion. The difficulty, however, came when the Jews began to form
      expectations of what they wanted the Messiah to be. They began to see
      the Messiah less and less in terms of the spiritual welfare of the whole
      world and more and more in terms of the political welfare of themselves
      as a nation. Rather than being the Savior Who would deliver the world
      from the tyranny of sin death and the devil, the Jews began to expect
      the Messiah to be a political leader who would deliver their nation from
      the tyranny of whatever empire ruled them at the time. This unreal
      expectation became so entrenched that when the real Messiah came, for
      the most part the Jews didn’t recognize Him because they were looking
      for someone else – they were looking for their ideal of a Messiah rather
      than the Messiah that God promised.

      Nathaniel was initially caught in this trap. All that he heard about
      Jesus, even from his brother, didn’t fit his ideal of Who the Messiah
      would be. When Phillip told him that he had found “the one of whom Moses
      and all the prophets spoke”, Nathaniel was skeptical because he was
      expecting something else. Phillip’s only response to Nathaniel was,
      “come and see” for only in this way could Nathaniel truly experience the
      reality of Jesus Christ and therefore judge for himself. Nathaniel did
      “come and see” and did so with an open mind setting aside his own
      preconceptions (such was the testimony of our Lord who said of
      Nathaniel, “behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile). And seeing,
      he believed. How many there were though who did not come and see when
      they heard of Jesus and dismissed Him out of hand. And of those who did
      “come and see” how many there were who came not with an open mind, but
      full of their own preconceived ideas and expectations such that they
      were unable to see the reality for they were too wrapped up in their
      fantasy. As a result, many missed the fulfillment of God’s promise which
      was the core of their faith because they had lost sight of the reality
      and chose instead to cling to their own expectations of Who the Messiah
      should be.

      We see from this account the importance of the true and proper belief in
      God. We all have our expectations and ideals of Who God *should* be,
      however, those expectations don’t always measure up to the reality of
      Who God actually is. Many years ago a book appeared in the Christian
      press with the title, “Your God is Too Small”. The author pointed out
      that many of us have expectations and ideals of God that no matter how
      grand and wonderful they may be, do in fact fall far short of the
      reality of God. God is beyond our understanding and so as soon as we
      create an ideal of God that we can grasp, we have created a limited god
      who is much smaller than the True God. As soon as He exceeds or
      surpasses our expectations, we are in danger of dismissing Him because
      He’s not what we are looking for. When we conceive of a God who is the
      Creator and absolute Ruler of the Universe, all powerful, all knowing
      and all wise Who demands righteousness of all men and then we see that
      God reaches out not only to the righteous but also to the sinner and
      goes to dine in the house of even the despised Zacchaeus and receives
      the ministrations of a prostitute. This dissonance shakes our belief,
      for God doesn’t act the way we want Him to. Or perhaps, on the other
      extreme, we conceive of a God Who is all loving and all merciful Who
      reaches out to sinners and embraces all who come to Him, and then we see
      that there comes the Judgment where sinners are cast out into the outer
      darkness because they did not properly love and care for their neighbor
      – our belief is shaken because God is so much greater than we thought He
      was and does not act in the way we want Him to. We cannot believe in the
      God we construct in our own mind with our own expectations, but rather
      we simply must embrace God as He is and allow Him to mold us into His
      image rather than insist that He conform to ours. Otherwise God will
      come and we will miss Him because we are looking for someone else, the
      creation of our fantasy.

      Today is the first Sunday of Great Lent, the day we call “the Sunday of
      Orthodoxy”. Today we remember the importance of believing in the God
      that is rather than the God we have created in our minds by our
      expectations. There are many in the world who worship God and yet they
      do not worship the true God, but a God of their own creation. Some of
      these people may indeed be Christians who believe in the truth of the
      Bible and who follow its teachings. Some of these people may indeed be
      your brother, your neighbor, your friend. Some of these people may in
      fact be members of the Orthodox Church. One of these people might even
      be you. Anyone who worships their idea of God rather than God Who is is
      missing the mark and in danger of missing God when He comes to them. On
      this day we proclaim the true teachings about God. God is, as we know,
      much greater than we could ever grasp or conceive, however, there are
      some things that we do know about God and it is these things that stand
      as markers that lead us to recognize the true God when He comes to us.
      Today we proclaim what these true markers, these true beliefs about God
      are and condemn the false markers, the false beliefs about God (which we
      call heresies). By turning away from the false beliefs and following the
      True Faith, we will be led unerringly into the presence of God – we
      will, with the Apostle Nathaniel, “come and see”.

      On this day also we pray for those who have held onto their own ideals
      and expectations of God and therefore have missed the mark and strayed
      from the path. We pray not that they might be condemned, but that God
      might have mercy on them and as a loving Father gently correct them and
      restore them to the true path, to belief in the True God. In praying for
      them, we also pray for ourselves that we might not be distracted by some
      remnant of our own image of God but instead remain faithful to the True
      Faith. God has come to us, let us set aside our own ideas and
      expectations and “come and see” the true God that He might embrace us
      and mold us into His own image and likeness.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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