If there has been one thing that God keeps trying to instruct me (and there are more likely many more than one!), I am now slowly learning to modify expectations and never presume that my plans will (or even should) work out. Trust others to follow through on a project, and you will eventually be disappointed. Expect your family or friends to recognize what you do for them and see how that works out for you! Passionate and honest sports fans have an ironic advantage: they know that as they watch their team’s hope-filled season disintegrate due to injuries or unfulfilled potential, they will soon drift through the pain-filled weeks/months praying to be put out of their misery. On a far more important level, over my years, I have officiated at (or attended) the funeral liturgies of too many children whose lives were cut short due to illness or bad choices – expectations to be unfulfilled and dreams that end in death.
It seems to me that we humans display both our foolishness and arrogance whenever we claim to “know” what lies ahead and to base our expectations (and presumptive happiness) upon such knowledge. Didn’t we just watch forecasters truly struggle with tracking the path of Hurricane Irma, and even the model from merely 24 hours out proved to be wrong. We are not infallible. We’re not prescient. Not one of us can see beyond that horizon that would allow us to “see” tomorrow.
Faith, not in our abilities or lack thereof, not in other people and their strength of will, but in our gracious God and father, is to be the hallmark of Christian life. I cannot and will not put my faith in political philosophies or ecclesiastical systems. Let me keep my assumptions, presumptions and expectations in check because I can never know all that tomorrow will bring. But I do know that God in Christ’s death and resurrection has forgiven me. Whatever else lies ahead, while I may have hope, I ought to have few expectations.
Like so many of you, I’ve been moved by news (and video) of the numerous acts of generosity and courage that have come out of Hurricane Harvey’s zone of destruction. We’ve seen the rescues by truck, flatbed, boat, swan float, helicopter and more! We’ve heard stories of football players raising millions of dollars, a little sweetheart who opened a lemonade stand for victim relief, and a real surge of generosity that has raised our spirits as well as finances for those who are truly suffering. (Here I can once again commend Episcopal Relief and Development as an outstanding on-the-ground relief aid organization.) And, of course, there are also the stories of those who tried to charge $90 for a case of water to those who had nothing.
Sounds so trite but disasters do bring out both the best and the worst in humankind. When encountering those in crisis or at least in a vulnerable position, do we respond with grace (and in fact respond to grace) to reach out with love and caring OR do we allow the misfortune of another to enhance our own fortune? It’s always a matter of choice, isn’t it? Am I open to that power which God gives to any and all who seek it in order to love my neighbor as much as I love myself?
Jesus put it rather clearly: “Love one another as I have loved you.” You perceive a person in need, then love that person and try to address that need. You do what you can as best you can. Human life has always been and will ever be marked by the impact of nature’s random cruelty. (The old proverb, while annoying, remains true: “While God always forgives, nature never forgives!”) We’re here for a purpose, and as long as we are here, I hope and pray we can respond to that divine impetus to love the other and be there for the other not because we want to be thanked or because we fear that if we don’t, bad things might happen to us, but simply because Jesus taught that if you want to be his follower, you have to love one another. There is no other way!
I really think this woman hit a “home run” with her theologically splendid and faith filled reflection. – Fr. Joe
Although I publicly claim not to be bothered by “regrets” since such is a waste of emotional energy, in my more reflective (and perhaps sadder) moments, I can’t help but both feel them within myself and notice them in others. I’m not talking about the “what-ifs” that most of us of a certain age now experience: what if I had answered the call to study law instead of theology or taken my dad’s advice and majored in chemistry which had been the love of my academic life in high school? Those are merely whimsical questions.
I wonder if we as a nation will ever even begin to regret the sins of slavery, racism and discrimination and their myriad offspring of hate-filled behaviors that truly infest us as a people – nationally and locally! I wonder if the world now regrets never having settled the issues on the Korean peninsula 60 years ago. I wonder if the world will someday truly regret having developed the technology for weapons of mass destruction. (I have always been struck by the response of the great Albert Einstein who, when asked if World War III will be fought with atomic weapons, stated that he did not know, but if it was, then he was absolutely certain that World War IV would be fought with sticks and rocks.)
Will we all regret that the modern world has allowed religious or political fanaticism to flourish or to have allowed our lifestyle choices to place the poor of this world in more environmental jeopardy than is ethically justifiable?
Maybe I have used the wrong term. It is not “regret” that I am examining. Maybe the word should be “repent!” Maybe “the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf” (to quote from Enriching Our Worship’s version of the Confession of Sin) need be on our plate all the time so that as we do repent of the wrongs we perform or allow, we return to our loving Father who offers us life in abundance. Modernity is so “enlightened” that it has no place for Christ. To have no place for Christ is to have no need of forgiveness – and to use a rather snarky but poignant quote: “so how’s that workin’ for you?”
We have no time because we are so busy – and even if we’re not so crude as to say it, we act as though we believe it. Will we or our children regret our choices and attitudes unless we do repent and seek to bring “the peace of Christ that passeth all understanding” back to our world? I pray we still have time to do so.
Most of you know that my being a New York Mets’ fan has conditioned me to deal with loss and disappointment on a regular basis. The other day, I witnessed at home what it must be like to have a sense of entitlement and expectation to win all the time, and then to have that taken away. Wasting time on a hot summer Sunday early evening, we were watching one of those goofy dog competitions. Getting to the agility event, I know that this is one Border Collies always win. They actually have an unfair advantage in the way their hips are created. It’s as if they have a “slinky for a spine” – to use the phrase of a long ago commercial.
Long story short, the Border Collie did not win. It lost to some “rat dog” whose handler “may” have cheated with an early release – who cares! But the angst from the couch next to me over the unexpected loss. (NO, it wasn’t Abby whining!) Is this what it is like to feel “entitled?”
We no longer live in a world that “entitles” Church or Christians to anything. A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far away, the trappings of church determined the work week calendar, when stores could open, how time itself was delineated, how much deference clergy received, and the vocabulary of holidays.
We now live in a world where church attendance is no longer a matter of social status: you come to worship because you believe. And there may be more status in rejecting the trappings of any organized religion – especially the various traditions of Christianity. Sunday worship has even been described to me as a “bother” or an “inconvenience.”
This may shock you, but as one who questions the very purpose of entitlements, I see this as perhaps the Lord waking us up. If we are to be disciples of Jesus and walk his path, enlightened by His Spirit, then perhaps we must do so without social support or even social courtesy. Maybe we’ve been chosen to be the generation who must really LISTEN to what our God is calling us to be. Living off the status or accomplishments of prior generations is no longer an option and in effect, we are “entitled” to nothing – not even parochial survival. All we know is that we have been redeemed through no act of our own. We are totally loved by Our Father – not because we are entitled to that love, but because of God’s gracious mercy. All that I have and am is pure gift! And that puts having any sense of “entitlement” outside of my definition of being a Christian.