An Irreligious Faith: How to Starve religion and Feed Life

Antithetical Advent

This post is part of the Advent Synchroblog, Jesus is Coming: What Do You Expect? This rest of the participants are listed at the end of the post.

My favorite NFL team lost today… by a wide point spread … to a really bad team… on the heels of a four game winning streak, and I didn’t like it one bit!

I hate expectations! I really hate them when they are projected me and I am almost always disappointed when I transpose them on others.

Let’s face it, expectations are about getting what we want, the way we want it, when we want it. So, isn’t it rather bizarre for humans to have expectations of God? It seems like he should have the right to surprise us and even to defy us.

I am trying to think if Jesus ever met the expectations of any of his contemporaries other than John the Baptizer, who introduced him to the world. Can you think of anyone else in Scripture who recognized him immediately, who could honestly say, Yep, just like I thought?

He was full of surprises.

There was no deliverance from the cruel imperialistic Roman rulers, as hoped for. He did not lead them into battle and had little to say about the corrupt leadership of the nation other than to give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Big disappointment!

He didn’t acknowledge the piety of the religious elite. Instead, he mocked them, derided them, and called them really bad names. What’s that about?

He openly defied religious law by eating with pagans, associating with thieves and prostitutes, and healing and harvesting grain on the Sabbath. Was he crazy?

He was poor. The circumstances of his birth were dubious. He lived in obscurity for most of his life. He was uneducated. He had to be taken care of financially by others during his ministry years. He wasn’t good looking, like Jim Caviezel. He chose losers to be his close associates. He ticked off all the powerful people of his day.

There was no deliverance from oppression, no affinity with the religious, no promising followers, no education, no resume, no living by the rules.

He was not what anyone expected!

What do we expect?

We expect him to provide a job when we are unemployed. We expect him to help us keep the bills paid. We expect him to take away our undying tendency to fall in the same damn hole over and over in our life. We expect him to lift us out of our mundane monotony. We expect him to cause our wife or husband to understand us, at least, on occasion. We expect him to keep our kids from doing something really stupid. We expect him to keep us and our loved ones from getting cancer. We expect him to help us get a good parking place once and awhile.

We expect him to see to it that we catch a break every now and then!

What if this isn’t even a truly valid question, i.e., What do we expect (of Jesus)? What if the deeper meaning of advent is not about expectations of Jesus (who defies them) or ourselves (who can never live up to them)? What if it is about remembering how Jesus lived and loved and defied expectations? What if it is about us living, loving, and defying expectations?.

Wait a minute! There is a truly advetvent-ish message here. It is that Jesus totally surprised us in the way he associated with the outcasts and stood up to those who misrepresented him and oppressed people, the way that he was so ordinary in appearance, his family of origin, and his occupation, yet became an endearing Rabbi and the singular hope for humankind. He surprised us in the way that he could tell a story, hug a child, touch a leper, defend a prostitute, party with wealthy scum bags and other riff raff, take full advantage of a teachable moment, disregard cultural boundaries to lift those long despised, and make leaders out of losers.

Sometimes, the very best thing you can give a person is the opposite of what they are expecting. That’s even better than getting a good parking place, though; rock star parking is pretty awesome too!

Originally posted November 25, 2011.

The rest of the synchroblog participants:

Glenn Hager, the author of An Irreligious Faith: How to Starve Religion and Feed Life, encourages independent minded people of faith through his writing, speaking, consulting, and one-on-one relationships.

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