Great Expectations: Matt. 11:2-11
#GreatExpectations is the Podcast for December 11, 2016. Who is Jesus Christ to you? What are your expectations of a messiah, the Messiah? Why do men hate going to church? Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Justice #Advent #Matthew #Matthew11 #WhyMenHateGoingToChurch #LyleSchaller #ChurchGrowth #EngagedChurch #MarketingChurch #SelfHelpJesus #Don’tWorryBeHappyJesus
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/11/2016 The 3rd Sunday of Advent.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 11:2-11.
The Messiah is the “anointed one,” or chosen one, of God. He came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth in the hearts of humankind. Those who follow him will live in communities of the new Kingdom as a foretaste of what is to come. He will come to consummate the renewal of the Heavens and Earth in a New Heaven and New Earth. It will be a world without sin, without wars, without famine, pestilence, and depravity. It will be a place that is like the Garden of Eden, but better. It will be a place like what John described in the Apocalypse, but better. To that, I say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
I would say that most of the time, though, we would never know that this is what it means to be the Messiah from what is being preached and presented in our churches.
I am just finishing a book called, Why Men Hate Going to Church. The author, David Murrow, tells us that basically men hate going to church because the whole of Church as we have developed it is more suitable to feminine ways of operating than masculine. It is similar to a book my wife read about how the educational system is set up in a way that suits femininity better. It is a statistical fact that churches which emphasize what are traditionally known as feminine attributes are dying in the United States. Churches that are growing reach out to men appeal to the traditional masculine attributes and they are the churches that are growing.
Because I am in the “church biz” so to speak, I read a lot of stuff like this and have over the years. I read the countless forty points for this and ten points for that which the sociologist turned church growth guru Lyle Schaller wrote. I read the whole Engaged Church phenomenon from the Gallup organization which had 25 areas of engagement that a church must do to be “excellent”. There is the whole Promise Keepers movement, the various and sundry growth initiatives done by every denomination to “appeal” to this group and that group.
It makes sense that we in the United States would take the tools of marketing and apply them to our houses of worship. We are bombarded by advertising everywhere. We are used to it in the newspaper and the television. Yet, it is almost unrecognizable to us that advertising and ‘crafting a message’ is on our smart phones, in regular news interviews (such things as ‘product placement’ at news conferences), and in our parks and recreation places. My own Chicago Cubs home, Wrigley Field, is quickly becoming one great big advertising medium. If there is a flat surface at Wrigley, there is an advertisement on it.
The quest of advertising is to find out what people want and give it to them, like “Have it your way”, the old Burger King motto, sang at us. Unfortunately, we can forget that God is not a product, nor is the gospel a marketing plan. The Lord is a person and the Gospel is a way of life for those who believe he is coming again to consummate the renewal of Heaven and Earth. It is an old message, but it IS the message.
We tend to think that somehow we are so very different than people of old. We think that we have somehow progressed to a point where we are more enlightened. We somehow feel we would be different than those who heard the words of St. Matthew around 85-100 A.D. when his words were first published.
We have enlightened ourselves so that we understand that we cannot expect physical healing from a Messiah. We have enlightened ourselves so that we know that the real healing we get from coming to a church is community, a sense of belonging, or a sense of psychological wellbeing. We have created “Self-Help Jesus” to mollify anyone who might be offended that we have sin. We have “Million Dollar” Jesus telling us how to make a successful life. We have “Don’t Worry, Be Happy Jesus” who tells us that the Gospel is filled with a life without trouble, believing makes our troubles vanish. (If that is the case, what does Jesus have to do with a crucifix?) We have “Boyfriend Jesus” who is the man of our dreams: he listens, cares, and is oh so the Lover of our soul, seeking a true relationship. We have “Ivory Tower” Jesus is an articulation of what we are discovering in sociology, psychology, and the sciences. We have created so many different Jesus’ to appeal to us that it is very hard for us to accept him like he is, for who he is.
Even John the Baptist’s question is filled with human manipulation of the Word through whom the Universe is created: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Apparently Jesus did not rise fully to the expectations of even the Baptist. Is that all that Jesus is going to do is give the blind sight, make the lame to walk, cleanse the lepers, give hearing to the deaf, raise the dead, and preach good news to the poor who already know that fame, riches, and power are false hopes, false gods? Why would he want to do those things anyway? Isn’t he just here to convince us to accept people with these conditions?
Isn’t Jesus going to establish the Jewish Kingdom here on earth for all who are really God’s people to come and live? Isn’t Jesus going to raise up a holy state government who will protect the lives of the unborn? Isn’t Jesus going to give us all mansions on streets of gold? Isn’t he going to bring hope and change? You know, “Yes, He can?” Isn’t he going to make humanity great again from Jesus Tower?”
John the Baptist’s expectation, the expectations of the Jewish people, our own expectations are all based upon what Jesus can do for us. I have not met one person who doesn’t believe in Christ whose basic premise for denying him isn’t “what has he ever done for me?” Even those who are angry at him for things contained in the Ten Commandments are mad because they feel like Jesus expects them to live a life they decided they will not live. On the flip side, those who trust him, believe in him, know that his kingdom is both on earth and in heaven, know that his Kingdom has no geographical boundaries, has no special skin color, and has no special socio-economic status. It is a Kingdom that raises people up for God’s purposes, not ours. If it is something that advances the coming Kingdom, then it will happen.
Jesus said, ‘woman, your faith has made you well.’ We are that woman. Jesus is the anointed one who heals from within to cause us to go out and do great things, risky things, mission oriented things. When we are changed, our allegiances change. Our expectations change. He establishes a kingdom that is not founded by the ballot box or denied by the strong arm of dictatorship. It is lived out by people who know his power. They are willing to die for the proclamation of his Kingship. They are people who know him, love him, serve him, and trust him. Most of all though, we, his people, accept Him for who he is. We do not impose on him who we want him to be. Simply, we recognize the difference between “my will be done” and “thy will be done.”
There are no less than 11 categories of testimony in the Old Testament to what it means to be the Messiah, the “Anointed One” of God. Each of them has a little bit of the different kinds of Jesus we like to create. Yes, he loves our soul. Yes, he wants everyone to have what they need to survive. Yes, he believes that we should live holy lives. Yes, he believes that there ought to be justice for the poor through the government. Yes, he believes that there is actual physical healing for those who believe. Yet, the overriding concern of Christ is the establishment of the Kingdom of God here on earth. He already knows it is in heaven.
So, we may have great expectations for Jesus Christ this Christmas. We should. Yet, John didn’t fully expect Jesus to come as he did. The political authorities didn’t expect him to come as a baby in a Manger. Only Montgomery Ward and Coke-a-Cola expected him to come down the chimney in a big red suit. So, wouldn’t it be wise for us as his followers to re-examine our expectations of who Jesus Christ is? Oughtn’t we readjust our lives, our property, our life plans to fit the renewal of the Kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth? Shouldn’t we have the great expectations of Jesus Christ as he is and where he will lead us?
The Messiah is the “anointed one,” or chosen one, of God. He came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth in the hearts of humankind. Those who follow him will live in communities of the new Kingdom as a foretaste of what is to come. He will come to consummate the renewal of the Heavens and Earth in a New Heaven and New Earth. It will be a world without sin, without wars, without famine, pestilence, and depravity. It will be a place that is like the Garden of Eden, but better. It will be a place like what John described in the Apocalypse, but better. To that, I say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian