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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Expectations - 04/07/2019


I hear this story, this time around, and wonder about Judas’ expectations.

Expectations is a topic that has been on my mind for weeks now, as it often is before I go on vacation. For me, the looser the itinerary, the better. I’ve enjoyed heavily scheduled travel very much too, but doesn’t take long before I find myself searching for an adventure hidden away in times marked “on your own” on the day’s agenda.

So on this trip to Dubai I just made with my sister Sarah to visit our other sister Kate who lives there, I had no idea what to expect. I knew Kate had some ideas, and I was excited about the opportunity to just trust her and go with the flow and see what was in store for us. That’s how we ended up the first night eating fish at an Indian restaurant called Bu Qtair (Boo Cateer) on the Arabian Sea. It was a meal that stirred up quite a bit of social media conversation. But I’m here to assure you it was some of the best fish I’ve ever had, despite the fact that it was fried whole – innards and all, apparently – and served to us on a big cheap platter. The catch of the day had been scaled but everything else was there, from teeth to tail. And it was so good and the curry sauce that came with it was divine. The American, and specifically Lake Superior, expectations I usually have about the fish I eat were easily put aside.

I was reading a lot about letting go of expectations when I was on vacation too. In a book by Joyce Rupp about walking a Spanish pilgrimage called the Camino, she wrote about her experience on the 500-mile trek. At more than one point she wrote about her expectations when it came to the refugios along the route, the simple and sometimes primitive bunk houses used by the pilgrims each night.

Another refugio … (read excerpt) (Rupp, Joyce, Walk in a Relaxed Manner, Life Lessons from the Camino, Orbis books, Maryknoll, NY, 2005, 62ff)

My ability to let go and put my expectations aside have not stayed with me since I’ve returned, I’m humbled to admit. I was able to let go of my expectations when our morning flight was delayed three hours due to fog. It wasn’t so much the delay that made this a challenge as it was our decision to stay up the whole night before, hoping to fall asleep fast and hard on the long flight home. I got through that.

But apparently, as soon as my passport was stamped “welcome back to the USA!” my typical expectations and ability to let go were there to greet me as well.

So … I expected to get a good night sleep before driving back to the U.P. the next day, but instead I was terrorized out of a deep sleep by the shrill hotel fire alarm at 4 am when some fool failed miserably at making microwave popcorn. I was mad and had an instant splitting headache.

… and, unable to get back to sleep right away, my sister and I ended up having a pretty fun IHop breakfast in the wee hours, laughing and talking about the trip over pancakes and coffee.

I expected to return full of energy and inspiration for writing again and for being back in the office and back into daily ministry activities, but instead I have felt under the weather in various ways, jet lagged and probably a little blue to have left my sister and her family.

… and, that has forced me to re-enter the busyness of my day a little more gradually. It forced me to focus on what really was most important this week – not sharing my cold, spending some time with Larry, getting my body back on this time zone, and helping to accompany the family and friends of Gwen McCollum.

Even the book I was reading on the Camino specifically about things like expectations and letting go threw me for a loop in what I was expecting from it. I didn’t finish the last few chapters until I got home and found out that Rupp’s walking partner died unexpectedly about 6 months after they returned. I was rattled by the revelation and realized I just assumed this man was still out there in the world sharing his Camino wisdom.

… and, it reminded me that this life we have been given is precious and fleeting and so much more the “Now” than I let it be sometimes. I probably tend to focus too much on the past and future. I build expectations on the ways they can draw me into guilt or wounds of days gone by and worry about days that have yet to come.

So ... I really have been thinking a lot about this lately and how our expectations can turn us on a dime. So it’s not surprising that I wondered this about Judas too.

And I think I’s a fruitful thing to wonder about. Try to imagine this scene from our gospel reading today.

Jesus and the disciples come to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. This is shortly after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and that sign has alarmed the Pharisees and those who don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah.

But despite all they do and say, more and more people do believe Jesus is the Messiah indeed. They believe following their own encounters with Jesus – after hearing him teach, sometimes witnessing the signs themselves. And they feel his love for them – they feel God’s love for them expressed through Jesus.

So Caiaphas the the Pharisees begin to conspire to kill Jesus. They expect that will stop people from believing in him. Judas, like all the disciples, knows they are plotting to kill Jesus.

And Caiaphas has another problem, he soon realizes. Even more people are coming to believe in Jesus through the stories of others – some probably first hand, and many others probably not. That love of God for us even through the Jesus stories told by other people was still there and the people responded with belief.

The storytelling was very effective. Lazarus was one of these story tellers. And so we hear in the verses just after our text today, “the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.” (John 12:10-11)

Judas probably already knows this too. He probably expects them to lay low and let the Pharisees and the stories simmer down a bit, just as Jesus had been doing for a little while after he raised Lazarus. But now Passover was coming and although Judas and others did not expect Jesus to come out of hiding and head to Jerusalem, that is exactly what he has done.

Jesus doesn’t always stay reined in by our expectations, does he?

And now, on top of all that, Jesus stops in at Bethany and this house. They are only about a mile and a half from the wall of Jerusalem and apparently, they are going to have a party.

It’s like they want to be noticed, Judas must have been thinking – this certainly wasn’t how Judas thought things would go. Maybe he expected Jesus would go into Jerusalem quietly, camouflaged by the enormous crowds. He could observe Passover under the radar and then slip back out before they even know he was there.

Maybe he expected they would get about this far and Jesus would find some sense and decide to head back into hiding.

Whatever Judas expected would happen we can assume Jesus’ choices did not meet those expectations and Judas could not let go.

So when Mary comes along with an act rich in expensive anointing oils, and rich also in love and its prediction of what awaited Jesus only a mile and a half away – well, Judas lost it.

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (12.5)

And Jesus responds in his usual cool as November, kind of way. “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” (12.7-8)

Again, this is not what Judas was expecting. He doesn’t really care that much about the poor – he’s already stealing from them apparently. But, he does expect that Jesus will react to this observation about his beloved poor. Maybe he thought it would give him a way to change the situation or something.

No matter, Jesus doesn’t meet his expectations, because, as we all know, he is up to something much bigger here, much more unexpected than simply going up to Jerusalem for Passover.

He is going to Jerusalem to die … to be the Passover Lamb himself – hurriedly devoured as God ushers the people to freedom … killed and laid quickly in someone else’s tomb before Sabbath begins, a tomb where something else quite unexpected will happen.

Expectations. They tripped Judas up – big time. And this story today may, hopefully, help all of us see where our expectations may trip us up too. We need them in many ways. It’s part of survival of our species, I suppose; part of our big-brain ways. That is true.

And it is also true that our expectations can prevent us from letting go sometimes and trusting that God is up to something unexpected and even better …

… like pancakes at 5 am with my sister

… like listening more closely to what our bodies and our hearts are telling us

… like being more aware of the gift of “now”

… and, of course, like the eternal salvation Jesus made possible for all of us – even Judas – in his unexpected and dangerous journey to Jerusalem.


Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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