by Kelsey Knobloch

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20b

Anyone remember Vines? Not the growth from grape plants; the short, 6-second video, social media service. It ran from 2012 to 2019, and I still find a lot of their videos pretty funny. It’s amazing how much amusement you can get from a 6-second video clip if it’s filmed right. Some people, however, used it just to document daily life, like parents teaching their child how to appropriately receive gifts and be thankful. It’s pretty widely referenced nowadays, but if you haven’t seen the Vine clip I’m talking about, you can watch it here.

It’s a 3-year-old boy pulling wrapping paper from an avocado and cheerfully exclaiming “It’s an avocado! Thaaanks!” His parents were apparently testing his manners prior to his birthday, teaching him to show appreciation for a gift even if it wasn’t what he expected or necessarily wanted. It seems like the lesson worked out fairly well.

I can’t promise I’d be quite so excited about an avocado for my birthday. They’re tasty and all, but it’s not exactly a “traditional” gift, and I’m sure I’d have trouble managing my expectations. But life seems to be all about managing expectations. We expect to have people recognize us on our birthday, but there are anecdotes, tv episodes, and (even more) internet videos about what happens when someone’s birthday gets missed. That thwarted expectation can certainly bring about some hurt feelings, at the very least. We all expected to be “back to normal” over a year ago when the coronavirus first had us all sheltering at home for a couple weeks. Certainly we’d be back to the church in time for Easter 2020! But it seems that expectation was thwarted as well.

We expect to have things run fairly smoothly in our lives. We expect the car to hold up if we perform recommended maintenance, the product we buy to be worth what we paid for it, the waitstaff to serve us before the table that just arrived, the flight to leave on time, and the gas station to have gas. All of those expectations have been thwarted at one time or another as well, I’m sure. 

The disciples expected Jesus to be right back. Well, first they expected Him to return Israel to independence, to bring their people out from bondage to the Romans. They didn’t expect Him to die. They didn’t expect Him to rise from the dead either, but once He did, they expected him to stick around. But 50 days later (Ascension Sunday), Jesus thwarted expectations once again by ascending back to heaven.

Now we wait. We wait patiently (most of the time) for Jesus to come back, and not just so we don’t have to deal with broken down cars, cheap products, slow table service, late flights, and empty gas stations. We hope, wait, pray, expect the day to come when “death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” (Revelation 21:4) We expected it to be before now, certainly, yet still we wait. We manage our thwarted expectations as well as we can.

And in the meantime? While we wait for Jesus to “come in the same way you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11)? What are we doing in the meantime, while we wait for our expectations to be fulfilled? I shared a quote from Martin Luther on Good Sam’s Facebook page awhile back: “God does not need our good works; our neighbor does.” We can do the work of God in the meantime, and in doing so we can manage our own expectations, as well as those of others. God can act through us, fulfilling the needs of our neighbors, friends, those in our community; even strangers!

It might be a little odd sometimes, offering help. It might feel strange to strike up a conversation with the person who’s hovering near the gas pumps, asking for loose change. It might be odd to volunteer for a new experience at the church, or to give money to a new outreach project. The experience might not be exactly what you expect, but it also might be exactly what God expects you to do: show His love to others.

We’ve got the power to do it. Pastor Troy spoke about our superpowers on Ascension Sunday, and Pastor Kirstin shared about the power given to us in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Our power is to live in the midst of our thwarted expectations, to live with the power of God in us, to do the work of God in the world around us, as we wait for His return. God’s work, our hands.

“You may say ‘I’ve never had the sense of being helped by an invisible Christ, but I often have been helped by other human beings.’…If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from other human beings. He works on us in all sorts of ways: not only through what we think [of as] our ‘religious life.’ He works through Nature, through our own bodies, through books, sometimes through experiences…But above all, He works on us through each other.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 7

And I am standing in the stillness of the reckoning /
The storm is past and rest is beckoning /

Mighty God, how I fear you /

How I long to be near you, O Lord /

How long until the burden is lifted? /

How long is this the song that we sing? /

How long until the reckoning?

Andrew Peterson, The Reckoning (How Long)