God Defies Expectations
We have just begun Holy Week, that long walk from the shouts of praise and adoration at the entrance of Jerusalem that will land us, in just a few short days, squarely at the foot of the cross. Yesterday we celebrated – we raised our palm branches high and shouted our hosannas. We often think of the word “hosanna” as fairly generic, religious acclamation of praise. A holy form of “hooray!” But in reality, the word “hosanna” is transliterated from the Hebrew words that mean “We beg you, save us!”
What a powerful image it is to think of those words – “We beg you, save us!” – shouted as the cries of joy and acclamation as they were heard on Palm Sunday. It is not normally with tones of joy that one would beg for help. But that joy came from the hope and expectation that the people had already chosen to entrust Jesus with that their salvation was assured, that the powers of Rome would be defeated and all would be set to right. Of course, we know that the people’s expectation for what would happen with Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem was not what came to pass. Instead, something far more reaching, world-upsetting, and expectation flipping happened.
Holy Week is about God defying our expectations and bringing us to something so much bigger and world-changing than we could have ever hoped for. My favorite part of this passage is the end of it – “His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. After he was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.” How often do we look at what is happening in the world and in our own lives and have a set of expectations for God’s actions in the midst of them that do not come to pass? How often do we ourselves cry “We beg you, save us!” and then wonder why God has not swooped in with all of God’s might to strong-arm a victory in the world, or in our lives? How often do we wonder if we have put our hopes behind a God who does not deliver?
But what would it mean if we, like the disciples, were able to look back on the events of our lives and the events of the world and look for the ways that God met us where we were in the ways we would never have expected? It is a well-known adage that hindsight is 20/20. When the world around us seems lost and unstable, can we look to our own histories to see where God has been, and perhaps trust that if God was with us then doing things we could not have anticipated, is it not possible that God is doing the same today, saving us all in ways that subvert ours and the world’s expectations?
There is power in looking backwards. When we see where God has been with us along the way of our lives, we are better able to see where God is with us as our lives move forward, even if we move forward with uncertainty. Starting in May, as the Chaplain to Retired Church Workers of our presbytery, I am beginning a monthly newsletter specifically for our retired church workers, aimed at helping us to trust the road forward by looking back on where God has been and what God has done to bring us to this point in our lives. Expect it to arrive in your inboxes on May 1st, and if you don’t receive it at would like to, please reach out to me at RevLaurenEvans@gmail.com to be added to the mailing list.
As we walk into this Holy Week together, as our cries of “Hosanna!” fade into the tears of Maundy Thursday and Holy Friday, may we wait in joyful expectation of Easter morning. When the light grows dark this week, may we trust that the bright light of the resurrection promise, the light of the God who subverts our every expectation to truly change the world and change our hearts, is on its way.
Don’t be afraid, Daughter Zion.
Look! Your King is coming.
Rev. Lauren Evans
Chaplain to Retired Church Workers