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The Road to Jerusalem


Great Expectations

I write this just three days before collecting my Christmas present from our son Steve, a trip to The Stadium of Light to see Sunderland thrash Portsmouth and recover any hope of automatic promotion. By the time you read this you may well have sympathy with the saying, common among Sunderland fans, "I don't expect much out of life and so far I've not been disappointed"! I've followed Sunderland since I was 12 and just about every season ends with a drama involving either promotion or relegation. Many of my fellow fans would truly love a couple of boring, mid-table finishes!

That would be a case of lowering expectations to avoid disappointment, which may be OK for Sunderland fans but definitely not for Christians. Take those two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus for example. One couldn't blame them for feeling just a little disappointed. They'd spent the last three years with this amazing man. They'd seen and heard the most awesome things. They knew from their scriptures that God was soon to make a personal appearance, so it was quite understandable that they'd put two and two together and see Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. He was indeed just that, but their expectations were dashed. If He was the Messiah, surely He'd have smashed that cross into tiny pieces, freed Himself and the two criminals hanging by His side, called to His Father to break open every prison door and begun a revolution. Instead He went "like a lamb to the slaughter", died and was buried. Now, apart from a wacky story from the women about an empty tomb, it was over, and they were back where they started about three years ago, with no leader and no hope. Now you may think it sexist or even sacrilegious to call the women's story "wacky" but take a moment to read Luke 24:11 again. The NIV says; they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense". Other versions translate as; "Idle talk", "Stupid useless talk", "Idle tales", "Utter nonsense", "a feigned thing" and let's not forget Eugene Petersen (The Message)... "They thought they were making it all up!"

They thought the women's story was nonsense because they lowered their expectations according to human experience and not according to God's power. It's no wonder Jesus said, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" (Luke 24). These verses confirm my Easter message, that God is and always has been in control. Easter was God's "Major Incident Plan". From the moment He gave us life and free will He knew the time would come when we'd need to know His love, His power and His grace. God's plans are better than ours, He is more powerful and His timing is perfect-and yet we still have low expectations.

Bishop Ruth writes in the May issue of the Parish News, "It is so easy to get caught up with negatives, with the glass half empty syndrome, with stuff that brings us down rather than building us up. I wonder if we might make this a month where we encourage ourselves and others to find the best in the world and people around us. Live life in all its fullness!" Sorry to go on about retiring but I keep hearing "glass half-full" remarks about what might happen when I'm gone. Don't worry! When I retire, amongst other things I want to learn how to take better photos and improve my guitar playing. What do you want to improve and how do you intend to do it? Here's the first lesson, raise your sights! In the words of Paul to the Colossians "Set your minds on things that are above, not below"

He is risen, so let's start looking upwards!

In His glorious name



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