Have you ever went to the movie theater to see the new comedy that was playing expecting it to be hilarious, but when it was over you were disappointed at not busting a gut? Or have you ever been really excited for something to happen, only to find yourself disappointed that is wasn’t at all what you expected? We have all been there! We have these great expectations for something, and our expectations end up getting squashed.
A few years ago, I traveled to the Holy Land during seminary. We had great expectations of what the trip was going to be like. I think most of us were thinking that we were going to walk where Jesus walked, see what Jesus saw, and experience Jesus like we had never before. I mean we were in the holiest of places so naturally you would just have those kinds of experiences while you are there!
We quickly came to find out that those Jesus, spiritual moments were far and few between. Everything seemed to be the same. Each spot there was a significant rock, churches built on that rock, long lines to see these places, and the lack of sleep all added to our disappointment.
It’s kind of hard when you are waiting in line to see the rock on which Jesus was born and when you come to the place you only have a few seconds because there is a long line behind you and it’s crowded and cramped.
We walked all through the City of Capernaum where Jesus lived and taught in the synagogue, and there was no magical feeling. Even in the crucifixion and burial spot of Jesus it just wasn’t the same.
Needless to say, we were disappointed. I thought I would have goosebumps, I thought I would encounter Jesus. All I wanted was to feel Jesus’ presence more pure and close than I have ever felt it before. Then we realized, that just because we were in the places where Jesus had walked, taught, preached, touched did not mean that we would have magical, spiritual encounters or that Jesus wasn’t present even though we didn’t experience a spiritual awakening.
So, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, we decided we would invite Jesus into our journey and create our own spiritual moments together. Once we realized that we are meant to experience these holy moments and holy places together and we turned away from ourselves to be in the presence of Jesus as a community. These once holy places were going to become our own holy places.
While we sat on the shore, we made a cairn and prayed together looking out at the sea thinking, I bet this is what Jesus did, prayed by the shore and looked out over the beautiful Sea of Galilee.
Again, in the place where Jesus was crucified and buried, we found another original tomb. So, we carved a cross in the stone, and put our initials in the four spaces of the cross and we prayed.
Those moments made us realize, we were having spiritual, Jesus moments. Not because of our location, but because we invited Christ into our journey through the Holy Land. It wasn’t that Jesus wasn’t present before, but when we let go of our great expectations of what we would experience in the Holy Land as individuals, that is when we were able to witness to the fullness of Christ’s presence in our journey as a community of believers.
The same is true in our daily lives. It is in the everyday things that we experience holy moments. It is through our relationships with each other that we witness to Christ. Because letting go of our expectations allows us to become more open to Christ’s presence among us.
Rev. Sarah Fike
First Lutheran Church