Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
“What Should We Expect?”
I’d like to start with a funny story. I heard about this couple. They were driving down the road. When they came in a crossing sign, it said, “Nakadochis forty miles ahead.” They began to argue about how to correctly pronounce the name Nakadochis. The husband got so upset. He told his wife that he would stop to prove that she was wrong when they got to the town. They drove silently for the next thirty minutes. When they arrived at the town, he pulled their car over at the first fast-food restaurant. They both marched up to the counter, he said to a young lady who was working there, “My wife and I have been arguing for the last thirty minutes. Would you please tell us, very slowly and very clearly, how to pronounce the name of this place?” The young girl’s eyes got real big, and she leaned over the counter and said, “Bur~ger~ King [Burger King].”
What do you often argue about with your spouse or friends? Do you mostly get the result you expected? Today, I want to talk about “expectation;” “What should we expect?”
A few weeks ago, I visited one of our parishioners. While we were chatting, I asked her, “What’s your plan today?” She said, “You know what, I’m 95. What do I expect? What do I plan? I can do only pray for my children and grandchildren. They are my joy. I can expect anything. But I expect God’s answer to my prayers.” She got the right answer. We should expect God’s work in everyday life. We hear bad news every day, such as hate, fighting, homicide, violence, injustice, poverty, and so on. We also face many challenges, difficulties, bad medical reports, family issues, addictions, depression, etc. Even though we get past on challenge, they keep coming one after the other over and over again.
We wonder how we can have hope in this world. What about our church? Could we have hope in our church? When we had the Lenten Bible study, I asked attendants to complete the sentence, “I wish our church would be…” Most of them answered, “I wish our church would have more children;” I wish our church would have more members.” I believe as long as we pray for our church, we have hope in the church. Our prayers would be our expectation. In other words, we should expect God’s work through our prayers. We can’t make things happen, but God makes things happen. Therefore, we should expect that by praying, God will work for our church; and God will work for our children and grandchildren.
Today, we have an opportunity to bless our graduates. It is great to celebrate their achievement and bless their next steps. We have dreams through them, and support them and pray for them. At this point, what we should expect is that “God be with them.” Wherever they go, and whatever they do, we pray, “may God be with them, and guide them, and protect them!” We expect “God to work through them.”
In Today’s scripture, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke, describes Jesus’ ascension with his last words. In verse 1, “the first book” means the Gospel of Luke. Luke wasn’t one of the twelve disciples but was a physician. He was the primary doctor of the Apostle Paul. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles to “Theophilus.” “Theophilus” means God-lover or God-beloved. It means all Christians and potential Christians who read the Bible. The good news Luke wrote to us (Christians) is that “God will be with us forever.” By describing Jesus’ ascension in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, what Luke wanted us to know is even though Jesus was lifted up into heaven, God will send the Holy Spirit, and God will be with you through the Holy Spirit as God was with you through Jesus. Luke showed us that Jesus talked about the Holy Spirt in his last words: “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”(Acts 1:5) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8a).
We know about Jesus’ ministry with his disciples. His disciples were proud of Jesus, seeing many miracles and people who followed Jesus. However, different from their expectation, Jesus was arrested and died on the cross. They denied and abandoned Jesus. Finally, they ran away in fear after Jesus’ crucifixion. After Jesus’ resurrection, they were still in doubt and fearful. As we see in verse 3, “After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days…” Imagine how they felt with the risen Christ for forty days, and what they felt when they saw that suddenly Jesus was lifted up into heaven in front of them. It just happened that Jesus was arrested, died, and taken up differently from what they expected. They might expect that risen Jesus would be with them, but suddenly he disappeared. However, the disciples were changed after Jesus’ ascension. They weren’t afraid of anything. They stayed in Jerusalem, praying and waiting for God’s promise as Jesus said, “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4a). The word “Jerusalem” was the city of Israel but meant the “sanctuary.” The disciples stayed in the upper room where they had the last supper with Jesus, praying. They expected God’s work. They had nothing can do in that situation but only prayed, hoping for God’s promise, “Immanuel, God with us” (Isiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). The Acts of the Apostles shows us how God worked through the Holy Spirit for his people who prayed at all.
God promised that “I will be with you” to his people who were in fear (Exodus 3:12; Joshua 1:9). As God promised, God sent us Jesus, who was the incarnated God, to be with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). After Jesus’ ascension, God sent us the Holy Spirit to be with us as Jesus promised (John 16:7). We should expect God who was with Abraham, with Moses, with Joshua, with David, and with Jesus’ disciples. God is living and everlasting. When God presented to Moses, God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). That means God works for people one on one. Now, it is our turn. We can call the God of my father, the God of mine, the God of my children, and the God of my grandchildren. Specifically, use their names when you pray for your children and grandchildren. God will work for your children and grandchildren. God is the God who keeps His promise. Even though we are aging, God is still working. Even though we can’t do many things, we can pray. You may have heard this saying, “when a man works, the man works, but when a man prays, God works.” Jesus said, “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (John 14:14). We should expect God works through our prayers. Remember, Jesus said, “this kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29). Jesus also said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Thanks be to God. Amen!