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Good morning!

To begin, please take a deep breath with me, and then drop all expectation of this, my first sermon for you, and let's just go with the flow, instead of expectation - we'll hope for the best. ;-)

My friend Natasha lives in India with her family and is a brilliant writer. She writes, books and blogs, magazine and newspaper articles, a bit of everything. Here she is with her happy brood.

She writes about life and family and she is a wise woman indeed. In a recent article, she wrote about making a marriage work. She gave many great suggestions and she wrote a helpful list including these pieces of advice:

Be busy. 

Be scarce. 

Be absent-minded, and here's the one I want you to remember: Shrug off expectations like a bird caught in the rain.

(That is to say, let expectation roll off your back).

In the gospel reading today, when Jesus and the Apostles went into Nazareth they were greeted with no great fanfare. I really felt for the Apostles who probably had such great expectations! Newspaper headlines of Hometown boy makes good! or a key to the city presentation! But there were no banners, and no welcoming or congratulatory handshakes or parades. 

Instead, there were whispers of 'who does he think he is?' and 'It's just Jesus, Mary and Joseph's kid, the carpenter'. The people of Nazareth thought they knew who Jesus was, and so questioned his new role and life.

In Mark we are left to wonder why Jesus was treated this way, and not given the great welcome home that we see today when a local makes good, or our hometown team wins, but, in this, we can tease out a couple of interesting elements to decipher. 

There are two sorts of expectation in here and they’re both just as crushing as the other to a faith-based life. 

The first is the expectation the Apostles had, which led to disappointment, no fanfare on arrival to Nazareth, and the second was the low expectation the people of Nazareth had of Jesus, which was a mindset, much like a dead soil, where nothing could grow. Both of these things were so heavy and joyless, how can we possibly find the good in them?

Let's begin by looking at the second example, the Nazarenes have low expectations.

Have you ever dreaded going someplace because you thought you knew what it was going to be like? Maybe that's how the Nazarene’s felt. To them, Jesus is the same old guy, and certainly nothing special.

Big woop.

But Jesus's work around here was to send out his Apostles instead. Two by two, they were sent to carry out his work with a new face. Smart guy! This eliminated the low expectation the people of Nazareth had of Jesus, as their focus was now on the Apostles who were out doing his work. 

And for the former sort of expectation, how to eliminate the disappointment the Apostles felt at their luke-warm welcome, well, they turned that around simply by being of service. Something we are called to do as well in our Baptismal covenant.

So what do each of these things teach us about what we can when faced with similar situations, where we get tangled up in expectation?

I think to begin, the key is to be aware of that heavy, joyless feeling in your chest, it might be the start of that feeling of disappointment, which then leads you to know that maybe you had some expectations around something, mini pause - BUT, once you recognize that niggling feeling, you can search for a way out of it. You can do this with God, and as with most tough things, the Bible gives us direction.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart. --  And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge (God), And (God) shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

I think in this way we can reduce our expectation around outcomes, by looking outside of ourselves instead of inward. We can redirect our heavy and joyless feelings of disappointment and replace them with hope. In fact, heading to the Bible for direction again, it indeed says: faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

An interesting little bit of trivia here:  in the Bible the word expect or expectation are used less than 30 times, and almost always in a negative context, but the word hope, it's used a joyous 164 times. Writer Judy Allen says: Hope comes from a place of God-focused faith, while expectations come from a place of self-focused entitlement.

So maybe Mark is teaching us that the less we expect, the more we can receive. The more we can remove the bad feeling from inside ourselves, of sadness and disappointment, the more room we have for wonder and awe. We don't need to expect anything, God provides, so have faith. 

Hope more, expect less. 

Don't worry, be happy.

I think my friend Natasha would agree here, when she writes at the end of in her article on marriage: simplify things, don’t believe marriage. Believe in love.