Expectations are not helpful.

Homily 275 – 11th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 20, 2017

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Forgive us our transgressions, as we forgive those who transgress against us.

In a short while, that statement is what we will be asking God, our Heavenly Father, to do for us.

Forgive us, as we forgive others.

The Gospel today tells us that we are pretty lousy at forgiving. We may balk at that characterization. Surely not I, Lord.

Forgiveness in this context is not just forgiving the wrongs against us. In many ways it is what we offer to ourselves. Let me explain.

We expect things from others – those expectations are what we are owed. They are debts.

The expectations – that others owe us their love, their attention, their admiration – are less material and more about our self-image. Our pride.

When we forgive others, often what we are really doing is paying ourselves the love and attention and admiration that we believe is owed us. We pay it to ourselves.

Emotionally we satisfy our need – but in reality, occasionally, we bear a grudge. Even though we repay ourselves, we don’t cancel the debt – we don’t forgive.

We hold on to the debt. Which is foolishness. Because it really isn’t a debt at all. We are not owed anything from anyone.

We have such a sense of self-importance that we believe others actually owe us these things – but they do not. And to have that expectation is simply foolish.

And then, after all that, we have the temerity to ask God to forgive our debt to Him. The debt that we really do owe. We owe God our love, our attention, our admiration.
Our worship.

And yet we don’t offer that to Him. We offer it instead to ourselves. Expecting it from others, even from God, toward us.

Just like in the Garden – we took for ourselves the prerogative, the honor, that was due to God.

And so we ask God to forgive us. But that request is not without conditions. As we forgive those who trespass against us.

So we have to learn to cancel that debt. To not have expectations. To not be offended.

Not to obtain God’s forgiveness. But because we receive it.

Notice that in the parable, the great debt, the debt owed to the King, is forgiven first. We are forgiven first.

Then, the expectation of the King – our King – is that we forgive others. That we show the same mercy extended to us to the ones that offend us and fail to treat us as we expect to be treated.

By not just excusing them when we don’t receive what we expect. Not excusing them. Forgiving them – cancelling the debt. Erasing the debt. Like it never existed to begin with.

Because it didn’t exist to begin with.

People occasionally ask me how to forgive someone. My response is that we have to let go of our expectations.

Expectations of those around us – and expectations of God. Expectations of the Church.

As we look around the world today, we find lots of expectations. With those expectations comes frustration – because so many of them go unmet. It is easier to not have them to begin with.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have obligations toward others, though. Far from it. The entirety of our existence is obligations toward others.

I can’t speak honestly of forgiveness without mentioning the events of the past couple of weeks.

There is a difference between racism and prejudice.We may never eliminate prejudice.

But we can and should eliminate racism. Because racism is prejudice that has power behind it – institutionalized power, social power.

The way to combat racism, to eliminate it, is to divest it of power. To de-institutionalize it. We, as a society, have said that racism has no place in our society in the US. That was the right thing to say, and continues to be the right thing to say.

We can never celebrate the mistreatment of others. And certainly we cannot celebrate the culture that was built on the mistreatment of others.

That is no different than expecting God to continue to forgive us, when we have no forgiveness in us.

We cannot celebrate our sins. We can, however, insert ourselves between those who proffer violence and the ones against whom violence is directed. And absorb the blows ourselves.

All the while reminding everyone of the image of God in them.

We follow Christ. Who didn’t strike the ones who struck Him. Who asked God to forgive those who crucified Him.

Who instructed us to turn the other cheek and to love everyone as we desire to be loved and to treat everyone as we desire to be treated.

We cannot see a person of a different color or ethnicity. Or different anything. We can only see Christ.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.