Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.

There’s an inventory that the pastoral staff uses when meeting with couples for premarital sessions, it’s called Prepare/Enrich. If you’ve been married in a Lutheran church in the past 20 years or so, more than likely you took this inventory too. Most couples have a little bit of anxiety when going over inventory with us, many of them assume it’s something that they pass or fail and that if they don’t pass, we won’t allow them to get married.

That’s not how we use it, nor was it designed for that purpose. In actuality, it’s quite simply a helpful conversation starter. It’s a tool to raise questions and think together, in an intentional way, about how to deepen your relationship. Inviting you to think about how to build on your strengths as a couple and be cognizant of your weaknesses. For the most part, it fosters fun conversation.

One of my favorite parts of the inventory is a section that measures a couple’s idealistic distortion or put another way how rose colored are the relationship glasses they wear.

It asks the couple a series questions and they are to respond on a scale of 1-5, 1 being strong disagree and 5 being strong agree.

Some of the questions go like this.

Everything new thing I have learned about my partner has pleased me.

My partner completely understands and sympathizes with my every mood.

My partner has all the qualities I’ve always wanted in a mate.

After you’ve been married for a while, you kind of chuckle at some of these questions. Of course, not everything that you’ve discovered about your partner pleases you. Of course, your partner can’t sympathize or understand our your every mood, you’re a little strange sometimes. Of course, your partner isn’t perfect.

But before you’re married, to admit something like that, feels a little bit like a betrayal. We expect marriage to be magical and perfect. It’s not.

That doesn’t mean that it can’t still be beautiful and filled with love. But we have to come in with some realistic expectations.

Expectations matter. They shape how we see the world around us, sometimes so strongly that we miss what is right in front of our face.

Today we continue right where we left off last week in Luke’s gospel. When Luke writes, “The disciples of John reported all these things to him,” Luke is referring to what happened last week where Jesus healed the roman centurion’s slave from some distance and then proceeded to raise a widow’s only son from the dead.

Of the course of the last couple chapters, Jesus has done some remarkable things, some incredible things, and people have noticed. And so in some ways today’s back and forth between Jesus and John and John’s disciples seems a little odd. Jesus’ ministry thus far has been pretty impressive, so for John to send his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” you kind have to wonder has John just not been paying attention.

I mean, what else does he want from Jesus? Isn’t John supposed to understand who Jesus is and what he’s all about? Isn’t John primary role to get people ready for Jesus? And now, just a few chapters later, he’s questioning if Jesus is the real deal.

Well, in fairness to John he is in prison. We might have forgotten. But I don’t think John has. It happened a couple chapters ago, almost as an aside, but John was thrown into prison for being critical of Herod the puppet king’s lifestyle choices.

And in prison he sits, waiting. Even though he’s been preaching and teaching for years that someone was coming who would finally shake things up, someone who would baptize with fire and the holy spirit, someone who fulfill Israel’s messianic hopes. Still, John sat and waited, in prison. Even though, before he was born, John’s father Zechariah prophesied

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.”[1] And that John would set the stage for this person. Even though John worked tirelessly preaching and teaching, here he sits, rotting away in prison.

So John sends his disciples to Jesus, to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

As people of faith, as those who seek to follow Jesus, we live in an in-between time. We live between the moment when God acted decisively on behalf of the whole world, setting people free from the power of sin and death, in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the time when the effects of that work are felt and experienced throughout the world.

We, like John, know that something is supposed to be different, we want to believe that things are different, but in many ways, we sit in prisons of our own.

To John and to us, Jesus says, “Go and tell what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.”

John expected a political revolution. He was looking for a power that would send the Roman empire packing and restore Israel to its former glory. What he failed to see, what we fail to see, is that God has come among us and chosen solidarity with the poor, and the outcast. God has elected the marginal to be the first recipients of his grace and mercy.

Brothers and sisters if we can look there, if we can work there, if we can leave our own expectations behind and embrace the wisdom of God then we too will be able to see and hear that God’s goodness, God’s beauty, and God’s love is loose in the world.

When we open our church doors to welcome in people who are experiencing homelessness we see the Messiah in our midst. When we lift our voice to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves or will not be heard, we hear the voice of God. When we say to one another that we exist, that we are the church, for those who are not yet here then we embody the radical and self-giving love of God.

When we can let go of our own expectations, and embrace God’s activity in this world, then we become a part of something bigger and more beautiful than we could possibly conceive of on our own. May God give us the strength to do so this day and always.

Amen.

[1] Luke 1: 68-71