“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:10
Recently, I solicited our “Theology on Tap” small group for deep spiritual questions we could ponder over our pints. One woman asked:
“What do you expect of me as a fellow church member?”
I love this question. I love it because it reminds me that I am a people.
It’s important to state that she was not asking me, as her minister, what I expected of her. (Who cares what I think?!) She was asking the people around her, fellow theologians and churchgoers, what they expected of her. She was thinking like a people.
And that begins, uncomfortably, with expectations. Being a people means others make claims on me; on my time, my resources, my heart. They expect me to pray for their father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They expect me to be gracious when their kids act up in worship. They expect me to bake cookies for the potluck and place my hard-earned cash in the collection plate. They expect me, most terrifyingly, to expect things of them; to need their care, concern, and casseroles.
But, we may protest, that brings up a lot of other questions. What about unrealistic expectations, unfair expectations, unmet expectations? What about the unjust ways in which expectations have rested upon those without power or privilege? What about autonomy, and freedom, and privacy? What gives you the right to expect something of me? Who cares what you think?!
Yes! These are just the kinds of questions a people would ask!
God, you have called us to be a people, your people. Help us figure out how.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.