31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34 But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34
How hard is it to predict something? You can predict the flip of a coin with 50% accuracy. Predicting the weather – a little more challenging. Predicting the four top seeds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket… quite hard (even with hours of combing RPI records, strength-of-schedule numbers and Sagarin ratings). Some would say predicting the whether Donald Trump would be the 2016 Republication Presidential Candidate was simple last year this time. And others would say that predicting whether Donald Trump will be the 2016 Republication Presidential Candidate is still simple today.
Growing up I was a fan of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure” style books. I loved the ability to shape the story and run down each and every rabbit trail. I like the genre — I was very much a science fiction/fantasy/space opera/aliens kind of a kid. I loved the suspense and the re-readability. I remember peeking at the end of one of my new acquisitions one summer afternoon. I flipped the pages and found a very shocking ending! It was amazing, earth shattering, world changing! I couldn’t believe it. I denied that it was possible and as I read the book the ghost of that ending haunted me. I made every choice I could to limit the extraordinary ending from happening. But lo, and behold it did happen. I remember the silent resignation that I had – realizing there was less choice in ‘Choose your own Adventure’ style books than I had thought.
The disciples were so opposed to the prediction of Jesus’s persecution, trial, and execution that the scriptures say they could not even grasp what he was saying. Notice that they couldn’t even grasp the Easter event – ‘they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again (v 33).’ Because they were so unaccustomed to the thought of Jesus dying, much less being raised from the dead – they were unable to hear the prediction.
Lent is a time of remembering, re-centering, settling in, and settling down. In our culture we believe the pundits can predict everything. We live in the Nate Silver World. If you aren’t familiar with Nate Silver he is the guy in 2008 that successfully called the outcomes in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, and then was named one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People by Time in 2009. Nate went on to predict all 50 states in the 2012 election between Obama and Romney. Since then his blog was picked up by the New York Times his website was bought by ESPN, and he has published a best seller book that is now available in nine languages. He is by all accounts the King of Data Journalism.
But the disciples didn’t need data journalism or Nate Silver – and neither do we. We don’t need to predict where faith, hope, and love are going to show up because we are ambassadors of Jesus. When we act like the kingdom of God is present it is. No predictions necessary. When we choose a Lent filled with humility, contemplation, and service we find that God is present. Funny – when we choose God we find that God has already chosen us. Predictable? Not if you know the one who laid down his life for us.
Rev. Dr. Peter Cammarano
Peter is the Senior Pastor of Chappelwood UMC in Lake Jackson, Texas. He is a Youthworker and helps teach and train other Youthworkers through SPARK Youth Ministry Conference offering The Birkman Assessment to the graduate students.