What are you waiting for?
This rhetorical question is often used to get us moving and doing. But that’s not the intent today.
Our Psalm proclaims “I will wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope…my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”
The words make me picture a long cold sleepless night. Sometimes I have a little taste of it when I camp; when I wake, and it is still dark, and I cannot sleep again. How I long for the light of morning and the bird’s twittering proclamation that night has become day. But there’s something else that helps me get through the night. For a little ways away from me in our tent is my daughter and all I have to do is take her in my arms, share warmth, and all is well.
O Israel, hope in the LORD! Shouts the Psalmist
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
And with him is the power to redeem.
Notice–the Psalmist is in relationship with God, with the Lord. You may know that, while it isn’t the majority of the scholar’s view anymore, the Psalms were, traditionally, ascribed to David. The same man who was guilty of adultery, the one who took down Saul, the harp playing king of kings was thought to have authored the Psalms because the words sound like what a broken man of faith would sing. Indeed scholars have simply expanded the authorship to include a larger community of faith. Not one voice but many. What is most important is not trying to figure out who wrote what but that these words were spoken in a faith community during worship. These are the words spoken and sung by the broken people of faith–those who know the worst of life and the worst of themselves and yet dare believe God is near. The Psalmist knows the love of the Lord. The community who sings the Psalmist’s song have felt the power of redemption. In their singing they open their arms wide to the God of love. In some respect, the wait is over. Even the words that come out of a long night ring with joyous faith.
Faith is always an invitation to take hold of a love and power that is beyond and yet with us. We can choose to set our mind to wait, to believe all will be well someday, and then we will know love. Or we can choose to set our mind to take hold of love already given. As Victor Frankl, a survivor of the extermination camps of World War II writes, “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/viktor_e_frankl.html#35iLDEkBbRxkeaY6.99)
Frankl’s writing comes out his observations that those who survived the camps held to something higher, more powerful than the overwhelming evil of the camp. They could feel something else at work.
Faith is an invitation to make a choice to believe God is moving among us. But when we are busy doing, we are often not even conscious of our choice to exclude God.
In college, my Sociology professor assigned his students to go to a public place and stand. We weren’t to wait for anyone or anything. The assignment was to stand for 30 minutes and then write about the experience.
Years later, I remember how out of place I felt at first. I wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing around me. I had no purpose and felt uncomfortable with my lack of intent. But, then, after awhile, I began to see the laughing teenagers pass by; the baby calling for his mother’s attention; the man waiting for his wife outside a store. I began to see. And, as I stood there, instead of feeling the frenetic pull I often feel in a Mall, I felt more and more peaceful. I didn’t need anything from the stores. I wasn’t waiting for someone outside of a store I had grown tired of. I wasn’t worried about being lost or left behind. It was okay to not have a purpose. It was enough to watch a bit of God’s work in the faces of those who passed by.
The difference between waiting for God and waiting for something less is when we wait for God there are no limits. We give God permission to work outside of the lines. In contrast, when we wait for someone or something, we become captive to one idea–like, waiting for a loved one at an airport. Lots of people pass by before the one we desire appears. We don’t really see their faces, just the fact that they aren’t the one we are expecting.
When we are waiting for the one, we can become irritated. Our time, that precious commodity, is being wasted. We are angry at those who keep us from what we are waiting for. We feel both the loneliness and fear of being lost.
It is this kind of waiting that is most familiar to all of us and to those who disbelieved the words of Jesus.
When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will not hunger. Whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Those who heard him argue saying, “How can he say such a thing? Is he not Joseph’s boy who grew up in Galilee?”
You can almost see the scripture writer’s smile.
On one level, there is truth to their complaint. It would be difficult to believe that someone who grew up in your neighborhood is the one sent by God. It is totally ridiculous. On another level, the gospel suggests that disbelief and complaint go hand in hand.
You can fill in the larger conversation: “Jesus can’t be what we are waiting for. If he is the real thing, let him perform a miracle, like the one God did that day when our ancestors were in the wilderness and God sent manna from heaven. Let Jesus do something grand like that.”
And Jesus retorts: “Stop your complaining. Stop looking up to heaven. I am here. Besides, that miracle in the wilderness wasn’t so grand. It didn’t overcome your ancestor’s disbelief. Those complainers died before they entered into the promises of God. Look at me. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”
“I am here.”
What are you waiting for?
A young man worried about his soul going to hell because he didn’t go to church except on Christmas and Easter. Some of his Christian friends had told him that he was doomed. He, being at the age when the thought of death becomes scary (remember that age in your life…we don’t talk about it much, but it is part of our development), found it hard to sleep at night.
Pause here a moment. Understand, when we are spiritually alone, it is easy for fear to take hold of us. On one level, his friend was right. Church could help bring this young man closer to God and love. A faith community could love and shape him. Where the friend went wrong is in deciding for God what God would do.
I asked the young man, What do you know about God?
God is a good being, he replied.
That got me thinking. How do we know God is good? How do we know God is the one we should look for in the morning?
There are plenty who would question God’s goodness and love because this side of heaven is not all good and sometimes acts against love. How do you know God is good?
The Bible tells me so? The preacher tells me so?
How do you know God is good?
Your Dad? Your Grandmother? Your Friend? Your Sunday School teacher?
How about an experience you had one day.
How many of you here have had an experience of God’s goodness?
If I probed further, if we had time in this short hour to share of these experiences, I trust that many of your stories would be set in a time when you were forced outside of your normal habits and were able to see more clearly.
To wait on the Lord is to seek out the Lord as if God is here. To take hold of the one we love in the middle of the night and let the Holy One warm our soul. It is to believe that when Jesus stands in front of his hometown peeps and says “I am the living bread” that Jesus means to give us all we need. It is to wait, not for someone to arrive, but to see the possibilities in the life that has been given all around us. It is to stop complaining so God can get to work in us.
Henri Nouwen writes:
A few years ago I met an old professor at the University of Notre Dame, Looking back on his long life of teaching, he said with a funny wrinkle in his eyes: “I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.”
That is the great conversion in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return. Our great temptations are boredom and bitterness. When our good plans are interrupted by poor weather, our well-organized careers by illness or bad luck, our peace of mind by inner turmoil, our hope by a constant changing of the guards, and our desire for immortality by real death, we are tempted to give in to a paralyzing boredom or to strike back in destructive bitterness. But when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then ‘fate’ can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace for joy.
– from Out of Solitude by Henri J. Nouwen
What are we waiting for?
I’m sure you have your lists. I know I have mine. It has been exactly one year since my last day at Community and there is no sign of a church call; nor a sign of full time work; nor a sign of financial stability. There is much we all can complain about as the economy saps our confidence in keeping what we have. There are those among us who are single after all these years who wish for a loving partner to share their lives with. There are those among us who wish for a more just politic. There are those here who wish desperately that their son/daughter will come back to a path of love.
Nouwen says, “Fate can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace for joy.”
Jesus tells us who does the converting: “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me….” (John 6:44)
”unless drawn by the Father who sent me.”
It is God who draws us to Jesus, to healing, to hope, to love present now. It is God who converts fate into vocation, wounds into deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace for joy. There no stronger image of God breaking into this world than the heaven sent Jesus standing in front of us, saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
“I am here.”
Today, hear the call: Let go of the lists, the complaints, the worries, and frenzied acts. Instead, take hold of the invitation of faith…Wait on God … wait on God
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
July 28, 2012
John 6: 35 – 51; Psalm 130
Reverend Heather Miner