December 4, 2022
Scripture: Psalm 27:4-13
Well, this is the second week of Advent – that season when the big theme is WAITING. I was thinking that perhaps we should just sit here for next 20 minutes and wait for the Benediction!
I’m not so good at waiting. Prime example: When I come toward downtown from Merry Robin on to N Market, my first glance is to look South to see if the crossing lights are blinking at the RR! If they are, I will turn off N. Market to avoid waiting for the 100 or more RR cars to pass while I sit with nothing to do.
So, that’s about waiting on the train to pass. But scripture doesn’t say anything about trains as far as I know. But scripture does encourage us to “Wait on the Lord!” For example, the 28th Psalm
that Joyce read from this morning.
What does it mean to wait for the Lord? If I asked you to wait for your little sister or wait for the dog, or wait for your husband you would immediately think of someone or something that just can’t seem to keep up! Legs are not long enough or they didn’t plan very well or they get distracted easily and aren’t ready.
But I don’t think that’s what the Psalmist is talking about here. I think the image here is not that God is out of step, but that we are! I think the point of Waiting on the Lord is that we too often get ahead of God and are out there alone setting our own pace.
I get this also! Being a future-oriented, idea person, it is so easy for me to get an idea and then impulsively jump immediately from the idea to trying to make the idea become a reality without waiting on the Lord’s timing.
So Advent is about waiting for the arrival of Jesus – Mary and Joseph too were waiting for Mary to go full term – waiting for the time to be just right for Jesus to be born. Waiting for God’s time. The right time!
So the phrase “Wait for the Lord” is suggesting that there is often a right time in the divine scheme of things for something to happen. So when we Wait for the Lord, we are constantly being attentive to the moment when God says: This is the time! This is the moment!
We think we know the right time – for our prayers to be answered, for our calling to be clarified, for the dark time to pass, for grief to end, for our child or spouse to come around, for our bodies to heal, and on and on.
And so, when the allotted time we have set has passed, we get anxious, impatient, angry, depressed or maybe doubtful. We have to be reminded that we are not finally in charge. That we are not supposed to be responsible for everything. That our time is not the only time that matters. THAT WE ARE NOT GOD.
So when we are immersed in such a situation, we often have three choices: 1) Press on anyway. Work harder! Try another technique! Push harder on the door to MAKE it open! Maybe even get out the battering ram. Force it open! 2) Give up. If at first you don’t succeed, quit! 3) Wait on the Lord. Wait for instructions. Wait for clarity. And… wait in hope and expectation!
Waiting on the Lord has a very different feel to it than waiting on the train to pass! To Wait on the Lord, is to find our place in the scheme of things – that is, we are not fully in charge. It is to wait in the firm confidence that a) there is a God b) that God cares about us c) that God has a plan of some sort. Given those conditions, we can wait in hope (Biblical hope is more like confidence) and trust.
Do you see how different that kind of faith-filled waiting is from most of our waiting?
Mary Ann told a story in our Thursday noon study group at TGP. It is a story told by the author, Mary Lou Redding:
“A dog friend of mine, a golden retriever named Luther, has given me an image of hope that always makes me smile – and think. Luther is a very large dog, well over one hundred pounds. He walks his owner every day in a park-like area near my home. Retrievers are hunting dogs, of course, and Luther enthusiastically embodies his heritage. He hunts moles, chipmunks, and squirrels with great joy, occasionally catching one if he lunges when his human is not expecting Luther’s powerful tug on the leash. One autumn morning, Luther and his owner were walking near a stand of trees that is home to many squirrels. On this particular morning something wonderful, rare, and totally unexpected happened: A squirrel fell out of a tree, right in front of Luther. He had only to pounce. He was astounded – and overjoyed. From that moment on, Luther has believed that squirrels fall out of trees. The next morning, and for many mornings after, Luther approached that stand of trees with his eyes lifted, aquiver with anticipation. He would stop every few feet and look up in eager attention, waiting for a squirrel to fall in front of him.”
The thing I like about the story is that delightful blend of faith, trust, and wonder. It is how I believe we ought to practice the art of waiting – with faith, trust, and wonder! I’m not trying to convince you that squirrels drop out of trees – but IT DID HAPPEN ONCE, at least! And, you have to admit that IT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN. And there is just enough wonder in that story to remind us that when we wait, in God’s perfect time, God may show up in the most unexpected ways!
In your toughest waiting times, I encourage you to remember the Advent story. We aren’t waiting on a squirrel, we are waiting on God. And when God acts in history – the history of the world or in our own personal histories, it is a delightful blend of faith, trust, and wonder.