Monday, June 6, 2011

"Living While Waiting"

Acts 1:1-5; Matthew 6:25-34: “Living While Waiting”

Jesus had told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was the reason he had lived and died; was to open the way of this great coming of God’s Spirit to earth. Jesus had lived and died and had been raised in newness of life, by the power of this coming Spirit of God. This Spirit through which all things were made; this Spirit that had shaken the earth and raised Jesus from the dead; this Spirit of God which was remaking all things in the good will of God.

Jesus told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He had told his disciples that when the Spirit comes, it will bring to remembrance my words, it will lead you into all truth; it will give you words to speak; it will bring the comforting and inspiring and liberating presence of God among you. So, go wait and pray together for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

When this Spirit comes, you will know that I am with you, and that where I am so is my Father in heaven.

And, so these followers of Jesus who had suffered through his death and then been shaken to new life by his resurrection, went to Jerusalem and prayed together, waiting for the coming of the Spirit of God.

Between the day of promise and the day of fulfillment, there is waiting in faith. And, in so many ways, faith has to do with a certain kind of waiting. Learning to wait in hope; learning to wait but being free to do God’s will even while waiting – that is at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus’ way.

I have always been impressed with people who can wait in serious situations but still manage to keep up their responsibilities and manage to really keep their heads and hearts open and involved in whatever they are doing.

The kinds of situations I am talking about are: when you are waiting to hear about the biopsy that has been sent to the lab to determine if you have cancer; when you are waiting to hear about how a dear friend or family member has made it through open heart surgery; when you are waiting to hear whether you still have a job; when you are waiting late at night to see if your teenage son or daughter will make it home. And, there are the longer, less intense periods of waiting in life – like the waiting to see if our children are going to grow up and become self-sufficient and responsible for helping other people in this world. Or, waiting to see if our efforts to reestablish understanding in our marriages and family relationships will ever bear fruit. Or, waiting to see if the work we have put in in our church will bear fruit in a stronger and healthier and more vibrant community of faith that will bring light and hope to the lives of many people.

Yes, we live out our lives between the promise and the fulfillment, in a time of waiting. If we don’t learn to wait in a good and healthy way, then our lives are always going to be less than they could be.

But, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are good at waiting patiently as we continue to work at jobs that are frustrating, hoping for something better to come. Some of us are good at waiting patiently and hopefully when our family members are struggling to make it out of a dark place. Some of us are good at waiting and enduring our sickness in hope as we continue living our lives in faith. But, then some of us have problems waiting in these difficult situations, and in our waiting, we get worn out inside. Some of us have problems waiting when nothing good seems to be coming our way, when the same problems seem to come again and again and again without any relief in sight.

And, it is this need to learn how to wait with an active faith that is so important.

And, I have some real weaknesses in this area, but have also learned some things through God’s grace.

I have learned this: you can always take some hopeful action in every situation. And, when you take a hopeful action, it strengthens your heart and makes room for faith in a situation.

For example: you have had a fight with your brother or sister. You usually stop by their house each week after work on Friday. This week, instead of just stopping by, you bring them a peace offering – a little something to eat or something else they like.

For example, you are having a bad time of it with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife, and instead of getting up and starting another day over badly, you get up, clean up the kitchen and make some tea or coffee or breakfast. When you decide to live well, it brings life to those around you.

Just the fact that you do not let a difficult situation control you brings freedom. Sometimes it is a matter of being stubbornly focused on having a better life. If the people you are living out your life are continuing to mess their lives up, you can take small or large actions to clean your life up and make it better. You can live in hope amidst situations that seem hopeless. It has its effect.

One thing a person bent on destruction can’t endure for too long is to be around a person whose life is constructive and on an upward path. The person who is destroying themselves but has no partner in this destructive process will either leave or desperately try to sabatoge the other’s hopeful efforts.

In all situations of waiting, no matter how difficult there are hopeful actions, often very small acts, that carry the seeds of change and redemption within them.
How many times in our lives has forgiveness come, not through the words “you are forgiven,” but by some small action to let us know we still belonged? Being invited back to the dinner table when we had brought shame to the family name . . . being invited back into a friendship when we had turned our back on a friend . . . being given another chance at work when we had completely blown the chance we had . . . being welcomed with a hug or handshake when we were expecting an attack or rejection.
Or, being the recipient of the faithful, patient, day after day hard work and kindness of a mother or father who took responsibility for us and for providing us with a future they were never able to have.

Yes, we are here today because of the hopeful actions taken by others during the long waiting periods of life. We live out our lives between the promise and the fulfillment. There is the promise of who we can become, and the active waiting in which we work out that promise towards fulfillment. There is the promise of who others can become, and the active waiting in which we support them in working out that promise towards fulfillment.

And, here you are and here I am this morning. Waiting to see if this or that will work out. Waiting to see if we can work out this or that problem; survive this or that crisis. Waiting to see if those we love so much will make it through a difficult period in life. And, while we wait, there are things to do. Responsibilities to other and self; and also good things to enjoy right here and now as well by your self and with others. As you wait, remember to live well and to the glory of God. It really helps with the waiting. Sometimes we can get so caught up in living well in the present that we don’t have too much time to worry about the future.

You can take a positive-thinking strategy towards the future, focusing on the good propects and ignoring the bad. And, that is good. But, I think the real key is to focus on this day , the present– this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! I think the real key is to not overlook what’s right in front of your face: your friend, your wife, your son, your neighbor, your garden, your meal. It is shame to always be waiting on something to come and missing what is right there in front of you.

I think that was what Jesus was getting at when he told his disciples not to worry about what they would wear, eat, where they would sleep. He said: “don’t worry about tomorrow; today has enough troubles of its own.” Which I think is another way of saying: “see what you can get done for others and yourself today, giving God thanks for just having this day. When you have done what you can, take your rest, get your sleep and give God thanks and glory for the gift of another day.” Amen.

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