Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"The Waiting is the Hardest Part"

These words come from “Gospel” of Tom Petty: J
The waiting is the hardest part.
Every day you get one more yard.
You take it on faith; you take it to the heart;
The waiting is the hardest part.
Tom definitely wasn’t writing his songs for use in church—far from it.  Nevertheless, sometimes their simple lyrics “preach” to me. 

Sometimes, “secular” music stumbles upon Sacred truth.

Waiting can indeed be hard. These days between Easter and Pentecost are a time of waiting for the Church. We all celebrated the miracle of resurrection a few weeks ago and the church was packed. But now, the miracle has given way to the mundane—and we find it hard to sustain our belief.  We begin to question if it was “really Jesus?”  Come back a few Sundays after Easter, and most churches aren’t as full.  Many people seem to have quickly returned to “normal”—which, for increasing numbers in our world, doesn’t include regular Sunday worship.

Scripture reports that Jesus’ first followers had several encounters with him after the resurrection. During one of these meetings, he told them explicitly to wait in Jerusalem until he returnsActs 1:4-5.   You would think that this would be easy enough for them.  After all, they had just seen their friend and teacher—who was executed on a Roman cross—standing in their midst, talking to them—even eating meals with them.  It seemed impossible to believe, but Jesus was alive!  They had seen him with their own eyes!  They touched the nail-scarred hands.  If anyone ought to be able to wait on Jesus for a few days, it should be them.  

But even when we see Jesus “face-to-face,” human nature is hard to overcome. 

When Jesus doesn’t show after a few days, the disciples start getting impatient.  They hate waiting—just like you and I hate waiting.  They want to do something.  So, they decide to “move on” from Jerusalem and return to life as they knew it before they met Jesus. 

Jesus finds a group of them fishing along the Sea of Galilee, doing what they were doing when Jesus first called them three years earlier—John 21.  He finds two others walking on a road toward Emmaus with their hopes and dreams shattered. These two apparently missed the news of the resurrection entirely and are “headed home” to try and pick up the pieces of their old lives and start over—Luke 24:13-35.

We can certainly relate to those early believers.  It’s hard to wait!  We live in an “on the next [1]culture.  We want instant gratification, and if we don’t get it, we move on.  We have little tolerance for the wisdom of the Psalmist:  Be still… have hope… and wait for the LordPsalm 27:14

If Jesus doesn’t show up the second we need him, immediately and obviously, we tend to assume that he’s not here—and that he’s not coming.

But as the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”

Whether living “ordinary” life—e.g., sitting in beltway traffic or balancing family responsibilities—or seeking “deeper truths” about our identity, God seems to have hard-wired waiting into the fabric of human existence. Like it or not, there are some things in life that can only be gained as we wait.

Strength for our journey is found as we wait on God. Being still, having hope, and other things we do to create space for God in our lives can seem counterintuitive. But through these counter-cultural practices, we encounter Jesus, the Risen Lord, who promises to defend us from our enemies, comfort us when we suffer, and lift us up to sustain us on our journey.

As we step off life's treadmill, as we wait for The Lord, we begin to "see" differently. No, the world has not changed, but we have...

We do not wait for the Lord so that we can escape the world and its problems, but rather so we can engage the world head-on with God's love and justice.  As we go forth to love and serve God, our friends—and even our enemies—as Jesus did, God's glory shines in us and through us.

As we walk with our Risen Lord, God's power and love pours out like rain on our parched souls and flows to the world through us—through our bodies and through the Body of Christ. As we wait, we are changed; we can never go back to the way things were.  Once we encounter Jesus, we are never the same again...

Lord Jesus, teach us to be a people who wait well. Help us to trust the Spirit's unseen work in our lives—that often happens while we wait for The Lord. As we wait, we ask you to open our eyes to let us see all of the places your Presence is "with us" in our daily lives. May seeing you high and lifted up in our world inspire us to live life to the full and become all we have been created to be. To the glory of your name. AMEN.

[1]  Those familiar with the Sci-Fi channel’s show, “Ghost Hunters,” may recognize this phrase.  Jason Hawes typically says it at the end of each investigation.  I used it here to describe our culture’s chronically short attention span.

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