Bread – Waiting

June 17, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19; Psalms 77,79,80

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Waiting is not something I do well. From my observation of others, waiting is not something others do well either. Any government agency comes to mind, whether it is the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Internal Revenue Service help desk, the Texas Workforce Commission, or the Social Security Office. We get our number or sign up on a sheet of paper, go out and sit in a poorly decorated room on hard chairs, tapping our feet or our cell phones, wondering “Why me!” and yet knowing at the same time that this experience is the lot of every man and woman.

Or pick standing in line at a movie theater or the sports arena to get tickets. Or standing in line waiting to be assaulted by the security people at the airport. In addition to tapping our feet and our cellphones, we will cross our arms and adopt a tired, angry face, totally irritated that we are having to wait.

We hate waiting.

Our readings today give us two good examples of waiting. In the first, from 1 Samuel, Hannah is barren. For years she has had to put up with the taunts of the other wife, who has many children. Her husband tries to console her, to no end. She waits for a child, waits for a child, waits longer, and then waits some more. The Bible describes the waiting perfectly – “So it went on year by year.” 1 Sam. 1:7 This has to be extremely frustrating. I want a child but I can’t have one; God tells me to wait. And I wait, until I grow old and then I wait some more. How depressing. But Hannah does what she can; she goes to church and entreats God over and over again for a child. The priest even thinks she is drunk, her wordless prayer is so obvious and so earnest. And, after a while, in God’s good time and according to His good purpose, He does give her a child, who turns out to be the prophet Samuel.

Hannah may be a good example of good things come to a person who waits, but I’ll bet you can’t tell the person that while he or she is waiting. The waiting place is not a fun place.

The second waiting which occurs in today’s readings is from Acts. Jesus has died, been resurrected, and appears before the apostles. He tells them to wait where they are and, after a while, they will receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is easier to wait when you know the timetable, so they ask Him when the kingdom will be restored to Israel. Jesus tells them “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Acts 1:7-8. Note that Jesus did not tell them when anything would happen, just that it would happen when the Father was ready for it to happen.

And so at the end of our reading today in Acts, we find the apostles all gathered in the upper room, hanging out and waiting for the next shoe to drop. But they don’t know if that will be five minutes later or a year later. So there they are, just waiting and waiting and waiting. What do you think they were thinking? Do you think they were happy? Do you think they were engaged in meditative silence? Or do you think they were tapping their feet, looking at the candles burning down, checking outside for signs of the Holy Spirit, or mumbling about how long it takes God or the government to do anything? I’ll bet they were irritated, ready to get on with the program, and not at all happy about waiting.

Why does God make us wait? You know, as soon as I ask the question we want to answer it. One answer which immediately pops into our head is to teach us something, like long-suffering, or hope, or perseverance, or radical dependence upon Him. And those are great answers for a Bible study or Sunday School or a sermon.

Or what if the answer is simpler – there is no answer? What if the reason we wait is simply because our time is not God’s time and He has not acted? To ask ourselves why God makes us wait is to assume that God owes us something – that He owes us a timetable, a look to the future, immediate action according to our wishes, or at least an explanation for the delay. Does He really owe us anything?

The answer to that question is a simple “No.” God does not owe us anything. He does not have to answer our prayers, He does not have to reveal to us His timetable or His purposes, He does not have to explain anything to us. He is God and we are not. He is King and we are not. And Jesus says this quite clearly – “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Acts 1:7. There it is, He has the authority and we do not, except to the extent He gives it to us.

But while we are waiting for the answer to prayer or the next miracle or whatever we have in mind on our agenda, there is someone else who is waiting too. That person who is waiting is God Himself.

Jesus spoke, as reported by Luke in our readings today, about the parable of the landowner and the tenants. The landowner sent his servants and the tenants beat them up. The landowner then sent his son and the tenants killed him. Jesus asks, then, what will the landlord do? He then answers His own question this way – “He [the landowner] will come and destroy those tenants…” Lk. 20:16

Well, we have beat up the prophets and killed Jesus Christ … so where is the destruction? God is waiting.

See, God waits too. He waits until His time is right. He is waiting until the day Jesus returns to earth in glory and judgment. And on that day, what will happen to those tenants?

They will be destroyed…unless they are forgiven. Who are the forgiven? Those who have been saved by Jesus Christ and forgiven their sins by Him, those who have turned away from disobedience toward acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, those to whom God has shown mercy.

Are you counted in the forgiven? God is waiting. Why are you waiting?

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© 2013 GBF

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