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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Bread – Delay

April 6, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, April 6, designated by the Book of Common Prayer:  Jer. 18:1-11; Rom. 8:1-11; John 6:27-40; Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144

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When I logged on to my computer today, it sent out my Bread from last Friday, April Fool’s day. Why it didn’t send it out when I hit the “send” key, I don’t know.

So, my message was delayed. And, perhaps because it was delayed, you assumed that I had not written it.

Today’s readings talk about God’s delay and deferment of consequences, and the mistakes we make in reading into that delay that God does not care or that He will not act.

In Jeremiah, we are taken to the potter’s house and reminded that God is the potter. God gives the following message to Jeremiah – “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.” Jer. 18:7-8 Here, God is saying that, in His mercy, He may delay a kingdom’s just punishment because they repent of their sins. God, through Jeremiah, is also reminding us that, because He is the potter, what He does with the clay is His business and not ours.

God may also delay with us, by failing (from our perspective) to either give us (them) the punishment we (they) justly deserve or help us in time of need. In Psalm 109 today, we see both. David begins with “O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent…” Ps. 109:1. Obviously, David is not happy with God’s delay in helping him, by virtue of the words “remain silent,” suggesting that God has been silent to his prayers. The silence has to do with the evil men surrounding David. David wants these evil men taken care of. God’s silence to David is also His silence toward the evil men. Failure to help David is also a failure to hurt the “bad people.” Just so that God might know what kinds of things God could do if He were to stop being silent, David has some ideas for Him: (1) “Let him [the bad person] be found guilty,” (2) “may his [the bad person’s] prayer’s condemn him,” (3) “may his (the bad person’s) days be few,” (4) “may another take his place of leadership,” (5) “may his children be fatherless and his wife a widow,” (6) “may his children be wandering beggars,” (7) “may they [his children] be driven from their ruined homes,” (8) “may a creditor seize all he has,” (9) “may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor,” (10) “may no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children,” (11) “may his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation.” Ps. 109:7-13 You get the picture.

Maybe God’s delay is because He does not know what I want? Let me tell Him in my prayers. Maybe God’s delay is because He does not really understand how evil has oppressed me? Let me tell Him in my prayers. Maybe God’s delay in judgment is because He needs some ideas about what to do? Let me give Him some ideas in my prayers.

Has God delayed acting in your life? Maybe it is because you repented and He has exercised mercy in delaying your just punishment. Maybe it is because we don’t understand and can’t understand His timetable. Maybe it is because He is the potter and we are not.

We are so much like David. If God doesn’t show up by our timetable, maybe it is because He is not paying attention. Maybe it is because He can’t. Maybe it is because He is mean and won’t. Maybe it is because He doesn’t understand the alternatives. Maybe it is because He needs some ideas from us for good solutions. Maybe it is because He wants us to show Him how it is done.

Foolishness. We should not read into delay anything except what it is, delay. And the creator of time and of space and of me does not have to account to me for why.

Oh we can be like David and contest with God about His timetable and His actions. And we can be like Jeremiah, listening for God’s explanations. But one thing we can also be during the time of God’s apparent delay – and that is to wait for and to trust Him.

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