07 August 2022
Year C (Proper 14)
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Church in the Province of the
Church of the Incarnation, Oviedo
Church of Our Savior, Palm Bay
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
At first reading, today’s gospel reading may feel a bit disjointed - there appears to be many messages here - and indeed there is. It begins with an assurance of God’s generosity,
It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
But then calls us to be generous -
Sell your possessions and give alms.
Once you have given away your possessions, the next verse gives us instruction for sewing class! We get to make purses - ones that will never wear out! . . . Of course, that is not the meaning of this verse - we are to treasure those things that are not actually things - but rather, we are to treasure that which cannot be stolen or wear out.
because . . .
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
As the reading continues, the theme becomes a bit more cohesive -
“Be like those waiting for their master to return”
“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Wait, be ready, wait.
Waiting - it is a reality of our lives that few of us do well. There are times when life itself seems to be just an endless series of waiting. Like many depicted in scripture, we seem to spend our lives waiting. As children, we waited impatiently for Christmas, Birthdays, or summer vacation. We couldn’t wait to grow up! As adults, we look for the shortest lines at the store; we get angry when we have to wait to be served at a restaurant or are kept waiting at the doctor’s office and let’s not even talk about traffic!
Many spend their lives waiting - for that dream job, for the right person, for whatever we currently believe will make our lives perfect. We wait for the pain in our bodies, in our hearts or in our minds to end. We wait for the right answer to our prayers.
We wait for peace, for the end to war, for Jesus to come and make all things new!
Why is waiting so difficult? Why does waiting seem to be little more than a waste of time? Perhaps waiting is so hard because of WHERE and HOW we wait. We seldom spend time waiting fully engaged in the present. Waiting often carries us into the past, focused on what has already happened, focused on past guilt, on the ‘what if’s’ that we cannot control or change; and waiting to see how those past decisions will affect our future. Or, waiting carries us into that future - bringing on fear of the unknown, searching for a way to control that future, or imagining, wishing, dreaming of that perfect scenario, that perfect life, that perfect world. In either case, we move out of the present, and in doing so we rob ourselves - and God - of the present gift that He is giving us. When we focus on the past or the future, we deny the present experience of God - for it is only in the present that we can fully experience God. Not only do we postpone life, we negate the gifts of God, we deny our resurrection, we deny the gift of God’s kingdom in the here and now. We overlook what God gives us today - the gifts, the lessons, even the joy.
Everyone, from the beginning of time, has waited for something. Today’s epistle reading recalls Abraham’s faith, but his life was one of waiting - waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Jesus did not come to eliminate waiting - in fact, he elevates the act of waiting to a kind of ‘holy activity’. The very origin of the word ‘wait’ means to ‘be watchful’. With Jesus, waiting becomes a joyful time - not an event to be avoided or simply tolerated. When we stop seeing our waiting as wasted time, waiting becomes something we do in the midst of living fully, being watchful, experiencing each moment for what God has for us in it; and knowing there is more to come - more fulfillment of God’s promises. Like Abraham, waiting becomes an act of faith; ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
But, if we see this ‘holy activity’ as waiting for God, we misinterpret today’s gospel. God has NOT left - we are not waiting for a God who somehow lives in our future. Waiting is NOT a passive activity! It is intended to be a spiritual experience, a time when we are ‘watchful’. We experience God in the midst of - and because of our ‘waiting’.
Theologian and prolific writer, Henri Nouwen discusses waiting like this:
We wait with patience. The word patience comes from the Latin verb which means ‘to suffer’. Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the fullest in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
Active waiting is being open to the promise yet to be fulfilled. Patient waiting is staying in the present moment. Expectant waiting is trusting that this long process will bear fruit.
Our spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction. This, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.
I have often had people ask me to pray with them for patience. This new understanding of the origins of the word patience will provide me with new insight on how to pray for patience. Praying for patience has often been placed in the file that says “Be careful what you pray for” because if you pray for patience, God simply gives you opportunities to practice the patience you pray for.
But in this new understanding, patience is living fully in the moment - completely open to the gifts God has for us - giving up our ‘wishes’ and relying fully on God for our future. It is truly letting God be God - welcoming the control He has over and in our lives.
So, lets go back to that verse:
“Be like those waiting for their master to return”. Just what would that have looked like? Those who were waiting for their master to return would not have been sitting idly by waiting for a knock at the door. They would have been preparing the house, fixing a meal, preparing themselves to be at their best to receive their master. It would have been active waiting. It is the kind of waiting we are called - actively seeking a deeper understand and relationship with God, readying ourselves and working for the kingdom. A new attitude of waiting!
So as I look again at the picture on the front of today’s bulletin - If your treasure - your most precious treasure is found in God, then your heart will indeed be in joyful, active waiting. Amen