Isaiah 2:1-5 Why are We Waiting?
(A Communion Meditation for Advent)
The other day, I was clearing out the bottom drawer of my bedroom dresser. I don’t know if you are like me, but it seems as if I always need just one drawer where I can throw everything I don’t want to think about or don’t know what to do with. Well, it was time to finally clean out the drawer. Perhaps my drawer is a bit like life. There are things in life, experiences that we just stock away and don’t do anything with. Perhaps it is good to look at them every once in a while.
As I was going through my drawer, I came across a pair of cufflinks. I have one shirt, which truth be told, no longer really fits, that takes cufflinks, so the cufflinks haven’t seen the light of day in a while. As I turned the cufflinks over in my hand, I remembered they were given to me over thirty years ago by George. George was a quiet, refined man in his late seventies, who lived in the apartment in the church where I was doing my student training. His job was to be the night watchman at the church. He was actually very involved in the church and was always there to make sure everything went just right on Sundays. He would check on the glass of water in the pulpit, make sure that the heat was on, help people with their coats in the cloakroom and make sure the choir was in place on time. Quite often we would have afternoon tea together. One afternoon, George said to me, “Michael I am tired of waiting. I am tired of waiting for life to happen. I have applied and I am going with the church missions to Africa to be a school administrator.” Sitting there with our proper scones and china tea cups, George was the last person I could see in the outback of Kenya. George went off, and for ten years, until his death, served the church overseas. “I am tired of waiting.”
Helen read to us this morning from the prophet Isaiah, that mighty poet of waiting days. He sings to us a wonderful image of what the world will be. His words are captured in a bronze statue in the garden of the United Nations in New York, given by the former Soviet Union; a man beating his sword into a ploughshare. It expresses our hope for a world where there will be no more conflict, strife, or discord. And…we wait.
That’s what this season of Advent, or the month of December is all about. Waiting. Ask any six year old what’s up and she will tell you that she’s waiting for Christmas; the arrival of Santa. Ask any liturgist in the church what’s up and they will tell you that Christians are waiting for Christmas; the arrival of Jesus. We hear the words of the Hebrew Scriptures echoing down the corridors of time: “prepare, get ready, make way.” Waiting for God to send the Messiah. Waiting for God to do something.
How much of our lives is spent waiting? Waiting for something to happen? Waiting for God to do something? I was talking this week with a young fellow, and he told me that he and his fiancée were waiting for the right time to get married. I asked him what conditions had to be met before it was the right time? How long were they prepared to wait? As I listened to his list of conditions, I wondered if the conditions were there because of a fear of commitment on both their parts.
I wonder if, in life, there are times that I think I am waiting around for God to do something; for God to set up the right conditions before I will act. Is waiting sometimes just an excuse for my own inactivity which might be due to fear or anxiety of change or of the unknown?
I mentioned to Council this past week that I think that theology is undergoing a big change in our times. For a couple of decades, as we have seen great changes in the Church in North America, as we have seen attendance and finances decrease, we have been saying God is doing a new thing in our midst, only God hasn’t revealed it to us yet. We have to wait around a little longer to see what God is up to. I know I have preached numerous sermons on waiting around in this in- between time, of having hope while we wait for God to do something.
The shift is that we are beginning to see that we are not called to wait but to do something. Perhaps we have recovered from the fact that Christendom, as we know it, is changing and will never be the same as we knew it when our churches were packed only fifty years ago. The locus of action is changing from God in the future to us in the present. Perhaps we have become tired with a story that tells us to wait patiently and are hearing the words that the reading from Isaiah closes with, “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Isaiah talks about all these things in the future that are going to happen, but the key to them happening is us walking in the light of the Lord in the present.
Every time we have communion, as we will have in a few minutes, we read words of invitation. These are wonderful words to assure us that all are welcome at this table. If you have been around St. Aidan’s for a while, you know that you are physically welcome, but this morning, I want you to feel spiritually and emotionally welcome. I have no idea what burdens you are carrying with you this morning. I have no idea what you are waiting for to happen in your life for you to have the full life that the Creator wants you to have. I invite you in invitation, to mentally place those things on the table and to seek a sense in your waiting that God will show you a way forward at the appropriate time. As we do this morning, ask yourself the question, “Why am I waiting?”
I am going to close with some words of meditation, words of wisdom from an elder in the Hopi nation in Arizona: “You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered . . .
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.”
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!”
“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.
“Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
“The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Michael Caveney, St. Aidan’s United Church