God’s Time: Waiting in Hope 11-29-15

Each Sunday in Advent, we’re going to talk about God’s time and how God’s time differs from our usual sense of chronological time. We begin today with this reading from Luke in which we start a new year by reading about the end-times. We start our readings in the third Gospel not at the beginning, but in the 21st chapter. For the next two weeks, we’ll read about the adult John the Baptist and only in the fourth week will we get to baby Jesus. To us it’s all backwards, but in God’s time, it all works out. Listen for the word of God.

Luke 21:25-36 Signs will appear in the sun, the moon and the stars.  On the earth, nations will be in anguish, distraught at the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth.  The powers in the heavens will be shaken. After that, people will see the Chosen One coming on a cloud with great power and glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your ransom is near at hand. And he told them a parable.  “Look at the fig tree, or any other tree. You see when they’re budding and know that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all these things happening, know that the reign of God is near. The truth is, this generation will not pass away until all this takes place. The heavens and the earth will pass sway, but my words will not pass away. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever comes and to stand secure before the Chosen One.

November 29, 2015

God’s Time: Waiting in Hope

I have a moral, spiritual, ethical and practical objection to Black Friday frenzied Christmas shopping. So of course I found myself late on Thursday evening – Thanksgiving evening! – at Best Buy. Not where I wanted to be, but after a wonderful family dinner to which Elijah contributed a delicious pie, he convinced me to take him down to the ‘sale of sales.’ I’d like to say I was conducting a social experiment going down there, but the truth is Elijah said he could get $130 off of a computer that he needed to get for school. What the heck. For my son, I’ll try it.

We got there and the parking lot was jam packed with cars. At the entrance to the store, a guy was trying to figure out how to fit two giant TV’s into his compact car. In the store, people with bad haircuts were walking around with dazed expressions on their faces looking for their special deal. The salesperson told Elijah that he had to have a special ticket to get the deal he wanted, a ticket given to the first hundred people who came into the store 4 hours before.

By that time I was hoping he learned something about the right time for shopping. I couldn’t feel superior to the Good Friday shoppers, because there I was, but I wanted to tell them, “Friends, go home! Enjoy your families! This is not the time for shopping! This is a time to be with people you love.” Maybe they were with people they love. I know I was.

 

Anyway, there really is a time for shopping and it is not on Thanksgiving day. The day after – maybe.

We’re going to talk about time over the next four weeks as we prepare during Advent for the coming of the Christ. We start, strangely enough at the end of time, with Luke predicting a time when signs will appear in the sun, moon and stars. Everybody will be in anguish and people will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth.

Luke has altered the way Mark talks about the end of time. With the earlier gospel and in the writings of Paul you get the sense that the community expects Jesus to come again immediately, that they are urgently preparing. Luke is more concerned with how the community acts in the meantime, since Jesus’ return does not seem quite as imminent.

For most of us that end time, or time of Jesus return is even less imminent and less of a concern. Nonetheless, plenty of us get caught up in times of anxious waiting – waiting for a diagnosis from a doctor or for the safe return of a family member from a tour of duty – or just to hear that a plane will be on time or land safely with a loved one returning home after the holiday. Some are waiting for a letter from a college about their future. Some are waiting for deep ache caused by the loss of a loved one to pass, or at least to subside just a bit. Some are waiting for healing of an injury or an answer from a friend or co-worker about an invitation.

I’m just saying, we all have experienced not just waiting, but being preoccupied with some future event over which we have zero control. And we may infer from Luke some ways to deal with those preoccupations and with that lack of control.

First, we have to admit the situation we’re in, not be in denial about what concerns us. Sometimes, we do anything we can to distract ourselves, sometimes in ways that damage ourselves or people around us. Sometimes people around us – family or friends are stoking the anxiety and keeping us on edge, so that fights or flareups become the norm.

Luke suggests that we can find a calm center in the midst of the anxiety of a situation or the anxiety of our family; that we don’t have to get enmeshed in the worry and stress around us even while we don’t deny what’s going on. Rather, we can focus on being there for people around us rather than buying into fears and anxiousness. We can channel our energy into care and concern, particularly for people in need around us while we wait for whatever is coming next – whether good news or bad.

You see, there’s always going to be things that we can’t control, times where worry and anxiety want to take over. But when we are confident in the presence of the Living God in Christ, when we are confident that beyond any good news or bad news, there is that center of hope, the gift of a new birth of love, we can handle the stress of the Christmas season, we can handle the anxiety of family and friends around us, we can handle and not get caught up in the fears stirred up by the evening news and sensational politicians.

A guy named Oscar Cullman, a half century ago compared Christians who live between the resurrection and the end times to the Allied solders living between D-day and V-E day in World War II. Once the Allied forces landed successfully on Normandy their eventual victory was ensured even though the was still fighting and loss of life to endure. But when you know that you’re going to make it, when you know that victory is assured, your attitude towards the presence, toward giving everything you have in the current struggle is completely transformed.

It’s a weird way to look at time, but that’s God’s time. God’s time changes our experience of time as we opt out of the anxiety of family drama and social stress – but live into God’s presence. These days of holy darkness, the shortest days of the year can be time to practice letting go of anxiety, a time of learning to face the future without fear because of the power of God’s presence and the promise and hope Christ gives us for the future.

Responsive Hymn:    3047 God Almighty, We Are Waiting