Rev. George Miller
November 27, 2016
Waiting seems to becoming more and more a lost way of life.
With the flick of a switch we have light regardless if it’s morning or not.
With the turn of a faucet we can have cold, warm or hot water instantly.
With a spin of the washing machine and a tumble in the dryer, clothes worn all day immediately become fresh and ready to wear once more.
With cell phones we don’t have to wait to get home to hear who called us. With the internet we don’t have to wait for breaking news. With social media we only get but a second before we hear everyone’s knee-jerk thoughts about who, what, where, when, why, and how dare they.
Waiting is a lost way of life. Writing a letter and waiting days, weeks, months to get a response. Then reading, and rereading that letter, treasuring it, and putting it into safe keeping.
Waiting for the new Sears-Roebuck catalogue to come in the mail. Waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon to come into town.
Waiting for the annual showing of “Wizard of Oz” to come on network TV.
I probably grew up during one of the last generations of waiting. And waiting was not always fun. Waiting wasn’t always preferred. Waiting wasn’t always wonderful.
Waiting can be downright boring.
But waiting also meant something.
Waiting added value to an event. For example I recall as a child the time “Alice in Wonderland” came back to the theaters. My Mom cut out the advertisement in the paper. I carried it around for days, going next door my neighbor to share the excitement that soon we’d be going to see it.
Waiting added meaning to what was about to happen. Or the time “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out, years before there were multiplexes.
We had to drive another town. We had to wait in line for an hour just to get our tickets. Then we had to wait in line for another hour just to get into the theater.
It was boring and annoying as heck. But when we sat down, and the movie began, and the opening notes came on “Da-da-da-daaa, da da daa”, it was magic….
Waiting created rituals. I have to give it to my parents. They utilized waiting to their best advantage, making every Christmas morning exactly as it should be- filled with anticipation, wonder, and mystery.
On Christmas morning, my 3 siblings and I were to stay in our rooms until…until we heard the sound of sleigh bells outside our windows, signaling that Santa had just left our house.
We got out of bed and into the hallway, which was draped with a large bed sheet, hiding from view what Santa had left for us.
When we waited long enough and the time was right, the bed sheet was taken down and behold- a view of the stockings hanging on the living room railing, filled with delights.
Behold- there was the tree, with presents stacked around.
Behold- there was Dad on the couch with his cup of coffee and yearly calendar from Mom.
Behold- the empty glass of milk and plate of cookie crumbs with our Christmas list on one side and a personally handwritten note from Santa on the other, addressing each and every one of us personally.
The waiting continued as we sat, and gifts were passed out one at a time.
We could open up our gift slow or fast, it didn’t matter because we didn’t get another one until everyone had theirs.
Then going through our stockings, to see who got the biggest onion, signifying they were the naughtiest of the year.
Then waiting for Mom to take one of the onions, chop it up and make scrambled eggs with bacon and toast.
I had no idea then just how special and unique this ritual of waiting was, and how wonderful that our parents made us wait, because the waiting created the memories.
Even as we grew older, we would gleefully complete this ritual.
My sister has continued this ritual by hanging a bed sheet in the hallway of her home, and her boys love it.
I cannot wait to continue the tradition of waiting with my own children.
A few years ago a book came out by Temple Grandin (“Animals Make Us Human”) which talked about the emotions that animals experience, such as fear, panic, and play.
She also mentioned seeking, which is the same as waiting. The author stated that for animals, the act of seeking or waiting is a positive emotion.
She stated that animals have an emotionally richer life when they have aspects of waiting.
Such as the dog that intuitively waits by the door, knowing that soon their human companion is coming home.
Waiting, as when our cats listen to our waking moments, knowing that soon we’ll be up to open the blinds, give them fresh water and open a can of food.
Even the waiting of a predatory animal as it stalks their prey, or hides in the garden waiting for the right time to pounce on a mouse or a bird.
According to the author, when animals have nothing to seek or no reason to wait for something good to happen, it can affect their mood, their energy, their way of life.
Not having a reason to seek out or to wait far can actually cause a sense of depression or lack of purpose.
And one is left to wonder if this is not true for humans.
That waiting is perhaps more of an emotion, a way of being.
Think of how positive waiting stirs up feelings, anticipation, wonder and joy.
Like kids on Christmas morning, waiting for the bed sheet to be pulled back. Waiting to see what will be. Waiting to be fed and to share a meal.
For me, that is what I got out of today’s reading. That sense of waiting. That sense of seeking. That sense of planning.
That sense of pulling back the bed sheet.
Here we have Jesus talking to his disciples. He is on the Mt. of Olives, when they come to him, asking “When will the sign be of the end of the age?”
Jesus talks to them, and like a good teacher, like a classic rabbi, like a UCC pastor, he does not give them the answer they want; he doesn’t really give them an answer at all.
The disciples seek him out to know how long they have to wait until the age comes to an end.
His response is a big “No one knows, not even me.”
His response is “You’re going to have to wait it out. As you wait, beware of those who’ll try to lead you off the path you are on.”
“Know that there will be trials, tribulations, and upheavels. There will be breaking apart, and tearing down. And there will be things to endure, and things to overcome.”
“But don’t lose hope, don’t lose faith, because the Good News of God’s Kingdom will be shouted out and shared across the land.”
Jesus instructs them that just as in the days before the flood, life will go on, and because no one knows when the end of the age will be, we wait, we anticipate, we become ready.
In other words- we live.
This is the kind of scripture that, like Revelations, some people are scared by.
But in my opinion, it is not meant to scare, it is meant to give us hope.
This is a scripture that takes the emotional act of waiting and says “This is beyond your control; no one knows but God, so put your energy into other things.”
As Christians, as members of the United Church of Christ, what are the other things we are called to put our energy into?
To not only proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
That as we wait, as we seek for the Kingdom of God to be made known…we can actually live and act as if the Kingdom of God is already here.
Now, if you’ve been attending here for any length of time you have heard me say that I believe the Kingdom of God is already here.
I truly believe the Kingdom of God is not far off in a distant time achieved only in death; I do not believe the Kingdom is far off in a distant, cloud-filled place.
I believe the Kingdom of God is in the now and present moment, in the now and present place, and it is waiting for us to seek out and discover it.
I believe the Kingdom of God is here, waiting to be seen, waiting to be experienced, waiting to be shared.
Waiting to be realized…
Following the theology found in Matthew, I believe that as we wait for the end of the age, we make God’s Kingdom known by our deeds of mercy, by our acts of forgiveness, by our ways of peace.
Which means that as we enter into the Advent Season, as we await the birth of Jesus Christ, we find our way to live and to discover the Kingdom of God.
This can involve the way we treat one another. With dignity. With respect. With care. With justice. Mindful of the vulnerable, lonely and the scared.
This can involve the way we greet one another. Do we see them as peers, as fellow humans, as neighbors with their own hopes and dreams, worries and needs?
This can involve the way we live and the way we worship. To give God proper honor. To give God proper praise. To humbly trust in the Holy Spirit.
To offer the best we have. To turn to Jesus with all of ourselves- our emotions, our thoughts, our flaws, our wounds.
How can we wait? How can we seek? How can we pull back the bed sheet and discover all the goodness God has in store?
We share the good news with one another, we share the good news with the world, we share the good news with our selves.
Because no matter what things may seem like, no matter what those who are impatient may say, tomorrow is just another day.
So with Christ, and in Christ, we work, we worship, and we wait, knowing that we are waiting with the Lord.
Amen and amen.