Saturday, May 16, 2020

Not on hold: Waiting

Daily Devotion - May 16

I will send a brief message each day (except Mondays)
while we are pausing gathering in person.
- Kara

I keep on forgetting something it means to be Church.  It's not hard for me to remember that church is not a place we go, but who we are. We've been talking that way together for a long time.  And this is reinforced every time we gather for online/phone worship - the Spirit is there, the Body of Christ is gathered, God is with us, and we are church.
But I am forgetting about another important thing.  
Being Church means being people who wait.  
Centuries of Advent have prepared us for this time. But we're not just practiced at it, we are called to it.  We are called to expect the advent (coming) of God, and to wait for it. Anticipating. Preparing. Ready. Patient. Hopeful.

As modern people - we don't wait. We hate to wait in lines or on hold.  We buy what we want when we want it, watch what we want when we want it, go where we want when we want to, do what we want when we want to.  We act; we don't wait. 

And if we are not acting, we are planning. Planning also means not having to wait. Planning lets us know what to expect and when to expect it.  We can soothe our existential terror by immediate gratification or by planning ahead. Either way, we get to draw from our strengths instead of face our weakness. Either way, we get to feel powerful instead of helpless.  And either way, it's not the discomfort of waiting.

What we fear most in waiting is sitting in the unknown without a sense of when it will end.  We don't wait waiting if it means trusting someone or something beyond your self to intervene and surprise you. Waiting is vulnerable and excruciating. It's out of our control, and we want control.  So we take the wheel - we act and we plan. 

This time we are in is thwarting both of these pacifiers.  We're limited from acting and we're limited from planning.  But that doesn't stop us from doing both anyway. So some people are rushing to action, saying, "We will gather like before as soon as things 'open back up.'"  Others are rushing into planning, saying, "We will not gather like before for one year, or even two."  Both are ways to deal with our modern discomfort with waiting. Both approaches are aimed to soothe our anxiety and avoid disappointment.
Both only have imagination for what has been.
Waiting, in the Christian sense, cultivates imagination for what might be.

The Church is the people called to wait - to live honestly in what is, and expect God to come. We wait.  We live in this moment, the one given to us now. We plan for this time, knowing things will change, but not yet knowing how.  We don't cling to the past, and we don't foreclose on the future. We stay attentive to the movement of the living God by waiting and watching, What is God doing now? And now? And now?  How can we join in right now?

The Church is not on hold.  The Church has always been called to active waiting.  It's how we participate in the Kingdom of God - which is always breaking in from the future into the present - coming into the real moment, drawing us to each other, drawing us to God, pulling us out of our settled ruts and our false security to watch for the next thing God is doing. 

Christoph Blumhardt writes, "This watching is a part of our life, of our faith, of our service to God. The Savior urges us seriously to “watch, watch, watch!” as though he wanted to lay a foundation for it in our hearts, in our whole lives. It is as though he were always waiting and asking, “How can I come closer to this person, to that person? How can I meet this one who is waiting for me?...For in our watching we think not only of our own lives. We are watching for the whole world." (in Action in Waiting) 

We have a distinct calling in this time and place. We are Church for the world.  On behalf of the world, we wait. We watch. We point out God's in-breaking. We join in God's work.  As Church, we gather, in whatever creative ways the moment allows or ignites.  As Church we remind each other and the world that God's love comes to us now.  We keep adapting, keep adjusting, keep responding, keep dying and being born again.  We let ourselves be changed, be met, be shaped into the people of God for this time and place.  And we wait for what God is going to do - today, tomorrow, next month and beyond.
This is hope. We are bearers of hope.

Our little congregation has four big guiding convictions that feel important all over again right now. (Perhaps I'll spend a devotion with each one at some point...!)

The first is this: God is doing something, here and now, that incorporates the past and leads us into the future.

We trust this. We believe this. We let this conviction guide us.  We will not resort to immediate action to soothe our impatience and anxiety. Neither will we renounce possibility to soothe our impatience and anxiety.  
We will endure the discomfort of waiting. We will experience the anxiety that births new things. We will let the Spirit breathe new life into us, spark creativity between us, bring hope through us.  
God is doing something. Here and now. It will draw on what has been.  It will shape us for what will be.  Right now, it will deepen us in our belonging to God and strengthen us in our belonging to each other, and expand our imagination for how to live that out.

We live in hope. We hold hope for the world. We know God is bringing life.

So the Church waits.


Perhaps tonight before bed, whatever time that is in each of our homes, we and so join our souls with each other and the people of the whole earth:

God, who meets me now,

meet me now.

Help me wait for you to meet me here.

Help me watch for how you meet me.

God who love us now,

love us now.

Help me wait for your love to come.

Help me watch for how your love comes.

God who heals us now,

heal us now.

Help me wait for you to heal us.

Help me watch for how your healing comes.

God whose future meets us now,

meet us with your future now.

Help me wait for your newness to break in.

In the places of death,

help me watch for your new life.

In the places of division,

help me join in your work of love.
In the tension of unrest,
help me trust in your reality of peace.
Amidst the disappointment, anxiety and vulnerability,
within and around me,
infuse me with your hope,
that I may bear it in the world.

(Prayer by Kara Root)

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