A Season of Waiting

Waiting Well | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock, CO


This is a transcript from the April 19, 2020 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.


When he was at a table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?


That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem and they found the 11 and their companions together and they were saying, "The Lord has risen. Indeed he has appeared to Simon." Then they told what had happened to them on the road and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.


This is a story about some disciples who knew something was up but they didn't know what it meant. They knew that their life was about to change and the things would never be the same, but they didn't know how it was going to affect them. They knew something was happening, but right now all they could do was wait.


Sound familiar? Welcome to worship here at New Hope. My name is Russ and we're here today to get to worship together and as we do, we are going to recognize that we are in a season of waiting. It's one of those things that is very hard to do. Nobody likes to wait and the question is never if we will wait, but the question is always how? How will we wait, because how we wait is how we live.


We want to learn how to live well, so let's learn how to wait well. Let's see if there's a way to wait in such a way that our eyes get opened in the process.


Let's begin with the combination. This morning the theme is going to be watching and waiting. Watching and waiting are very similar, they're both hard, they're both frustrating, they both take a lot of patience, but the difference is this in watching, we wait with a sense of anticipation. We wait, but not just for the sake of waiting because that can just lead to despair, we think there's nothing going to happen. Watching begins to look with anticipation of what might yet show up. What might change, what might we see? It makes all the difference. Watching leads to hope.


You see it in this passage. You see it here in this one time. Here's Jesus showing up in their midst and they're surprised. As Jesus shows up, they get ambushed, they're not expecting it, but then, as time goes on and Jesus shows up more and more often, they're not quite as surprised. Jesus doesn't have to tell them too many more times, "Don't be afraid."

In fact, by the time we get to the shore of Galilee with Peter and John fishing again, and Jesus shows up on the shore, when they recognize him they turn around and Peter's response is, "Hey, it's Jesus again," and he jumps in the boat and he swims to Jesus. They are almost beginning to expect Jesus to show up in some very unusual ways. By the time the church develops in the Book of Acts, this watching for Jesus has begun to expand so, now, they are expecting Jesus to show up in the breaking of their bread as they gather around common meal.


Then they begin to notice how Jesus is showing up in their common life, that Jesus and the presence of Christ is everywhere, and then they begin to talk about it in terms of like, this is like a body. This is a body that has been held, held together with the love and the purpose and the power of Christ. By the time John gets to his gospel and he's opening his gospel, the watching has expanded so now when they see Christ, they began to equate Christ with the logic, the wisdom, the soul by which God created and everything was created in and through and by Christ. What a difference.


When Paul writes to the Colossians and the Ephesians, he begins to use words like, "Christ is now in all things and he's through all things." Can you see the trajectory? Can you see how it began with a single point in time in a single space? That's where Christ showed up and now it has expanded to now that Christ is described in the Book of Ephesians like he's some cosmic glue. "All things are being held together by Christ," Paul says.


That's the power of watching. That's the power of waiting with anticipation. As they were waiting for Christ to return, they began to see Christ showing up in more and more places. Which makes it a great entree into worship today because worship is that communal practice, whether we are all in the same room or not. It is that practice that we use together to, as we say, to see who God is, what God is yet to do in our midst and who God would have us become in Christ.


That's what we're here to do today. May our eyes be opened in new ways as we do it. Today's service is going to be broken up into several smaller reflections and meditations. The order's going to even be a little different. In fact, the passing of the peace will be the last thing we do, but the first thing we're going to do has to do with gratitude. We will begin with gratitude. As we come to worship today as we come to have our eyes opened, let's begin with opening our eyes and where are we grateful? What are you grateful for today? Take these next few moments to text somebody to tell somebody across the room if you want, or reply online to- and connect with one another. Whatever way we choose, let's find some way to notice, to have our eyes opened and to report what we see. What are you grateful for this morning? 


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Nick: Church could be the most creative place on earth because of our faith in things unseen. In this time of uncertainty, we can't imagine the future or our place in it. Were you still making plans, but we can't and it can be worrisome. We search for the Christ everywhere. I need to spend good time in the adventure and discomfort of, I don't know, the state of, I don't know, is the path to, I don't know, but I want to be on that adventure and to trust God's unpredictable journey that will take me to, I don't know.


Wandering in the desert isn't a rational plan and the wisdom of Scripture is full of, I don't know. The earth was formless and void and darkness was over the surface of the deep and there the Spirit of God was moving.


Mary must have been a little confused. Her infertile womb was barren and God was born their. Tomb was empty, they didn't know what happened and God redefined death. Job didn't know why everything was going wrong. Moses, 40-years, "Where are we going?" Desert was in, I don't know, wasteland and Jesus went into that same hollow desert to hear. While the Israelites were in the desert, they were fed with manna. The meaning of the word manna, I've heard, is what is this? Jesus told in parables and the disciples said, "I don't get it. Everything on earth, stars and dust, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter adds up to less than 5% of the universe. 95% is the, I don't know, universe, dark energy and dark matter. What we call, "Space or nothingness," has energy.


Isn't it annoying not knowing what a future with a virus means? Unfilled time, not filled with the usual business and deeds that give me meaning. If I am what I do, then who am I when I'm not doing? That process part instead of the product. The creative process calls it incubation and says that it's crucial time that must be taken. Time that seems like nothing is going on, when our minds are groping through the dark for new answers, cooking up new ways that we never knew before.


My grandma took forever to make polenta and I waited and waited past my desire for immediate eating. Worth the wait, nothing fast could ever taste so good. My controlling brain starts to hurt and I worried, I can't be sure that everything will be okay. I am not in control of my future, but have I ever been?


My students never wanted to go through the process. They didn't want to be confused, to not know the one right answer so they could hurry up and pass the test, but when they were convinced that not knowing was a sign of impending Eureka, coming epic awesomeness, their creative juices were loose and they reveled in their playful nature. That nature, we older ones have forgotten. Unless you become like little children.


I learned this first from reading the Bible that is full of strange unknown ideas; creation from dust, visions and ark, rainbow, docile lions. All that puts me in an, "I don't know what this means," place, right where I need to be to learn, to become, to listen instead of proclaiming, listen for what I can't imagine. I want to become open to what God's ongoing creation has in store. I don't know. Uncomfortable as that is, there can be joy in looking for God's answer.


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Pastor Jordan: As we discuss and think about this idea between waiting versus watching and think about the disciples at this time after Jesus had died and was resurrected, there is a lot of unknowns going on, uncertainty, so it felt like a period of waiting. I think back to a time that maybe a lot of you will connect with because a lot of us in Colorado really enjoy our pets. We've adopted pets, we've rescued pets, and there was a time in our life when we adopted Cal. He was 40 pounds, malnourished. He was a stray. There wasn't much we knew about him beforehand, and he had a whole year of life that we don't know about.


When we adopted him, one of the first times we went away, when we left him at home, we would leave him in our bedroom, we shut the door, and I could hear him immediately just pee on the floor. He had such bad separation anxiety that it left him in despair, because in his life, maybe he thought we were leaving for good, that we were not coming back. So waiting was being abandoned for him. It was despair.


We had to train to show him to anticipate our return. We had to do things such as, when we left, we would give him a kong full of peanut butter so that us leaving wasn't a scary thing but he got a treat when it happened, and then we also had to do that but then we would leave the apartment and go walk around the building for about five minutes and come back, and then we did it later on again, 10 minutes and come back, 20 minutes, come back, 30 minutes, come back. That way, he started to understand that we would come back.


Even to the point now where we have an Amazon Alexa kind of camera, and we can check in on him when we're gone. When we check in, now what he's doing is laying on the bed and watching outside the window. Because he can see our car, he knows what our car sounds like. So he can watch for us the whole time for us to come back.


I think our pets can teach us a lot about waiting and watching. I think we have to train them in some way, and then later on, they're showing us how to do it. Especially, Cal, he's there, he's waiting in anticipation of things to come. He is anticipating our return. He is watching for us. He knows that this time of waiting will be over at some point and that he needs to keep a watch out for us. His waiting has become active now. That's no longer just not knowing and waiting and despair of what could be, but he knows what can be. So he waits and anticipates for it.


How can we be more like our pets? How can we anticipate the things to come but also seek out and watch for God in our waiting, watch for God, where God is, here and now? What is God calling to us, at least in the meantime, before the anticipation comes?


We have to put on those sacred eye goggles in order to see what God is doing and what God wants us to do. Sometimes in the waiting, that gets fine-tuned. We are able to be more present, to understand in waiting that we can actually practice our ways of seeing the sacred and the ordinary, that we can put on a different perspective in order to see God at work in our midst. That's what waiting versus watching means to me, is that the waiting can help mature our hearts. It can help mature eyes in order to see God at work so that now we are watching anticipation for the new world to come; for heaven to be brought to earth now. Amen.


Pastor Russ: Waiting, we are told, is the hardest work of hope. Lewis Smedes says that and I believe that. I believe he was right when he said that. I also believe that, in fact, waiting may be some of the most essential work that we do when it comes to hope. Particularly when we couple waiting with watching, then that time becomes the seedbed for hope that springs up in our life and it begins to change us. We're no longer just on pause waiting for the sake of waiting. We're no longer just victims of something being imposed on us. Now, we are participants in something that is yet to happen.


Well, having said all that, how do we do that? How do we nurture watching in our life? How do we make that more and more a practice? It's true, if we do nothing, it's okay. God can continue to ambush us, He can continue to surprise us. God will continue to intervene and interrupt our lives, but I believe there's another way of doing this in such a way that we begin to nurture that kind of watching; we make it a practice in our lives.


As we nurture it, that anticipation yields to a greater awareness. That awareness then begins to make us more attuned and aligned with what God is yet to do, and we get to participate in what God is doing in our midst. It all starts with, watching.


Here's the practice that I want to commend to you this week. As we go from here, as we come to the close of worship, it has just begun. I want to commend to you this practice. It's one of my practices every day, gratitude. Let's begin with gratitude, is always a practice of mine, but here's another one that's very powerful. It's a simple question, where have you seen Christ revealed in this past day? 


On one hand, we might just say, "Well, everywhere, everything is." I want to be a little more specific because I think it helps a little bit more if we can be a little more specific about what do we mean when we see Christ. I start with, what are the characteristics, the qualities, that I see that I find compelling in Christ?


I just started jotting down some of those things, and what I find, it's things like God, Christ when I see Jesus loving, when I see Jesus healing, when I see Jesus freeing people up from what used to bind them, whether it's their sin or their sickness or their fears. Where do I see Christ? Including those who were excluded, elevating those who were diminished. Where do I see Jesus serving? Emptying.


You see, those are the components, and now that I have those characters and qualities, now I begin to look for where are they emerging in my life. If Christ is in all and through all, if Christ is holding all of this together, then every time I see that, I see an expression of what Christ is trying to do in our world and in our midst. This past week, I was looking at that and some of the things that I keep in a journal. You don't have to keep a journal, I commend it. It's a great practice that surely helps me, as I be intentional about this.


I noticed myself and I saw Christ in the community that was caring for one another. People gathering around, whether it's teachers who are reaching out in extra special ways for their students, whether it is people helping each other with meals or caring for each other on the street, people who are serving one another. I see Christ in the first responders and the healthcare workers who are sacrificing, offering their lives, literally, for the sake of others, and in their compassion, making a difference. I see Christ, even in the spring because if God is in all and Christ is in all, and all things are being held together, then that means I see Christ coming in and holding- new life emerging, whether I'm ready for it or not, whether I recognize it or not, it's there.


I see Christ in the generosity of people around me. I see Christ being revealed in the simple kindness, whether it's in a grocery store where we're all a little awkward, and we don't know what to do, and how are we supposed to do this and keep our distance and just that common kindness that I see. I see Christ emerging in that.


I see Christ in the redeeming work of chefs and cooks who would be out of work and yet people have generously given money and donated so they can work and what they do is then they cook meals and those meals go to first responders and others who wouldn't have a meal. It's this work together, we're all in this together, we're all connected to one another, we're all giving ourselves in love for the sake of something that's larger than ourselves, I see Christ being revealed.


The question is, where will you see Christ being revealed in this next week? In this next season, I'm giving you a homework assignment you've got the time, why not use it? Why not use this time of waiting to develop the art of watching in this next week. May this be not just a season of waiting, may it be a time when we learn to wait, well. May it be time we learned to wait well because we have begun to learn the practice of watching. Watching with anticipation, watching with new awareness, watching in ways that our eyes are being open day after day, new ways to the presence of Christ that is right there, right there in our midst.


As we come to the end of the service today, the charges before us, go, love God with everything you've got this week. Go and love your neighbor as yourself. As you go, may you take on the eyes of watching, may they be opened. As they are open, may it be the seedbed for hope. May the God of hope, fill you with all joy. In believing, may your heart abound with hope to the power of the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen.


As we go from here, rather than just going in peace, let's pass the peace of Christ to one another. Let's pass the peace as we tell someone across the room, "May the peace of Christ be with you this day." Let's text it to somebody right now. Let's online reply to others. Let's go out and may the peace of Christ be with you. Now, go, go in Christ's peace.