The Expectations of Waiting

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

This is a transcript from the May 3, 2020 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

Pastor Russ: We're in a season of waiting. We don't often get to choose whether we wait, but we always get to choose how. That's the premise of this entire series, we're carrying it through today. Nowhere is it more tested for us as a body than on days like today, because this is the first Sunday of the month. This is the day that in worship that we would be gathered around this table for this cup and this bread. We can't do that today. There is a physicality of our faith that we can't express with one another. What do we do while we wait until we can take communion? I believe one of the clues is to understand first and foremost that communion is about waiting, a very large part of it. We find that in 1 Corinthians 11.

As Paul is writing to a church, and he's talking and explaining to them what he understands about communion, and he wants them to understand. "I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you," he says, "that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks and he broke it, and then said, 'This is my body. This is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'" In the same way, he took the cup also after the supper and saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." Did you catch it? That as people are gathering around communion, it is about waiting.

It is about waiting. The way that we begin to wait is to understand that in that waiting, we go back to what this table is all about in the first place. That that is a sacrament. As we have learned that sacraments are visible signs of invisible realities, they point us to something. That communion is about helping us expand our capacity for awareness and the expression of the presence of Christ that's in our midst. We use things like a cup. We use things like bread. In and of themselves, they're not that big a deal. They're common and that's the point. It's not the cup and it's not the bread themselves, it's to what they point, or better yet, to whom they point, because these common things are the things that point us to the presence of Christ that's in our midst.

I want to focus on two words this morning. One is blessed and one's broken. Christ took the bread, thanked, gave thanks, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to his disciples. In that doing, he was expressing the sacredness, the presence of Christ that's in the common elements. We could focus on just that cup and just that bread, but what they are there for is to help elevate all our cups, all our breads, all our tables, and all the people who are in our midst. All of these now rightly understood become occasions that we begin to recognize the presence of Christ in our midst. When we've done that, then these pointers then become helpful because then all of life becomes the occasion.

Blessed, Broken, because these things then point to the brokenness, the offering of Christ. We proclaim the Lord's death, the Lord's brokenness like bread and poured out like a cup. It is an offering that Christ was offered for this world. Christ was offered in our lives and to the point of the church in Corinth and to us, Christ is offered through our lives as well. We now are the corporate body of Christ and Christ is still being offered through us. We proclaim the death of Christ as we offer ourselves and we become the means through which Christ offers and loves this world.

Those are lofty terms and there's lots to it. In our day and time, it may be very specific. It may be something as simple as a mask that we wear. It may be as simple as not going out if we don't have to so that we can flatten the curve. I know those are a hassle. It's a hassle for me too. I want to get out but that's the point. It's because it's a pain. It's because I really don't want to that that becomes the vehicle through which out of love for neighbor that Christ can work. We express it as we keep our distance one from another. On this day, I would suggest that another element, it is also how we close the distance with one another.

We can't do it physically, but whether it's an email, a phone call, a text, whether it is on FaceTime or Skype, or all the other ways that we can do it, it is closing the distance of someone who is lonely and isolated and saying, "I see you. You matter." Maybe it's closing the distance of an alienation that long needs to be healed and reconciled, and it's taking the first step. Maybe it is saying, "I'm sorry." Maybe it is saying, "I'd like a fresh start." Maybe it is closing the distance that someone has within their own life and to be able to encourage and affirm the presence of Christ in them. When we do that, we are proclaiming Christ. We are proclaiming and beginning to see Christ. Someday in full, but even now, even now, especially now in part.

Now we are celebrating communion well whether we gather around a table like that or not. At whatever table with or whatever people, we get to express, and we get to celebrate, we get to practice communion. Communion is about waiting, but it's not just about biding our time. It's about building the awareness and our capacity for the presence of Christ in our life. When we do that, our lives become pointers. We become the sacrament through which Christ is expressed in our world. This week, may Christ's presence be known in you. May it be known through you. As you go, may your life be an offering and be seen as the very love and grace of Christ for this world. Amen.

Pastor Jordan:  Have you ever gone into anything with a set of expectations that were a little bit too high for what your experience actually was? I remember at one point in my childhood, I loved the movies of Toy Story. Toy Story 2 had just come out and it was my birthday. I was excited because my grandma always gave me the best gifts out of anybody in my family. Not that I didn't get good gifts from people in my family, but grandma always had the best ones, right? I was so excited to open up the gift that year because I knew it was going to be something with Toy Story, it was going to be awesome.

I open it up and it turned out to be Mrs. Potato Head. Now, there's nothing wrong with Mrs. Potato Head, but as a probably at the time an eight or nine-year-old boy, Mrs. Potato Head was not something that I desired to have. My expectations were up here and all of a sudden, my expectations came crashing down. We do this in our lives a lot. We have expectations of how things are supposed to be and especially in waiting. When we wait, we have all this time to think about what's going to happen or what's to come, and so then we set our expectations so high that they probably are not attainable.

I think another reason for that, I'll go on with the movie theme here. I love movies and oftentimes, this is my theory of why sequels tend to disappoint. If the first movie was something big and it was unexpected, and people loved it, that was lightning in a bottle. When you create a sequel, the expectations get so high from people that it's unattainable and most of the time, sequels leave us feeling a little bit wanting more.

How do we wait well and temper our expectations? How do we wait well and deal with our own expectations of how things should be or how we think things should be? There was a show I watched recently called Home. It's on Apple TV, it's a streaming service. It's about people's homes and how interesting they are but really, it's a show about the people behind the homes. The first episode has to do with a home in Sweden. It's a home built inside of a greenhouse. It's sustainable unto itself. It's sustainable with its water. It recycles its own water. It grows its own plants and food, and everything and keeps its climate at a certain temperature at all times, but this family has a son who's autistic.

I'm going to show you a clip of the father talking about how he wanted to fix it. He wanted to know everything about it, so he could fix it and be better with it. This is their story.

Anders: When Jonathan got his diagnosis, I tried to read everything about autism, psychology. I tried to understand human mind and understand everything, but it didn't help me.

Female Speaker: Anders just sees things and he wants to solve them as a problem like an engineer, but Jonathan is not a problem we can solve.

Anders: I was really looking for answers.

Female Speaker: There was a moment between Anders and Jonathan. I wasn't there when it happened. Anders had been quite angry with Jonathan wanting him to do things that he couldn't. Jonathan communicated to him, "I've done so much for you so many times, can't you feel my love?" Their souls met on that day.

Anders: Finally, not seeing him as a problem but as a close friend. That changed, that meeting.

Female Speaker: Anders accepted him for what he was. I think that is something we all have to do with our expectations, because it's our expectations that makes us disappointed. That was their breakthrough.

Anders: Meeting him with total respect, no expectations, just with love. It's really helped me.

Pastor Jordan: Anders finally decided that he was just going to respect his son and not meet him with expectations but simply with love. How would our lives look differently if we did the same thing? Whether it's with God or family or friends, the situation we're in with this pandemic of not knowing when things are going to go back to normal or not normal at all, how would our lives look different if we dropped the expectations and simply met things with respect and love, first and foremost?

There's a story in the New Testament that Jesus gives of the prodigal son, we've talked about that a lot here at New Hope. In that story, there are two sons; one stays home with his father, the other takes his inheritance early and then squanders it in all kinds of debaucherous activity until he finally has to come home because he has no other choice. The father not even just accepts him back home but throws a party and says, "My son was lost but now he is found." The older brother of course, as we all know, was upset about this.

Now towards the end of the story, in Luke 15, we see the father say this. He said to him, "Son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours." God's expectations that guess what, "I am always with you and everything I have is also yours." Love, compassion, kindness, generosity, that is all ours too. We could show that to others. This week, find one way to drop your expectations. Find one way to drop your expectations for the situation you're in, or the people around you, and simply meet them with love. Amen.

Nick Rossi: As usual, perspective is important. How something looks depends on where I'm standing. From over here, it looks like a... From where you're standing, it looks like a... Of course, I'm right from over here and you're wrong from over there. Such a burden to always be right. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. We have two roads, a choice that will determine the way things look, a choice between hope and despair. If waiting is thrust upon us, we can be in tension because it's not like it used to be, or excitement that the best may be yet to come. I think I can learn to go the healthy way from the example in Scripture and in the life that breeds the Christ.

The life that breeds the Christ. Have you ever watched or even joined in the divine energy of kids on a playground? A child in a swing doesn't go anywhere but it's wonderful. There is no destination that determines that glee. They're not going anywhere. They're just swinging and feeling it. They're out for recess, a respite from the goal-oriented assignments of a classroom. By the way, child development says they need playtime, no-goal time, timeless time, following your nose time, incubation time for their brains to develop. There are situations different than playtime when there is a goal, a destination, and in those situations, the journey becomes something to get through as fast as possible. "Give me the answer now."

I live too much of life trying to get there and the journey is in the way of quick effortless arrival. I want fast food, quick answers, bought art, immediate shallow technique, delivery of goods. The wait is just irritating. Back to the kid. A slide is less about the destination below than the getting there, the joy of sliding. That sliding journey is the arrival. The sliding itself is the fun. Joy can be in the journey. Kids pointlessly running when released at recess. How does that feel to your inner child? Irritating or exciting? To me, that feels electric. It's not a destination run, it's just running. Being hungry is a feeling that makes us create. When you start smelling that aroma, oh, that's not irritating. That's anticipating and a joy before eating.

The enjoyment we get from a good story is about the what's going to happen feeling. It's enjoying the feeling of, "Tune in next week and we'll see what happens to our heroine," an exciting anticipation. When we find out who done it, that excitement vanishes, changes into resolution, and then there's less to look forward to. Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming. When nothing is certain, anything is possible. The Hebrews as far as I understand, are about anticipating, watching for the coming Messiah. The whole culture is built around living a full life expecting while on the journey.

When Jesus came, the stage had been perfectly set for the gospel message to spread. Its time had come. The culture was hungry and ready in the fullness of time. Before that, the world wasn't prime, but the world was expecting a birth of, in Galatians, the King James version, it says, "But when the fullness of time was come, God set forth his Son." You know what happens when we're waiting for, listening for an answer beyond what we know? We get creative. That changes the road we're on. God beckons us where we've never been.

When we imagine who done it in the story, we imagine what the goal could be. We create possible endings. It gets us actively imagining and creating instead of worrying and twiddling our thumbs and waiting like victims. I'm not saying that goals are bad. I'm saying that when we can't get to a goal, we have a choice about how we wait. COVID-19 happens, think of all the creative ways we have responded when we couldn't live life in the usual way. What came to your mind? Design our masks, more thinking, meditate, pray, puzzles, deeper connections with our family.

Music is an example of how to live. Music is an abstract background where the getting there isn't an irritating tension to be rushed through but an exciting anticipation. I'm talking about classical instrumental music, especially music that uses a wide variety of spirit. It's different than other styles of music. Responses to music are personal and taste-driven.

I can imagine the arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, or I can feel the coming of God's answers to my questions. Wait for them. Wait for them, or I sense the push of Christ when I listen to this music upward to a life beyond my Monday and chained existence. The harmony keeps rising. Wait for it. Wait for it. What does God have in store for you? Especially in hard times. Wait for it. God the Creator is puling us, pushing us and I love the feeling, that wonderment, that anticipation, that divine excitement.

We are being invited into different answers. How we live now will define our future, but we're waiting with God at our side. What if we were creative while we wait, and in so doing, create a God-beckoned future that will be ready in God's fullness of time? Will you be God's next great idea? Go in peace and wait for it. God has blessed the almost. Amen.