Sermon 7/20: On Waiting

July 20, 2008 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

Proper 11A

Messiah Lutheran Church

July 20, 2008

 

Who here likes to wait?

Go on, raise your hand if you enjoy the experience

of standing in line,

or idling in traffic,

or sitting and twiddling your thumbs while your computer starts up.

Not even one?

I didn’t think so.

It’s hard to wait,

and especially in our culture,

there’s nothing that’s less annoying than waiting.

I ought to be able to have everything now,

and preferably before now,

so that I can get on with all the other things I have to do.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons waiting is so difficult,

because it seems that there is more and more to pack into a day, a year, a life,

that I am wasting my time waiting for something that I need to do

before I move on to the next thing.

So I don’t particularly enjoy waiting, either.

But waiting is a necessary skill to have.

It is necessary because so much of our life is spent waiting.

To do anything of value

takes a lot of time.

The successful athlete, craftsman, or artist –

the successful person in rehab or on a diet

must painstakingly perform the same tasks over and over

and not lose hope,

not become despondent at the seeming lack of result

over a long period of time.

Waiting is a necessary skill to have,

not only for our undertakings but also for our faith life,

and perhaps especially for our faith life.

That’s why having a Lenten fast can be so beneficial –

it’s not something that we do to prove to God that we’re holy,

but it’s an spiritual exercise in learning how to wait in faithful hope

for God to give every good thing,

instead of what we usually do, which is try and take for ourselves.

 

Both our readings from Paul’s letter to the Romans

and Matthew’s Gospel

deal with this idea of waiting today.

Jesus tells a parable to those who are waiting for the fullness of the kingdom

and are confused as to the presence of evil people

not outside the church,

but inside the church.

Last week we had the seed that fell on good soil,

growing and producing thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.

But mixed in, Jesus says,

are these things that in the King James Version are called “tares”

and the New Revised Standard calls “weeds.”

The commentaries will tell you that they are these things

that look like wheat when they start out

but when they are full grown, are most assuredly inedible,

and will ruin the wheat if they are mixed together.

Remember, Jesus is not giving gardening advice here.

I would advise you to weed your garden if you have weeds.

The Bible is not a agricultural manual,

it is a book of faith,

and Jesus tells the parable

to tell us something about life in the kingdom of heaven.

The fact is that even though the kingdom of heaven has come in Jesus,

we still have to wait – even almost two thousand years after the fact –

for there to be a perfect society,

a perfect church.

And the fact is that it is sometimes hard to be patient

with each other,

with those who seem to not get it,

with those who are hypocrites,

with those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing,

using their positions in the church to fleece other sheep.

 

Our partner synod, the Lower Susquehanna, recently underwent a great breach of trust.

The former synod treasurer has been indicted

on charges of stealing over a million dollars

over a period of eleven years.

He got away with it for so long because he didn’t take from the operating budget,

but from money that was meant for mission overseas.

The Roman Catholic church is still healing from its sex abuse scandal,

and don’t think that clergy sexual abuse is a problem limited to Catholic priests.

And there are many other instances in history where,

under the cloak of Christ,

the unscrupulous have used the Church’s power for personal gain of whatever kind.

When these things happen,

there is usually a reaction of anger and betrayal

and an impulse to root out the evil in the midst of God’s garden.

Jesus’ advice is to wait.

Now he doesn’t mean to ignore obvious wrongdoing,

but once we start with judgment as our default position,

we start judging other people even in the absence of wrongdoing,

we start questioning their motives,

we begin to take God’s place as judge –

and we sinful people are not very good at judging.

Wait – Jesus says –

that’s part of being in the kingdom is to wait for the harvest –

the day when God separates those destined to shine in his glory

from those who will be cast from his presence.

And it’s also part of being in the kingdom to hope that in that day

God will judge more mercifully than we would –

that God will rescue those who have abused their trust –

that he would show them their sin and bring them to their knees

so that he might raise them up.

For Christians who believe that their salvation

is not because of any works they have done,

but by God’s grace alone,

it is permitted, no, commanded,

that they pray for the salvation of even their enemies:

“Forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

 

But what of those who have borne the wounds of suffering

from those, inside and outside the church,

who decide that what they need, they must take from another?

What of us who have to live with those who abuse our trust and our patience?

For us, St. Paul says, “I consider that the sufferings of the present time

are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed to us.”

For us, our Lord Jesus says, “Then the righteous shall shine like the sun

in the kingdom of their Father.” 

For us is given the seemingly unheroic task of waiting:

but waiting is much easier when there is something wonderful to anticipate.

The athlete anticipates the victory,

the farmer the crop,

the person in rehab the day she walks through that hospital exit.

And we who are children of God

anticipate that day

when God untangles the good from the evil in the world,

when God brings all to fruition and fulfills all our hope.

Who knows?

Perhaps that day is delayed only for the sake of those

over whom God the gardener still bends in patient hope,

that out of weeds may come wheat,

that out of evil may come good,

that out of sadness may come joy.

Lord, have mercy upon us and upon all!

Amen.

 

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Entry filed under: 1.

Sermon 7/13/2008 – The Seed is the Word of the Kingdom Sermon 8/31/2008

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