Sermon July 17 – Pentecost 5: Waiting in Hope for what is Not Seen

July 18, 2011 at 9:40 am Leave a comment
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 11 (16)
Messiah Lutheran Church
July 17, 2011

We do it all the time.
Much of our lives have been spent waiting.
We wait for the package to arrive,
for the traffic to clear out,
for the child to come home.
We wait for the right person to come along,
for dinner to be ready,
for us to be there already.
We wait for our turn in line,
we wait for our ship to come.
Much of our lives are spent waiting.
Waiting with expectation for the weekend,
waiting to fall asleep,
waiting for the alarm clock to ring.
Waiting to be grown up,
waiting to make it,
waiting to die,
waiting to understand what it is all about.

It is most frustrating, and yet it is a part of the human experience we all share.
And yet it can be the key component of one’s life.
Are you able to wait? And why?
Are you able to stand still and wait for the thing to happen,
are you able to be patient and not mess the thing up
by acting impulsively, by speaking out of turn,
by buying what you do not need with money you do not have,
by refusing to destroy with word or deed what seems to be worthless?

The Bible and the world we live in
are diametrically opposed on the subject of waiting.
The world views waiting as a necessary evil to be endured sometimes,
but on the whole we should have what we want and need and have it now.
Waiting is simply not an acceptable option.
“Patience is a virtue” is a proverb that was in style many many years ago.
Very few people today view patience as a virtue.
Instead they view delay as a vice and as an affront.
And yet when we learn patience,
when we learn to live with a situation that cannot be solved in seconds,
when we learn to live in the tension between “now” and “not yet”
we begin to come to a different place.
Those who must live with disease may come, often painfully, to a new place in their life,
where they are more willing to live without control,
where they are able to accept what is given each day.
Both Jesus’ parable of the weeds and the wheat
and Paul’s words from the letter to the Romans have to do with patience today.
For we believe that God’s Spirit is at work in us and in the world,
we believe that God in Jesus Christ has won the victory over sin and death,
and yet we are impatient,
because we do not see the evidence either in our lives
or in the life of the world.
Many churches will blame this upon their members;
that their members have not tried hard enough to clean up sin in their lives
or that they do not have enough zeal for spreading the Gospel –
that if only they tried harder, if only they did something more,
if only they were more relevant to the world they live in,
God’s kingdom would be more in evidence.
This can lead to an impatience that can easily be turned to our enemy’s advantage.

Before I went to seminary,
I was the choir director at a UCC church in Willow Street,
a few miles south of Lancaster.
The interim pastor there preached a sermon
and told a story about how she was serving on the pastoral staff
at a Christian camp in California,
and in the middle of the week she received a telephone call.
Her house was threatened by one of the wildfires that can ravage the state,
and she needed to go home and secure her belongings.
Thankfully, her house was spared, and she returned to the camp Friday night,
only to come back during the climactic worship service,
where one of her colleagues, not having heard from her,
was concocting a story out of whole cloth about her.
“Her house is gone. Her possessions are gone. Her memories are gone.
She has nothing left in the world,
and yet she has Jesus, and that’s enough for her.
Is he enough for you? Won’t you have him too?”
And here were impressionable teenagers with tears in their eyes,
saying “yes” to the Truth, but enticed by a falsehood.

There is nothing wrong with striving against sin in our lives
or spreading the Gospel.
In fact there is a danger that in patiently waiting for a Kingdom that never seems to come
we can become lackadaisical, unfocused on the promises, and stop looking for the Kingdom.
Those parables are later on in the Gospel of St Matthew.
But if we are focusing upon our own actions or inactions,
we leave God and his Word out of the equation.
We actually ignore God’s Word, and substitute our own model of success.
Try harder, work longer, maybe from time to time tell a few white lies, and you get results.
Many Christians subscribe to this model,
and become bitter, and burnt-out, and drop out of the church
and leave the faith because it doesn’t seem to work.

There are still weeds among the wheat, bad apples among the good,
and we still have to wait and will always have to wait
until God himself reveals his kingdom.

St Paul calls the Roman Christians to patience
by presenting such an inviting image of the Kingdom fulfilled
that we cannot help but wait for it to be fulfilled
rather than choose anything of our own.
We are children of God. We have been adopted.
And we wait crying out in the Spirit to our Father,
for him to fulfill all of his promises,
suffering if we must,
but rejoicing in the knowledge that when the Kingdom comes to completion,
it will so be worth the wait,
it will so outclass the suffering that the suffering can’t even be compared to it.

Jesus paints a parable of weeds among the wheat,
and the thing about these weeds is that you can’t tell them apart from the wheat,
you can’t really tell for sure which is which.
You’ve got to wait until harvest time to tell good from bad.
While Paul paints an extraordinary vision of the future,
Jesus is warning his disciples not to give up on the present,
not to be so quick to judge, not to be so quick to despair
not to wish to know who is a good Christian
and who is a bad one; who will bear fruit and who will not.
And we can make those hasty determinations, positive and negative,
about ourselves and about others.
God isn’t done with us yet,
and God isn’t done with our neighbors yet.
And we’re not in a position to know when he’s done.
Be hopeful, be prayerful, be patient with yourself and with your neighbor,
trusting in your heavenly Father.
Let Christ , the Word of promise, be your comfort and your consolation,
and the Spirit which dwells within us will give us patience
until the day we rejoice in the full glory and freedom of the Kingdom.


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