Monday, December 16, 2013

ADVENT III - THE DISCIPLINE OF WAITING

Third Sunday of Advent
Dec 15, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart




Probably the hardest part of life and of our discipleship is the necessity of waiting.  Anyone ever feel like WAIT is a four-letter-word!???  Our scriptures this morning reveal the necessity of waiting and some of the secrets of success in this discipline that the Lord consistently seems to require of us.  And I have to say here at the outset that this is a particular problem for us in the west, much more than it is for almost any other culture around the world or down through history!!!  We are so much an "instant oatmeal - Instant Coffee - toaster strudel - leggo waffles" culture -  anything that will get us there faster is an object of worship!


A Keurig?  What is that?  A single shot instant coffee maker!  You can have your brewed expresso or latte in a minute - less than the time it used to take to boil water and stir in the awful instant coffee stuff.  Its all about speed for our culture and if there is one thing that we collectively HATE, it's to WAIT!

Can I say it here?   God takes a longer view!

And He has built that necessity into the fabric of life.  Waiting means that God is at work in a preparatory fashion.  The question for us in America and the West becomes how do we wait on God and not just do it ourselves.  We have gotten in so much trouble in this country and in our own lives on account of our impatience with God and His processes - we get out ahead and end up doing things  in our own power. In fact I believe that that is the majority of the problem in standard issue American Christianity!  We approach God with our need for instant gratification and when He doesn't respond appropriately or in our time table, we go on ahead.
We leave God behind!

God is a God who uses time and circumstance in His favor!  And to be in right relationship with Him we need to understand His priorities and His heart.  I've been in a relationship with God now for coming up on 50 years and if I've learned anything ( and that is a legitimate question ) ... IF I've learned anything ... I've learned that He is not in a hurry!  And that we can't help Him out in almost any way!!  God's time is God's time - so much so that scripture actually has a different word for it - KAIROS.

The word for the regular passage of time is CHRONOS - the ticking of the seconds away - chronograph, and chronology - the study of time.  But when the time becomes "FULL" - when the season is here for the fulfillment of promise - for the execution of God's plan, often the word changes and KAIROS is used.  It is the "fullness of time"  - when that for which we have waited is about to be made manifest!  The time of the harvest is Kairos time!  Paul in Galatians encourages them with the words:  "let us not become weary in well doing, for in due season we will reap, if we do not faint." (Gal 6:9)  

So how do we endure the CHRONOS while waiting for the KAIROS?? 

Time and circumstance are tools that God has firmly in hand!  And the work of His hands today is in many ways the same work Jesus grew up doing.  It's ironic - almost prophetic - that Jesus was a carpenter - the eldest son of his earthy father, Joseph, who would have been trained in his father's craft and expected to take over the family business in time.  Which Jesus probably actually did for a time, before His baptism by his cousin, John.

How did Jesus wait???   We have evidence that He knew his place in life early on - the incident of his staying behind in the temple at Jerusalem and being in conversation with the rabbi's and teachers there - "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"  There was already at 12 a thoroughly formed sense in Jesus of His identity as God's Son and that there was "business" to do there as well - and yet for nearly 20 years he subjected Himself to his earthly father and became the expected carpenter of Nazareth.

I love a prayer that I learned from Bishop Terry Kelshaw a few years back:

Lord Jesus Christ
Master Carpenter of Nazareth
Who on the cross
In wood and nails
First worked our full salvation;
Use well your tools
In this your workshop
That we who come to you rough hewn
May by your grace
Be fashioned to a true beauty and usefulness
In your service.
   AMEN

This is a prayer that captures the essence of Jesus, the carpenter, who is Lord!  The experience of the wood in a carpentry shop is one of waiting!  The tools for shaping and forming the wood are not a pleasant thing, if the wood were animate.  There is cutting and nailing and fitting-together - there is planing and sanding and painting involved.  The "circumstances" of being formed are not all that pleasant !  But God has a finished product in mind!

So what is all the waiting for?

Throughout our readings this morning we hear the signs of the goal. We catch glimpses of the end product that God has in mind:

From Isaiah...




They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you."
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

From David the Psalmist:
7
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; *
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
8
The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger; *
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.
From Mary, His mother:

He has mercy on those who fear him *
    in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
    he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
    and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
    for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
    to Abraham and his children for ever.


From Jesus Himself:

Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Waiting on the Lord

Apparently Jesus (and Mary) had a good grasp on this waiting thing.  After his time in the temple in Jerusalem it was nearly 20 years before he was baptized by John and when into his public ministry and then only for 3 years. 

It seems to me there is a lesson for us to learn:

1.  God has things well in hand!  He has a plan and design and our part is to "trust in Him, lean not on our own understanding, acknowledge Him in all our ways and HE will make our paths straight"

2. Wait is a four-letter-word.  God uses time and circumstance in our lives to form us into, as Bishop Kelshaw's prayer mentioned, "a true beauty and usefulness" for the Kingdom of God and for eternity.  Waiting is not an easy thing, and it never has been, for any of God's people.  It was not intended to be! Just read some of the Psalms of David. He had to wait in some of the most dire of circumstances - all after he was anointed by Samuel to be the next King!!!

3. Look to what God is forming.  His plan is to fashion you into the very likeness of Jesus!
The bible tells us that God has specific works planned out for us to walk in, but the timing of those works He keeps for himself!  That is why we need to be ready!  It's not just Jesus' return that we are waiting for - we get up each day, assured that His mercy is renewed every morning and that we are to be ready to walk in that mercy, to walk justly with others and humbly with Him.  We must come to the place where we recognize that every step, every turn, every breath is from HIM - every moment of every day is gift and we live them best when we look to the giver for His direction and empowerment.

Mary had her attitude right at the beginning - but there were nine months to wait - and lots of circumstances to weather, before Jesus was born!

John the Baptist had his attitude right, but came to a place where he doubted - where he wondered, and sent his men to ask Jesus - "are you the one or should we look for another." Last week we mentioned John's statement:  "He must increase and I must decrease."  It was in that process that these questions came, even for John the Baptist!

So don't feel ashamed or condemned that you hate to wait!  It's in our blood!  We have eternity build in!  Waiting does not come naturally.  But it is natural and necessary.

Shall we pray:


Lord Jesus Christ
Master Carpenter of Nazareth
Who on the cross
In wood and nails
First worked our full salvation;
Use well your tools
In this your workshop
That we who come to you rough hewn
May by your grace
Be fashioned to a true beauty and usefulness
In your service.

   AMEN

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