Romans 4:13; 18-22 & Mark 8: 31 to 9:1
In thinking about Lent, I began to think about ‘time’. It is the season where we spend time doing something different, a time to give something up, or a time to give, time to serve. Often it is seen as a season or time in the church to learn, or relearn, to challenge, to heal and to time to learn again to be fully dependent on God.
Thinking about it, it took my mind back to a popular song by Pete Seeger called Turn, Turn, Turn! Based on Ecclesiastes 3; 1–11 in the Old Testament – you probably remember words such “ there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven”.
It talks about there being a time to act and a time to be, like a time to search and time to give up, a time to be silent and a time to speak.
Lent is a time to act and time to stop and to wait, and at times to simply be.
Is waiting about a lack of fulfilment?
Let’s look at today’s Lectionary readings. Starting off with the passage from Romans, Paul retells the story of the promise to Abram and Sarah, by God, that they would become first-time parents and parents of a mighty nation. At age 100 for Abraham and 90 for Sarah, their laughing attitude to the announcement is, to say the least, understandable.
Verse 18 says this will happen against all human hope. But in verse 16 we read that the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all …
Faithful waiting, positive waiting, fulfilling waiting is a waiting that is born in God’s promise, nurtured by God’s grace, which rests in the eternal guarantee.
The Markan passage too has an element of waiting to it, and the expectation of a future fulfilment. Jesus is saying what must happen to him and to his followers in the mission still to come. But in this space after the activity of feeding the 4000 and restoring sight to the blind man, Jesus stops and meditates on the journey ahead. Impetuous Peter, of course, is impatient and wants to map out an alternate journey for Jesus that does not involve the cross.
But in the events of Easter we are reminded that God does not take Jesus out of Good Friday. No! God took Jesus through Good Friday.
We too should not rush from Good Friday to the open tomb of two days later, but reflect, and learn, be patient, and see fulfilment lying just beyond the process or even in the process itself. Maybe fulfilment is seen not just in an endpoint of the journey but something we carry within ourselves during the journey and even in the waiting.
Maybe verse one of chapter 9 holds the key, when Jesus says “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God”.
Maybe we hear these words in the passage, before the end of mortal life people have the opportunity to experience something of the fulfilment of the kingdom of God, even in the waiting. As we read in Luke 17 versus 20 and 21 Jesus says the kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, here it is! Or there it is! Because the kingdom of God is within you. In the waiting, already present is a partial fulfilment.
What does patient waiting look like for a Christian? Henry Nouwen the famous priest, educator, author, and social advocate, says it does not involve passivity.
It is not, as we heard during kids time, the sort of waiting we may experience when we are waiting for the sun to rise, rain to stop for the bus to come, the last visitor to go to the traffic light to turn green.
Patient active waiting is where we live in the present moment to the full , in a space where we find signs of the one for whom we are waiting. patience comes from the Latin verb ‘patior’ – which means ‘to suffer’.
Waiting patiently, as Nowen says is ‘suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground in which we stand – grow into strong plants’.
Waiting patiently, also means paying attention to what is unfolding right before our very eyes
We are seeing this now with the opening of the Jamberoo Church and Soundspace, we see this in the steps that bring us closer to our missional building program , we see it in the increased offerings, we see it in the call to prayer that is being answered by increasing numbers amongst us and around us. And we see in these works the first rays of God’s glorious return.
As we have waited during Advent for the birth of a baby, we wait in lent for the coming of Easter, we wait on Good Friday for the coming of Sunday, we wait after Easter for the coming of the Pentecostal spirit, and after the ascension we wait for His coming again in glory.
But we see the beauty and purpose along the way, we live in that purpose along the way as we work in that purpose along the way. As our own Basis of Union says those wonderful words that “we are pilgrim people always on the way to the promised goal and on the way Christ feeds the church with Word and sacraments and it has the gift of the spirit in order that it may not lose its way”.
Let me finish with a true story from Mike Yaconelli’s book about childlike faith. I think it has its focus on fulfilment while on the journey, rather simply when we reach home .