Think with me for a moment: when was the last time your well-planned trip down the interstate – I95, or maybe the Schuykill – was suddenly interrupted by that dreaded sight: brake lights as far as the eye can see, lines of cars backed up for miles, a parking lot, bumper-to-bumper? Your car comes to a stop, idles, and then… you wait. Why is it so hard for us to wait? It’s not just traffic you know. That website takes more than 5 seconds to load? Obnoxious. How bout that security screening at the airport? Oh, tons of fun. Visited the DMV lately? It’s ridiculous. All this waiting drives us crazy!
Why? Well, we’re busy people. We have plans, goals; we’re going places, pedal to metal, outta my way. Now, some people are “busy” doing things that probably aren’t as important as they think. Some folks could probably stand to wait a little bit. But not us – God has called us! The Kingdom is coming and we got some serious work to do! Our time is God’s time so you better not waste it! Everybody hates waiting because everyone thinks their time is of utmost importance. However, I think those of us who “work on God’s clock” have a particularly difficult time when it comes to waiting on all these “worldly” things getting in the way of our “heavenly” calling.
Our text this morning from the prophet Jeremiah begins with a message we’re sometimes loathe to hearing: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” “The days are surely coming…” Ok, that’s nice Jeremiah but WHEN, when are these days coming? When will God fulfill God’s promises? Waiting in traffic is bad enough, but waiting on God can almost be unbearable. Jeremiah’s audience would surely agree: the holy city Jerusalem was under attack by the Babylonians and God says, “The days are surely coming…”? These people literally had no time to wait; Jerusalem was on life support. Are our lives much different today? We read, we write, we analyze, we meditate, we pray, we preach, we serve, we listen, we counsel, we give, give, give, and we go, go, go and then one day we just… crash. We’re busy, but if we’re honest we’re really on life support.
In the midst of Israel’s distress, as their world is quite literally being destroyed before their eyes, God speaks a word of promise to God’s people: “Wait. I am on the way. Trust me. I am faithful. Don’t lose hope.” Israel’s sin had led to this point; they had turned away from God and worshipped idols, forsaking the law, failing to practice righteousness and justice in the land. We have our idols too: namely, ourselves. The law we prefer to follow is not God’s, it’s the one where we’re in control. Justice and righteousness are great but surely not more important than my own personal success. Our self-idolatry propels us to be busier and busier, and more and more out of control. We take God’s work upon ourselves – and that’s quite a burden to carry. God’s says to us today: “Wait. I am on the way. Trust me. I am faithful. Don’t lose hope.”
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord.” These words are hard for us to hear because we want God now, on our terms. The season of Advent teaches us to wait; to wait on God’s coming to save us. Not just to give ourselves a nice break to recharge our batteries before diving headlong back into our crazy, self-important lives. Rather, we wait because our lives, our work, our callings are not really ours at all – they came from God; we belong to God; “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Our waiting leads us to repentance. We realize that it is God who “executes justice and righteousness in the land” – not us. It is God who saves us and heals us day by day; we don’t do this on our own strength. Yes, God has called us to participate in this work of restoring all creation, but we need the humility that can comes as we learn to stop, to wait, and repent of our self-idolatry. This kind of waiting is hopeful because it allows us to confess, in the words of Bishop Ken Utener, that “the kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.” What might this waiting on God look like in our lives today? One option is the ancient practice of Sabbath; a weekly time to stop, to repent from our attempts to be God, and to celebrate our good, created limits.
Surely, God IS coming to restore our brokenness, to restore the world in justice and righteousness. God is faithful today. Let’s get busy… and wait.