A Waiting Heart

by Pastor Doug Stratton — May 3, 2020

Isaiah 64: 1-8

Central Idea: We live in the Midst of God’s revealing salvation. We wait in Hope.

Listen for the Word of the Lord from Isaiah 64

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,

    that the mountains would tremble before you!

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze

    and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

    and cause the nations to quake before you!

3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,

    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

4 Since ancient times no one has heard,

    no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,

    who remember your ways.

But when we continued to sin against them,

    you were angry.

    How then can we be saved?

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,

    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

we all shrivel up like a leaf,

    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

7 No one calls on your name

    or strives to lay hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us

    and have given us over to[b] our sins.

8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.

    We are the clay, you are the potter;

    we are all the work of your hand.

Intro:  Thanks to Covid-19, we are in an extended Lenten journey. It is a time of waiting.

We are waiting for our doors to open, for hugs from friends, for celebrations in the streets, for farmer’s markets and birthday parties. We are waiting for schools to reopen, choirs to resume, and even bartenders to mix our drinks. We are waiting to get our hair cut, our nails done, and a relaxing massage. We are waiting. But we don’t like it. It seems that I am saying that every week, but it is true. That is why we are seeing protests across the country and states moving as quickly as they can to open their businesses. All while we wait.

But the waiting is having another effect as well. On Tuesday, Wired published a story that began this way: “SHE HAD ALREADY left him once, with the kids, in the car. He sought therapy and worked on his anger management, so she went back. Things were better for a time, and then they got worse. When he lost his job as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, his treatment of her became violently, unbearably abusive. But, as she told WIRED under the condition of anonymity, she has nowhere to go. He trashed the car she had left him in. Shelters are full. “I am in a situation where I have to decide if I want to sleep on the street, with my kids, or if I want to stay until I have the funds to get a car that I can sleep in,” she says. “I am hoping that the stimulus [check] will come through soon, so I can get a cheap car and a couple of nights in a motel. I do fear that I will be stuck here for a while.” She waits, and waits. Domestic violence is spiking all around the world. If you are in a situation of waiting like this, I want you to know there are resources available to you. The domestic abuse hotline has expanded and is available, friends are willing to help. There is help, even in a time of waiting and you are not alone.

The Exile of the Jews into Babylon was one the most formative events in the history of the nation. After years of building the nation, and after building the culture, suddenly their lives were turned upside down. Their temple was destroyed and their homes sacked. And then, after years of waiting, in 538 BC, Cyrus, the King of Persia, decreed that the people could return to their homes. But it was not a light switch, people did not suddenly dance all the way back to Palestine. Rather the people slowly began to return to the land. And they discovered things were not back to normal. In fact, years after the people had begun the return and the temple had been rebuilt, there was still an uneasy waiting among the people, when will we know God’s presence again?

Waiting… We get tired of it. But there is a day coming. Listen to this song by Christopher Grundy:

A few years ago we used this song during Advent. I personally loved it, the musicians in the church, hated it! Why? Because it ends unresolved. I had people trying to rewrite the ending. But being unresolved was the point! We are living in an unresolved world, in an unresolved time. Daily we ask the question, “When will this all end and when will be able to return to the lives we have known?” We want resolution! But we live each day in a world that is unresolved. When the Jews cried out to God after returning to their land only to find the work was just beginning, they felt abandoned, forgotten and alone. Did you hear that in the text? They were living an unfinished story, an unresolved song. 

And we live unresolved lives. That is why we wait. Even Jesus understood that he had come to wait for God’s salvation. Time after time he said, “My time has not yet come.” Jesus was waiting for God’s time. He waited for God’s time to heal, he waited for God’s time to turn water into wine; he waited for God’s time to feed the thousands; he waited for God’s time to reveal his identity. But as he waited he worked tirelessly to announce the message of the Kingdom of God which was at hand, it was around the corner, it was in their midst.

Throughout Jesus ministry there was a patient urgency. Jesus was always available to the people, he was always willing to stop and talk, he always had time to show God’s love to children and tax collectors and prostitutes and widows and even soldiers, and yet there was an urgency – He set his face toward Jerusalem and journeyed with resolve; he said, “While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me, because night is coming when we will no longer be able to work.”

And even after his death and resurrection, when the disciples, asked if he was going to restore the kingdom at this time, he responded, “No one knows the day or the hour.” The waiting had not ended. They were still in midst.

But we don’t like waiting.

So instead of waiting, we rush around trying to tie up loose ends. We try to find the final answers to the questions that disturb us. But the more we try, the more loose ends and questions we find. We work harder, we try to work out our salvation, and it is exhausting.

In his book Vanishing Grace Philip Yancey offers a different approach. He suggests that rather than trying to solve all our problems, or waiting for solutions before we act or move forward, God is offering to join us as a partner in the work that is to be done. He quotes Anne LaMott as saying, “Again and again I tell God I need help (and I will wait for God to do his thing), and God says, “Isn’t that fabulous? Because I need help too. So you go get that old woman over there some water, and I’ll figure out what we’re going to do about your stuff.”

You see, the time of waiting we are in cannot be passive: Jesus did not only say, “I don’t know when God is going to do this” he also said “Now, you are to be my witnesses everywhere you go.” In other words, we are in the midst of it all, we have to wait for the fullness of God’s salvation, but our wait must not be passive, God invites us to partner with Him in the work of his kingdom.

Jesus’ heart was a waiting heart. He was willing to wait for God’s timing, he was willing to wait for faith to grow. He demonstrated patient urgency – that was his heart. In the midst of unresolved situations and problems, Jesus was willing to wait for his Father to act.

Are you getting tired of trying to control all the loose ends? Do the unresolved questions and chords in your life drive you crazy? Jesus longs to give you and me his heart of patient urgency, a heart that waits for God’s timing. Even in the midst of all of this, His light is drawing near. That is the journey of this extended Lent, we know the end of the story, we have experienced resurrection, but we still wait. And that journey of waiting will bring peace to our hearts. 

~ Pastor Doug