While We are in Line

by Pastor Doug Stratton — April 19, 2020

1 Peter 1:3-8 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Central Idea: We are in a time of waiting that is pregnant with opportunity.

As we journey together through the new landscape that the corona virus is creating, we are in a unique time. This is a world where little has changed, but everything has changed. Politico Magazine surveyed “more than 30 smart, macro thinkers this week, and they have some news for you: Buckle in.” Change is a-comin’!

Waiting, that word has taken a whole new meaning for people all around the world this year. Some are waiting in the emergency room; some are waiting to reschedule their weddings; some are waiting in grocery lines; some are waiting for their unemployment checks; some are waiting to bury their dead. We are in a period of waiting. The disciples were also in a period of waiting. They waited to see what would happen after Jesus was crucified. They waited in the upper room for at least 8 days after Jesus appeared to them before Thomas saw Jesus; they waited in Galilee to meet Jesus; they waited in Jerusalem for the coming off the Spirit; and then they waited their entire lives for the return of Jesus. Their lives were lived in a period of waiting.

I was reminded this week of a quote from the movie “Titanic.” Rose is now old and is remembering that night so many years ago: “the seven hundred people in the (life) boats had nothing to do but wait. Wait to die, wait to live, wait for an absolution that would never come.”

Nothing to do but wait… perhaps you know what that feels like. You are waiting to hear from the college to which you applied. You are waiting for approval from your mortgage company. Your school has closed, you have been laid off, you are working from home, your grandchildren can’t come to visit. All you can do is wait. You are waiting to die, waiting to live, waiting for an absolution that does not come. We wait to be absolved of our survivor’s guilt and we wait to be absolved of the guilt we place upon ourselves because we are not “productive” enough.

Waiting is not at all uncommon for humans. We don’t necessarily like it, but as creatures who have a conception of the future, we are in a constant state of waiting. In fact, in Romans 8:22-23 we read:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” We are people whose lives and lived in waiting. 

But let me ask you, is there a better picture of waiting, than the expectant parent as they anticipate, and fret and dream, and hope, and prepare for the birth of their first child? (Mark, tell me about the preparation you and Jesse are doing now.) Paul said that all of creation is waiting that way for God to act! 

For the next few weeks as we continue to think about Jesus’ resurrection, and as we wait for our buildings and our society to reopen to us, we are going to reflect on waiting, the blessings of waiting, the hardships of waiting, the opportunities that come from waiting, the growth that comes through waiting, and the confidence we can have in the midst of the waiting. 

The passage we read this morning in 1 Peter is about waiting for the inheritance that is kept in heaven, and about trials that we experience in the between time. 

In past years, we have talked about waiting during the season of Advent. Waiting, we said, is not a passive experience, it is a time of living fully as we move toward the promise of Jesus’ birth. As we move through Advent there is excitement and anticipation, we know what is coming, and it is going to be GOOD! We know that our wait will be rewarded by the celebration of Christ’s birth.

But this time, this period of waiting is very different. We don’t know when it will end, we don’t know what we will find at the end. We don’t know how the world be changed. Some of us don’t know if we will have jobs. We don’t know if the virus will return with a vengeance. We don’t know if the economy will recover before we lose our houses. More of us may get sick. Some of us may die. This is not the anticipatory waiting of Advent. This is the kind of waiting that Peter was talking about: Salvation is coming “he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade… In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Friends, this is the reality, while we wait for the day of our salvation, we struggle, we experience grief, we face all kinds of trials. Right now, we may not be able to see what God has prepared for us, but know this, God is at work. Peter said, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. In the midst of it all, we can hear throughout the scriptures the repeated command to Wait on the Lord. Wait in hope, wait patiently, wait expectantly. Wait for the Lord, for we will see the salvation of the Lord in the Land of the Living.

So as we wait for the day of salvation, what do we do? Mark and Jess are waiting for the coming of their baby. The time of waiting is a time of preparation. But for this little one, it is a time of growth. In fact, he is growing faster than he will at any time in his life. As his body grows and his eyes develop and his fingers learn to grasp and his lungs practice breathing amniotic fluid, he has no idea what awaits him. His development is pregnant with possibility.

And so it is for each of us. We are in a period of waiting, but God wants to use this time to prepare us the next step, not just for our heavenly reward, but for the next phase of our lives together. This time is pregnant with possibility. How will we use the time? As this baby grows, he may not know what lies ahead, but he is being prepared. And today, though we may not know what lies ahead, we, too, are being prepared. The trials we face, according to Peter, will prove the genuineness of our faith, refining us and equipping us. The way we adapt to ministry today will prepare us to impact our world tomorrow. The steps we take to connect with our community now will set the stage for healing ministries in the future. 

As a church we are being prepared.

But this time of waiting is also a time of preparation for us individually. Now that you are not running around in the evening from meeting to meeting, perhaps it is time to learn a new prayer practice. Maybe this time of waiting is a chance to learn a new language, or read some of those books that have been getting dusty on the shelf. Maybe you want to learn to play an instrument. Now may be the perfect time to write letters to your grandchildren or make phone calls to neighbors. This time of slowing down is a gift of God, use it to go deeper in to your walk with God, and into your own life. 

Two years ago I was preparing for a time of Sabbatical rest. It was a chance to slow down and be renewed. I read books, I fished, Sheryl and I traveled and sat in the back yard. It was a time that truly refreshed me and helped open to door to new ideas and new possibilities. Today, we are each being given the same opportunity. OK, we can’t travel, but we can slow down and ask God to renew us. 

Waiting can either be frustrating, or refreshing. The difference is found in how we approach it. Peter declares Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Friends, you are receiving the end result of your faith. This is happening right now. So the question is, how is your faith carrying you through this time of crisis right now? As I have talked with many of you, I have been awed by the faith and joy I have heard in your voices and your testimony. As I have shared  with you at prayer meeting and bible study I have heard you express your conviction that Jesus is with us and will carry is through. 

On your screens there is a way to raise your hand, and if you wish to share how your faith has helped carry you through this time, I invite you to raise your hand and share your experience. As you share others will be blessed. If you would rather share how your faith has carried you through this time in writing, you can use the chat box. If you are on your phone,  you can raise your hand by pressing *9

This is what God is doing in our waiting because in reality life is lived in the in-between.  

Wait on the Lord, Our God will come.

~ Pastor Doug