Wait For It

If you have spent even a minute on social media, you have probably seen the caption “Wait for it” on videos. This is an indication that the funny moment or big reveal happens at the very end of the clip. Do you suppose this is an indication of how short our attention spans have become? Do we really need an instruction on a 30 second video to wait for the ending? That’s a scary thought.

Our lectionary this week has a lot of “wait for it” instructions. We find it again in this passage from Habakkuk. Habakkuk stood before Jerusalem as yet another foreign enemy army was on a rampage to destroy Judah. God’s people remained there after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., but it became evident that Judah will fall as well.

This remarkable dialogue between the prophet and God has a lot to teach us about waiting, disappointment, and why it sometimes seems that God is inactive in our strife. Or is he?

Habakkuk 1 (Common English Bible)

1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

Lord, how long will I call for help and you not listen?
        I cry out to you, “Violence!”
            but you don’t deliver us.
Why do you show me injustice and look at anguish
        so that devastation and violence are before me?
There is strife, and conflict abounds.
        The Instruction is ineffective.
            Justice does not endure
            because the wicked surround the righteous.
        Justice becomes warped.

These words express the tears of frustration and betrayal that the people of Judah felt. They saw the walls closing in and were acutely aware of their impending destruction. Why was God not coming to their defense? Where was the justice? Why were the wicked people prospering?

But Habakkuk remembers his place, and returns to his post in humble obedience.

2:1  I will take my post;
        I will position myself on the fortress.
        I will keep watch to see what the Lord says to me
        and how he will respond to my complaint.

Then God answered the prophet’s complaint.

Then the Lord answered me and said,

Write a vision, and make it plain upon a tablet
    so that a runner can read it.
        There is still a vision for the appointed time;
            it testifies to the end;
                it does not deceive.

If you are in a place of great hurt right now and you need God to come, read this. He will come in his time.

If it delays, wait for it;
        for it is surely coming; it will not be late.

Some people’s desires are truly audacious;
            they don’t do the right thing.
        But the righteous person will live honestly

So, if you are waiting for justice, vengeance, deliverance, the truth to come out, or any audacious thing to be overturned, just wait for it. Return to your post in humble obedience. Surely it is coming, saith the Lord.

Waiting for Dawn by Michelle Robertson

I Hope, Lord

Waiting and watching. Every parent knows this drill. When your child is ill, teased, bullied, about to make a bad decision, misses the catch that loses the game, etc., that is your job: to wait and watch. Parenting comes with a certain amount of sleepless nights. The bad news is, this is not confined to their early years. I have friends who are preparing to send their kids off to college in the middle of a pandemic. They are walking the kitchen floorboards at 3 AM just like they did when those children were babies. Waiting and watching.

As a world community, we are also waiting and watching. A deadly virus that was supposed to be gone by now has mutated into an even deadlier virus. Hospitals are filling up again and non-COVID cases are having to wait and watch longer than they should due to the overcrowding of COVID patients. A friend’s daughter had to wait for a room for several hours longer than expected after a surgery because of this. Others are being turned away from their local Emergency Rooms for lack of beds.

Waiting and watching.

Psalm 130 is known as a penitential psalm, and is part of a collection of psalms of ascents that were sung by Hebrew pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. It appears in Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant liturgies, and has been set to music by several composers. It is known as a song that is used in times of “communal distress.” How appropriate then, for us to study it today.

Psalm 130 (Common English Bible)

I cry out to you from the depths, Lord—
my Lord, listen to my voice!
    Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!
If you kept track of sins, Lord—
    my Lord, who would stand a chance?
But forgiveness is with you—
    that’s why you are honored.

I hope, Lord.
My whole being hopes,
    and I wait for God’s promise.
My whole being waits for my Lord—
    more than the night watch waits for morning;
    yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

Israel, wait for the Lord!
    Because faithful love is with the Lord;
    because great redemption is with our God!
He is the one who will redeem Israel
    from all its sin.

This is a song that is meant to comfort the discomforted. The beauty of the language of hope overrides the lament about waiting. The psalmist pleads for God to hear his request for mercy, and then reminds God of his forgiving nature. He reminds us that we, too, can wait for God’s promises.

What are you waiting for? What keeps you awake at night? Remember this, as you pace: God’s faithful love will redeem you, and in fact will redeem the world. So take comfort, all who wait. God hears our cries from the depths, and is coming to save us.

Our hope is in you, Lord.

Hope Rises by Michelle Robertson

Post-Pandemic Plans

My husband just made a reservation at a favorite restaurant in Disney World for September. It is a reservation that in normal times is impossible to get, especially for a popular time in the evening, but it’s ours now. The thing I love the most about this is that we are starting to think in concrete terms about life AP….After Pandemic.

It is good to do this. Our patient watching-and-waiting is energized when we allow ourselves to think about life getting back to normal. We may still be staying at home in September, but it sure feels good to look ahead and dream.

This morning’s reading is just like that. Isaiah, the renowned Old Testament prophet, was also in a watching-and-waiting place. It was during the time when Israel was divided into a Northern Kingdom (Israel) and a Southern Kingdom (Judah). Isaiah watched as the Northern Kingdom was overrun by the Assyrians, and the Israelites were captured and taken to places far away. Judah is hanging on for now, and in the midst of this, Isaiah writes this beautiful vision of a post-diaspora celebration where all the people of the world will come to feast in Jerusalem:

Isaiah 25 (The Message)

But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will throw a feast for all the people of the world,
A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines,
    a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.
And here on this mountain, God will banish
    the pall of doom hanging over all peoples,

The shadow of doom darkening all nations.
    Yes, he’ll banish death forever.
And God will wipe the tears from every face.
    He’ll remove every sign of disgrace
From his people, wherever they are.
    Yes! God says so!

9-10 Also at that time, people will say,
    “Look at what’s happened! This is our God!
We waited for him and he showed up and saved us!
    This God, the one we waited for!
Let’s celebrate, sing the joys of his salvation.
    God’s hand rests on this mountain!”

Oh, how this resonates today! We long for God to come and remove the shadow of doom, the PALL of doom, from our world today. We long to be able to gather together, to lay down our masks and gloves, and to feast on the finest foods and vintage wines.

The time is coming. God will wipe the tears from every face. He will remove every sign of this pandemic from his people, wherever they are. God’s hand rests on his creation, and he will show up and save us, in his time.

What are your post-pandemic dreams? What is the first thing you want to do when the restrictions are lifted and the danger has passed? What do you miss the most? Dream and plan, friends! It is good for your soul.

But for now, we wait.

And as we wait, remember this: we are one day closer to the end of this thing. Thanks be to God.

Watching and Waiting. Photo by Michelle Robertson