Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Third Day After Easter

But as for me, I will look to the Lord,
 I will wait for the God of my salvation;
 my God will hear me. . .

Shepherd your people with your staff,
 flock that belongs to you,
 which lives alone in a forest 
in the midst of a garden land; 
let them feed in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old. As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
 show us marvelous things. (Psalm 7:7, 14-15)

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Most of us are waiting for something. We’re waiting for a big break, waiting for our ship to come in, waiting for the right person to come along, waiting for quitting time, waiting for retirement. We do a lot of waiting. It seems life too much of our life is spent in some kind of waiting room filled with old magazines and bad coffee.

The ancient people of Israel were in exile, and they waited. Perhaps some had lost hope in God, lost hope in ever returning home again, and lost hope in their future. The prophet Micah, however, speaks of hope in waiting, because he intends, regardless of what everyone else does, to wait on God. He trusts that God will hear him.

Micah describes the people as a flock of sheep who are surrounded by a lush land, but are isolated in a forest—not the best environment for sheep. He calls on God to be their shepherd and to show his people marvelous things once again. He believes that life in the garden is their destiny rather than hiddeness in the shadows of the forest. The prophet recalls the history of God’s people and how God acted in the past to rescue them. He is confident that God will act again.

I’ve experienced crazy things in my life that I can only interpret as the work of God. Exact amounts of money for specific needs have shown up at just the right time; cries for help for those I love have been answered; direction for life choices has come in surprising ways. Yet, when things in life get dicey, I start waiting on the wrong things. I wait for a brilliant idea to emerge from my own brilliantness to solve the problem, or I wait for new strategies to emerge, or I wait for financial markets to wake up and make my future brighter than it seems. It’s a painful waiting and there is no rest in it.

Jesus employs the metaphor of the grape vine to make his point about waiting. I’ve been to wineries and seen grape vines at work. They just sit there, doing what grape vines and branches do. The branches are wedded to the vine, and the soak up sun, soil, and water and the fruit follows. I love visiting wineries because they feel so peaceful and relaxed. If that’s what waiting is really about, then I’m all for it.

The brand of waiting that Jesus recommends is one of abiding, or living. It’s not a waiting that is passive, isolated, or disinterested, but is instead a waiting that is immersed in the life of Jesus. There is a rhythm of trust in that kind of waiting, because Jesus moves in concert with the desires and intentions of God, and that waiting-life works its way into our lives by the breath of God’s Spirit—the Holy Spirit. Abiding in Jesus is a life of participation in what God is doing all around us. It allows for the best kind of waiting.

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