Easter 7 A 2020
John 17:11 ‘Given to Wait’
(Jesus prayed) And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
WE are in a waiting time.
We are in a period of patience.
We are in a season of stamina.
But it’s not what you think…
It’s true, we are waiting for things to open up – even for the church building to be unlocked to let us in together. We are postponing surgeries, holding off weddings, and delaying funerals. We keep being told to be patient a little longer.
It’s a slow process. Your dog can get a hair cut already, but you will have to let yours grow for a while. You can buy some shrubs and mulch for your garden, but you can’t sit down in Horton’s for a midday coffee for some time yet. We are waiting to expand our bubble to more family members or friends. We are waiting for the go-ahead to gather again in the sanctuary to receive the Lord’s gifts together
That’s all true enough.
But that is not the waiting we are given by our Easter Lord. That is not the anticipation worked by the rising of Jesus, Who was crucified, dead, and then buried, then rose from the dead. That is not the eager hope given to us by His ascending to heaven to sit at the right hand of His Father. The waiting to which we are given, as His people, is way bigger, way more striking, than what we may look to hear discussed in the Prime Minister’s daily discourse…
The waiting of the world – and we are in the world – is always just for the next thing, the next phase, the next part of this short life. For one thing, getting back to ‘normal’ – whatever that may look like – is not going to really change things. It never really has, and likely still will not.
Before the pandemic, kids were rebellious sometimes; they will be afterwards too. Before, marriages grew raw, and people got divorced; afterward they will as well. Before the pandemic, people died; and they will die afterward too. Before the pandemic the rich got richer and the poor suffered; afterward that sadly won’t likely change either.
As kids, we wait to grow up and then do what we want. As single people we sometimes wait to be married. As young adults, we wait to get a real job. As working adults, we wait for vacation time and maybe retirement. Worldly waiting, in a way, is just passing time, hoping it will be different, or better, around the next corner.
But what we really need still eludes us. What we must ultimately have still is not there. The longer we wait, the less we are enthralled by what we have been hanging on for….
So the Psalmist writes: There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” (Ps. 4:6) Who will give us at last what is lasting, what is worth waiting for?
…Eleven times within the eleven verses of our Gospel today, Jesus uses the word give, or gave, or given.
GIVE is a grace word.
St. Paul tells us again and again that it is by grace that we have been saved. We didn’t deserve it. We didn’t work for it. We didn’t earn by our patience. It’s all gift – and it’s all gift only in Jesus Christ Who is the Giver.
Jesus was given into the world in order to give. The Father gave Him authority over all flesh – that’s over every human being in the whole world, in all of history, none excluded. His authority has this purpose: that Jesus shall give eternal life to every person whom the Father has given to Him.
Jesus accomplished the work that His Father gave Him to do, in order that He might freely give the benefits of His work to us. The Father gave His Son those who have been called out of this world to be His own, that is all those who believe the Words which the Father gave to the Son to give to us. Jesus still right now is praying for those whom the Father gave to Him – people like you and me.
Jesus is all about giving. Jesus has called you to be a receiver – that is, to take and keep the gifts He gives. And Jesus also told us that everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…
That may sound like a catch. That may sound like there are strings attached to His gifts and giving.
Not so. We have heard from St. Peter this Eastertide that all the gifts of our risen and Living Jesus, that our inheritance in Him, is kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
So what is expected of us? Simply that we wait.
We have come to the final Sunday of Easter. We celebrated our Lord’s Ascension this past Thursday – the day of Jesus’ ‘coronation’ at the Father’s right hand. It’s all done. If you think on the creed that we confess, you know that there is only one more event to come, only one for which we now wait: Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.
That Day, that last time when our salvation will be revealed, is the true and final ‘opening up’. That is the Day of a new normal that will never be like the old sinful normal again. That is the Day for which we wait.
While we are given to wait by our risen Lord, that does not mean we have nothing else to do. Faith is active in love. Living faith has its hands busy, its mouth going, its mind fixed on heavenly things in the midst of this earthly life, even as we await the final and eternal Day when faith is replaced by sight.
The church has always been a waiting church. We see that already in Acts chapter one, from the first page of the church’s history. This gathering of which we hear in our first reading today happens right after Jesus ascended into heaven before His disciples. With Jesus out of their sight, the angels tell them this: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Jesus is coming back. So the waiting of the church has a timeline; it is not endless. It ends when Jesus returns. We don’t know when that is, but our loving heavenly Father does. So the church’s history, our history, is in His hands, from beginning to end.
The church waits with purpose.
Today we see what the first disciples do in their waiting time – they elect a new apostle to replace Judas. Matthias is chosen to complete the church’s number of twelve. Together they will await the coming of the Holy Spirit – only a ten-day wait – which we will celebrate on Pentecost next Sunday.
We are still the church that is given to wait. We live in this time with our Giving Lord, so it is Jesus Who shapes our time, our lives, our hopes, our past, our future. We live in the in-between time. Jesus has died. Jesus has been raised from the dead – and seen for forty days. Now Jesus has ascended to heaven. He will come again.
Our problem, which is the sin we still stand, is our own constant impatience. It’s as old as Adam, who wanted God to give him everything NOW. Adam and Eve would have been given everything fit for humans perfectly, constantly, forever. But that wasn’t good enough, quick enough, for them.
Our old Adam does the same. We hear that God is the Giver, and we think or say: give it to me now! That’s not just how toddlers talk; that’s not just the way of self-centered narcissists. It’s in us all. It’s why this time is difficult for us. As Tom Petty sang, the waiting is the hardest part.
But Christ is the Living Lord Who is now waiting on us. The words of our Gospel were prayed on the night He was betrayed, but He still speaks them now: I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given me, for they are Yours
In Christ we have a completely different kind of waiting.
For one thing, our waiting is not endless. Habakkuk encourages us: If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. It is not endless, because it is certain. Peter promised that to the church in the midst of her suffering today: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Our waiting has a purpose too. It’s not like we just want to get this life, this old world, this time, over with. Awaiting the new world to come in the coming of our Christ, we do live fully and abundantly in this world. Right now, as always, that means we live in His love. We are not just getting through. We are already now practicing the care, the compassion, the merciful acceptance of one another in Christ, which will be the hallmarks of our eternal life with Him.
For Jesus promised us as He prayed to His Father: this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent. Eternal life has already begun for us, in the rising of Jesus Christ. Forgiven through faith in His name, the name given to us, we are already one.
And waiting, we look forward to more of eternal life to come. We look to the eternal Day with Jesus. And while we are given to wait, we are given Jesus to wait with us.
For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.