Sermon for 7th Sunday of Easter, Year A.
Friends in faith,
We are going to wait together on the first reading today.
Because like us in this season of uncertainty, they too are waiting.
They’ve been through something of a whirlwind and are eager to get answers to their questions, answers that they hope would settle their anxious minds.
Christ has begun.
He has died, risen,
And now he has left.
But the kingdom is not come.
When will the kingdom come?
We’ve been through something of a whirlwind ourselves.
At first we heard word of a possible new virus flitted about the internet and media, nothing to worry about, they’re sure. Then things started to get serious as we learned things in China were getting pretty worrisome. Things started to speed up as we heard about it spreading to different countries and the word pandemic started to creep into regular conversation. From that point things seemed to accelerate so quickly and before we knew it conversation and legislation began to focus on distancing, lockdowns, essential workers, and economic downfall. And then, it sort of froze.
We’re waiting. We have been waiting. And for a somewhat indefinite period we will continue to wait. We don’t know the time exactly, though there is now a roadmap of what it might look like to rise out of this place it is filled with conditionals and uncertainty. We know we will come out of this, that we will emerge into something similar but a little newer. A little different… and that is exciting, hopeful. But we’re also tired, exhausted.
Like the disciples we have been through a lot and there are no promises of an easy road ahead, and in some moments its just… a lot.
And so the question gets asked:
When, God? When?
o When can we go back to our lives?
o When will you break in and fix us?
o When will govts around the world stop posturing?
o When will we be done fighting?
o When will we be ok?
o “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Like us, the disciples are looking at a world that isn’t done yet, the kingdom isn’t fully here. We look out the front door and don’t see the kingdom so we know the work isn’t done yet.
And for having these anxieties Jesus does not admonish them, but gently reveals they need to be thinking somewhat differently. We aren’t to know the time or period God will do it, we aren’t to know the Chronos or Kairos, the time on the clock or the time which grips us and draws us into the new. This is because we are to be a part of that work! Jesus tells them that they will soon receive the spirit, soon receive the dynamic power, soon be witnesses working for the kingdom.
But for now, until you are pulled into that time, you are to wait.
We are to wait.
You will enjoy freedom, you will be part of the new, you will be witnesses in physical world again, but for now…. Wait.
It is hard sometimes to feel satisfied with that sort of answer, we usually aren’t fond of waiting. We can get a bit antsy. It can feel like there’s nothing we can do in the midst of the business of waiting, that it’s not a place in which much can be done.
But waiting need not be seen as “wasting”
In the midst of their waiting, we are told Christ’s followers prayed together.
In the midst of our waiting in the the limbo of quarantine there has been a lot of new ideas, new experiments in faith formation, new ideas on connecting and living. Households have had to learn new ways of living in the midst of the waiting. Parishes, including ours, has been discovering new ways to be a community at a distance.
Among all of this there are and will be things we can take with us out of this waiting. When we emerge into the new there are things we have learned together and apart that will be invaluable to our continued journey. Discerning these things together with the Holy Spirit is a prayerful act, and so we can learn from the prayerfulness of the disciples in their own waiting as an example of an active partaking in waiting.
In my reading I have come across these words from Jewish bible scholar Abraham Heschel:
“Prayer clarifies our hopes and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget. It is an act of self-purification, a quarantine for the soul.” – Abraham Herschel, Prayer, (1945)
Prayerful waiting is not a static or impotent state, but a place in which we emerge from into the chronos and kairos of God equipped anew for the work of faith.
Prayer brings us close to this kairos and in that we are connected despite being apart in time and space. Through prayer we can begin to discern the pearls of value to bring with us, into the new time ahead.