Sunday, 27 November 2011

How well do we wait for God?

Advent 1 year B Sermon 11 
From today until Christmas we enter the season of Advent…the season of waiting…
for the dawning of God’s future…and in these few weeks
we learn a different perspective on waiting and time…

instead of thinking of ourselves as moving out of the past into an unknown future…we begin to understand
that God’s future… is coming toward us

In the season of Advent…we remember how God’s people waited for God… sometimes demanding… sometimes pleading…

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O that you would tear open the heavens and come down

sometimes in despair…

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you’ve hidden your face from us
and delivered us into the hand of our own iniquity

and in this season…we’re reminded of another kind of waiting…a patient… faith filled waiting…
as Mary and Joseph wait for their baby to be born…

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Blessed… is she who has believed
the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!

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and we remember the confused and bewildered waiting
for Jesus to return in the life times of the first Christians…
because they’d misunderstood his words about the resurrection

And all this helps us greatly… as we wait…
two thousand years deep into the Messianic Age…
as we wait for God’s will to be done…
on earth as it is in heaven…. [pause]

Please wait slide
In today’s world we don’t much like waiting…do we? Technology’s made everything very fast… send a text and there’s a reply within seconds…pop tea in the microwave… push a button on the computer and it happens

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we don’t like it…when we have to wait even half a minute
the way we live our lives…time seems to be short supply
in frustration…we think we’re going to waste our lives away
if we have to wait for a programme to start up…
or a reply to our text…or for Google
to answer our questions or relieve our anxieties

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And in our irritation and impatience we forget there are some things that simply can’t be rushedtimes in life where trying to force solutions…especially in prayer
won’t make things happen any faster.

Like waiting for a baby to be born

Please wait
What is it about our emotions and attitudes
that make it hard… if not impossible… for us to wait…
instead of going for the quick fix?
Possibly… one of our spiritual and emotional problems today is we’ve forgotten how to wait well…if we ever knew in the first place…so maybe the Season of Advent…has something to teach us about waiting… about how to become better
at waiting…especially for God.

Perhaps Advent is a good time to reflect on how we wait
because how we wait… can actually determine
how healthy we are… in body mind and spirit

Tee shirt slide
Some of the biggest lessons God taught me in life
are about waiting. And I like the tee shirt for people like me who need to remember how our attitude to waiting…
can make it harder than it needs to be.
It says …‘O Lord give me patience and give it to me now!’

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If we think of God as Father Christmas rather than
as our loving parent and creator of the universe
the one who knows a lot more than we do
about what we need and what’s possible…

if we think God is like Santa… we going to get very down when what we’ve asked for…doesn’t magically appear under the Christmas Tree of our lives. If we think God’s making list and checking it twice… and going to find out
if we’re naughty or nice…when we don’t get what we want… we believe its because we’ve been bad.

Thank goodness the God revealed in Jesus Christ
isn’t Father Christmas. [pause]

I know people who’ve come new to the Christian faith…
in the expectation that becoming a Christian
would be a quick fix for all their problems.
And it’s usually not their fault of course… it may be
what they’ve been told…by well-meaning Christian friends.

Sometimes these new Christians will ask God…to take away their pain or their anger or their money worries or they pray that God will fix their marriage or at least make their spouse easier to live with…and when this doesn’t happen immediately…

well sometimes these new Christians turn their back on the church and on God…in disappointment. And that’s so sad
because they never had a chance…
to hear the story of God’s people waiting …and

they never got to learn… how God can be with us
in our waiting…like a baby in the womb waiting to be born…
they never discover…that waiting can be a time when growth actually takes place…and faith takes root

and so instead of inviting God into their waiting…
they refuse to wait…they give up on God…
and opt instead for a quicker fix…maybe they lose themselves in work or busyness…or in a bucket of ice cream …or a bottle of wine…or another person
but none of these things are an answer to their prayers
unless they’r praying for oblivion.[pause]

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You see it makes sense… that how we wait
and what we wait for…can determine how healthy we are …in body mind and spirit

How do you wait…have you ever thought about it?

And did you know there are different ways to wait on God …some far less helpful than others.

Like praying and then waiting impatiently…with gritted teeth and white knuckles…bearing down on God harder and harder for the results we want…under the illusion that somehow…
by the sheer force of our will …God will deliver the goods
more quickly…answer our prayers… faster…
and more to our specifications.

When we wait this way… it’s usually because we want to maintain the illusion of control… over things which are in reality beyond our control…instead of accepting our powerlessness…which is what God may be trying to teach us…we continue to pray for our will to be done…
instead of God’s will.

And what if it’s God’s will for us
to learn to wait a different… healthier way? [pause]

Still another way to wait is… to wait patiently
and this of course represents some progress in our spiritual journey…we’ve learned something…perhaps we’ve discovered the teaching in the book of lamentations
‘it’s good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.’

But there’s a problem with waiting patiently…if we’re merely waiting for our will to be done…
mistaking this for faith

And when our will isn’t done…after we have waited patiently for a while…well…we’re often resentful
against God…or worse…we begin to wait impatiently all over again…and lapse back into the illusion of being in control. [pause]

Years ago when I was in this waiting patiently phase of my spiritual journey…and getting tired of waiting…for my will to be done…I had this sudden revelation
‘What if my will isn’t God’s will!’

And since I genuinely wanted to conform to God’s will for me…at least on an intellectual level …suddenly God was asking me to do this on an emotional level…
which at that time in my spiritual journey…
I could never have imagined

In fact…God was asking me to ‘go beyond waiting.’
To stop waiting all together… for my will to be done.
And to pray only for knowledge of God’s will for me
and the power to carry it out.

And to pray only for knowledge
of God’s will for me…and the power to carry it out.

Well how do you know what God’s will for you is?

Sometimes when it’s not clear to me…since I live in the Messianic Age…as you do… I take seriously what’s already been revealed to me…about God’s will by the prophet Micah for example…

slide words
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

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and I take seriously…what’s been revealed about God’s will for me…by the Messiah himself…in his sermon on the mount

About accepting my powerlessness, about not trying to play God, about understanding suffering as part of life
and about… showing mercy and making peace

And I remember what Jesus revealed at the last supper
about choosing to accept the comfort of the presence of God living in me…over and above straining for what I want
when I want it.

In Christ…God has promised
not to leave us comfortless.
God isn’t absent in our in between times…God is with us…

And I’ve also learned to live in faith this way…
with regard to my will for other people
especially when I find myself waiting for them to change
to conform to my way of doing things
or my way of thinking…

It’s helpful for me to remember that my will may not be God’s will…and  that I am powerless over many things…
especially other people

So as we approach Christmas
next time you find yourself waiting
impatiently or even patiently… for your will to be done…
why not give serious consideration…to going beyond waiting…and simply pray for knowledge of God’s will for you and the strength to carry it out.

I pray that in this… you’ll discover the peace of God that goes beyond understanding.

And just as in Paul’s letter to the Philippians
going beyond waiting… doesn’t mean we stop telling God what’s on our hearts and minds…

but it does mean… that once we’ve told God…
we can let it go…because for us…
God’s will is what’s important…and that’s why Paul says…

Slide words
Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus. [pause]

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As we travel through this advent time
toward our celebration of the birth of Christ…
as God’s future comes toward us…

may we be encouraged to discover better ways
to wait for God