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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

We Are Waiting, We Are Called, Jesus Abides - 01/15/2017

“I waited and waited for the Lord ...”

That's how I, and not a few others, would have translated the first line of Psalm 40. The Psalmist sings that she “qavah, qavany, Yahweh.”

“I waited and waited for the Lord ...”

I just like it better. I moves in me more or something. The word repetition calls a spotlight to it and when we hear what that repeated word is … we recognize it in our depths. She waited and waited, and each of us knows what that's like. Each of us, I would venture to say, has waited and waited for some thing.

We've waited for the arrival of a good friend who moved across the country years ago and only gets back every three years or so. We've waited to hear that first wailing breath of a baby, or for that merciful last breath at the death bed of a loved one. We've waited for someone to return from active military duty. We've waited for all sorts of things in the aftermath of angry words and high emotions.  We've waited for test results from the doctor, or for that letter that invites us to a new job, a school, a new direction.

We've waited for that feeling in the gut that helps us discern things  … the way an artist discerns between shapes and textures and mediums; the way a counselor, a doctor, or a chaplain discerns what is being said between the lines; the way a parent discerns whether to step in or let natural consequences do its sometimes necessary work.

“Qavah, qavany, Yahweh,” “I waited and waited for the Lord ...” Maybe I just like it because in mentioning of all these examples of waiting – and all the unmentioned examples they bring to mind – I think we realize that more often than not, we beautiful, industrious, fearless and messy human beans rarely wait patiently, as our NRSV translation would have it.

We find a similar sense of waiting in our reading from Isaiah. This is from what we understand to be Second Isaiah – a prophet and writer who preached and wrote for the people of Israel during the Babylonian Exile – that 70 year period when Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were flung far and wide and just waiting – “qavah, qavany, Yahweh,” – waiting for the day when they would be able to return to the Jerusalem of their memories and fireside stories.

No, we don't often wait patiently – and maybe especially when it comes to matters of God – places and situations in which we wait on God like our Psalmist and our exiles – we wait on God to restore us to health, to fix all the brokenness in us and our world, to change human ways that lead us to false idols and go even beyond the sin of ignoring neighbor to outright harming neighbor.

***

And there is other language in the Isaiah reading that I'd like to mention. It is the idea that God has called us as servants of God's will from our very beginning; this idea that helps us remember that God's voice, God's call for us is part of that moment we come into being. It swirled into our DNA like a warm spring breeze with that first scent earth and green on it; it calls us throughout our lives into our spiritual gifts. 

Do you ever think about what your spiritual gifts are? And how God is working through that call – your vocation, that which excites you or comes very naturally to you?

Our Psalmist was called to speak words of hope, despite the waiting.

“I have told the glad news of deliverance

   in the great congregation;

see, I have not restrained my lips,

   as you know, O Lord.

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,

   I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness

   from the great congregation.” (vs. 9-10)

Second Isaiah is quite clear about how he was called in his mother's womb – to speak and live in hope among people who often spoke and lived as though God has forgotten them.

“(God) made my mouth like a sharp sword,

   in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

   in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me, ‘You are my servant,

   Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’” (vs. 2-3)

Paul will address these spiritual gifts God calls up in us as we read parts of his first letter to the Corinthians over the next seven weeks. Here's how Paul explains spiritual gifts to the people of ancient Corinth.

“God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God … is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts

proclamation

distinguishing between spirits

tongues

interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-10, The Message)

So I find the mix of these two things: “qavah, qavany, Yahweh,”  and this idea of being created by God with call and purpose to be rather enlightening – and helpful.

What our Scriptures show us here is that while we do at times feel like we are waiting and waiting for the Lord, and often impatiently, our faith and our overall experiences as God's people reminds us that God is working through all people and their gifts in response to our cries of mercy and laments over waiting.

That in itself may comfort us, I'd suggest, because trusting that God is working through all of us also means that we trust the acts of restoring and fixing and changing will go well beyond even the wildest dreams we mortals can imagine and for the sake of so many more than we would include if it were solely up to us.

Remember yet another part of Isaiah we read today.

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

   to raise up the tribes of Jacob

   and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

   that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’” (49:6)

In other words, God says to Isaiah – my faithful servant, it's not just Israel you bring hope and news of deliverance to – it's all people. My word, my love, my actions are for the benefit of all – to the end of the earth.

***

And so what does this mean for us today? Well, I think it enables us to see the world around us a little more like God does: it's all God's to work through, in our calls and vocations and very often in imperceptible, surprising and radical ways.

So while we today may cry out “Qavah, qavany, Yahweh,” we also may trust, for instance, that God is at work among those of us who believe our new administration in D.C., is the right direction for this country.

And we can trust that God is working through those of us who do not believe this.

We can trust that God is at work in those of us who are pledging to act on behalf of people of color, LGBTQ people, women, the poor, the hungry and sick.

We can trust that God is working through those of us who are working to protect life-giving waters, sacred land and the people who often get run over when the profits start rolling in and and we can trust God is also working through those of us who seek to decrease our dependency on foreign oil.

And we can trust that while we wait, even impaitently, God will continue to send us people like John the Baptism who point us to the truth. “Look! Here is the Lamb of God!” Jesus Christ, God come to abide among us literally and still in our baptismal waters and our radical meal of forgiveness at the Lord's Table.

This same Jesus Christ, who came as the unexpected response to our song of waiting.

“qavah, qavany, Yahweh,” “I waited and waited for the Lord ...” and the Lord put a new song in my mouth – a song of the Good News of deliverance in Jesus who redeems everything to the ends of the earth. Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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