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A Time to Wait
May 2, 1976

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

ISAIAH 40:31; LUKE 2:35-49

Our bulletin cover this morning has an interesting picture and caption—“All sunshine, and no rain makes a desert.” There is a case for variety in life. Too much of one thing, too much of one beautiful thing sometimes ends in tragedy. Sunshine is necessary and beautiful, but too much sunshine makes for a desert. It's impossible in life to always be happy. It's impossible to always be high, to always be uplifted, to always have Easter. There's a contrast. 

On Easter Sunday, and on subsequent days, Jesus appeared in his risen form to several people. He appeared to some women and told them to go and tell the disciples about what they'd seen. He appeared to some of the disciples on various days and in various ways. Paul said Jesus appeared to 500 people. Our Scripture Lesson this morning from the New Testament told us what he said to them on one occasion. Get a picture of the setting. The power of God has been unleashed in the world, a man has been raised from the dead, death has been conquered. What God has done in life and what God can possibly do in life is just limitless. The possibility that the kingdom of God may come on the earth with no more war, no more suffering, no more hunger, no more pain, no more illness—the possibility of what God can do in our midst is limitless. And what did Jesus tell them in the midst of all this power? He told them to wait, to rest, to regroup, to come apart, to assimilate. Luke 24:49, Jesus said, “Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” There is a time to work. There is a time to wait. There is a time to be active, to be busy, to be exuberant, to be enthusiastic. And there is a time to wait, to regroup. Jesus told the disciples in the midst of all that power, in the midst of that tremendous miracle, in the midst of what it can mean to the world, to regroup, to wait. 

Much has been happening in our church, and much is happening in our church, enough to make my head swim with the process of deciding about the Simminger bequest, new classes starting, new choir robes, Mark leaving, new people coming, Mark and Julie getting married. And come this fall we raise money for the Roundup to send animals to feed the hungry through the Heifer Project. So much is happening in our church. Neither let us get exhausted, nor let us resist. Let us take time to wait on the Lord, to regroup. There is a time in each of our lives when we must regroup. We get tired, we get pushed, we get pressured, I get tired, I lose my energy, I cease to be creative. I need to regroup. I need to wait. The energy output gets low. William Barclay has written. “It is in the time when we lay aside life's tasks that we are strengthened for the very tasks we lay aside…Amidst all the striving, there must be time to receive.” Haven't you found that to be true? When a task is difficult, you just can't seem to make any headway on it, it’s taking two times as long as it ordinarily should, if you leave it, go away, go do something else and come back, it gets done so much quicker. We need to pull apart to wait. 

We need time to receive. It's impossible to constantly give, give, give. We must take time to receive. Call it selfishness, call it egocentricity, call it what you will, there must be time to receive. A well cannot constantly give out its water without receiving rain. There is a time to give, there is a time to receive, there is a time to work, there is a time to grow, to wait. As we repeated in our Old testament lesson, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” They that wait upon the Lord. But it's difficult to wait. It's just not in our culture to wait. As good Americans, it’s just not right to wait. We feel guilty when we have to wait. We are so impatient. We are so busy. It's almost cultural that we must hurry. It's almost unpatriotic to wait. Rather than for us to wait on the Lord, we want the Lord to wait on us. We want the Lord to be at our beck and call. Whenever we snap our fingers, we want the Lord right there. We want his power. We want his blessing. We want his healing and we want it right now on our terms. We want him to wait on us. We want him to serve us. 

But the Lord does not work that way. The Lord visits us in his good time. The Lord grants His Holy Spirit in his good time. Jesus told his disciples to wait and get ready until the Lord gives them power. We don't like to wait; it's difficult for us to wait. For one thing we talk too much. Maurice King has written a prayer, “Lord, sometimes I talk too much. I talk about people I am sure too much. I am often a carrier of what I have heard, not what I really know. I talk to you when I should be listening to hear what you would say to me. So I miss out on much needed guidance and direction. Sometimes I talk to compensate for my ignorance or basic insecurity. Sometimes I ramble on and on because of habit. Lord, help me to bridle my tongue, to practice more self control and my use of it. Help me to speak up for the right, to speak out against the wrong but also to know when to invoke the genius of silence. Amen.” 

These are hectic days in which you and I live. There's a lot of pressure on us, a lot coming in on us. Life is moving very rapidly. There's much mental illness, there are many mental breakdowns. There are many people turning to chemicals to slow down, to quiet themselves, to keep from finding themselves. The media conspires against us, especially television conspires against us to keep us going at a hectic, rapid pace, to keep us from ourselves, to keep us from using our own imagination. Many children, when they don't have anything to do, are bored. They don't know what to do with the time. They have to be playing games or they have to be watching television. Now I don't know about you, but when I was a child, I rarely played any formal games. We just made up games, fantasized, used our imagination. Now with so much coming in on children, it's difficult for them to use their own ingenuity. However, I know one family in our church, the Connor family, where Patrick and Kelly play church. One of them is Mark and one of them is Doug, and they fight. I hope that Doug wins all the time! 

Imagination is a great thing, but imagination works when we're quiet and when we allow it to work. People don't read as much, library use is down. How many of you have used our church library? Wow, look at that response! Well, I blew that point!  

God, in a very real sense, can only do what we let him do. God in a very real sense is blocked, is hindered by whatever defenses you put up. You are the one who limits what God can do in your life, and God will never overcome your free will. The power that is available to you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the power that comes from him in his own good time is limited by how much you will let him do. 

Jesus told his disciples to regroup, assimilate, wait. How do you wait? What do you do to wait on the Lord? The scripture passage gives us three ways. Number one, Jesus told them to stay in the city, stay in Jerusalem, stay where they are, do what they're doing in the place where they're doing it, right in the midst of their daily lives, right with what God gives them to do—stay there. You don't have to go to any mountain top. You don't have to go out of town. You don't have to go on some retreat. You don't have to go back into the past and remember some beautiful experience that you had. The disciples didn’t have to go back to when he fed the 5,000 at the Sea of Galilee, or when he called them to be disciples. They didn't have to go back to those places. They didn't have to remember the past. Stay right where you are, stay in the city. Whatever God has given you to do, right there in the midst is the power, is the potential for he is there. Live it, experience it, feel it. Do whatever God has given you to do in the place where he's given you to do it. Stay in the city. 

Secondly, this passage tells us they went confidently to the temple to thank God for his blessings. They rejoiced in the temple, they went to worship. We wait on the Lord with public worship by coming apart weekly, by coming into this place, habitually, regularly worshiping. As worship becomes a habit, as you put yourself into the experience, God can visit you in the drama and the rhythm of the worship service. We begin with praise by singing a hymn and hearing an introit that directs our attention to God. We remember who is with us, We relate to those around us through the greeting time, and we rejoice. Then we go into confession. We look at ourselves and open ourselves that God may visit us. We make ourselves ready so God may come to us in his Word in the Bible reading and in the sermon. We respond to the call of God as it comes to us in the Word with our offerings, with a time of dedication when we bring our money offerings, and we lay them on the altar. Then we offer our prayers for the world, and through that we symbolically offer ourselves. As we put ourselves into the drama of worship, God can visit us. 

And thirdly, the disciples waited. The disciples waited in prayer. Luke tells us in the Book of Acts, that they devoted themselves in one accord to prayer. All of them in one accord. The power of a group, the power of a community in united prayer is beyond imagination. We need personal time for prayer and for group prayer. Prayer is listening to God. Prayer is talking with God. Prayer is being with God. Prayer involves good discipline. Make it a habit. Practice improving the art of praying. Practice the art of putting ourselves where God can speak to us, opening ourselves to him. Pray, listen, talk, be with God. 

Through these means the Holy Spirit came upon those disciples and changed their lives.There is a time to wait.

© 1976 Douglas I. Norris