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Hurry Up And Wait!
December 5, 1993

2 PETER 3:8-15

There is a story, supposedly true, about a youth playing in his first high school varsity football game. The coach assigned him to make the opening kickoff. Before the game, he was nervous, jittery, apprehensive about his big moment. The coach repeated the instructions, "Be calm. Take your time. Keep your eye on the ball; wait for the referee's whistle; as soon as you hear the whistle, run and kick the ball for all you're worth." The young kicker followed the instructions verbatim. He kept his eye on the ball, heard the whistle, ran forward, kicked the ball off the holding tee, and sailed the ball clear down to the five-yard line. It was the best kick he had ever made. Excitedly, he ran down the field towards the ball, only to realize that he was the only one running, and besides that, the coach was yelling at him. The whistle he had heard was the band director beginning the national anthem! How hard it is to wait!

On the other hand, if you were a coach, wouldn't you prefer to have the impatient kicker, rather than one who sits on the bench and responds with a yawn when told to go on the field? Isn't there a place for impatience? Of course, some folks carry impatient to a point of irritation. Like the wife who handed her husband the children's clothes on Sunday morning and said, "Here, today you get the kids ready for church, and I'll go out and honk the horn!"

The Scripture lesson this morning from 2 Peter identifies a tension between waiting and hurrying, between patience and impatience. There is a time to wait. There is a time to hurry up. And often these are simultaneous. First, the lesson tells us to wait for what God has promised. 2 Peter 3:13, In accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. That is the promise. The Day of the Lord will come, promises Peter. Christ will create a new earth where righteousness will be at home. Righteousness means right relationships. Wouldn't it be something to live where people are in right relationship with God, and in right relationships with one another; where people treat one another equitably, fairly, respectfully, and justly; where people are in loving, joying, and peaceful relationships with God. That is our hope.

We ask, "Why is God waiting?" Peter tells us God is waiting because God is patient. 3:9, The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. Peter is saying that the coming of the Day of the Lord is not necessarily sweetness and light. 3:10, The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will vanish. The coming of the Day of the Lord is accompanied by major upheaval and destruction. The fulfillment of God's promises--creation of an earth in which righteousness (right relationships) will be at home--involves major revolutions and upheaval.

Therefore, God patiently waits, because God doesn't want anyone to be destroyed. God wants everyone to be saved. But, when it is time, the Day of the Lord will come, and nothing will stop it. In our lesson today, Peter tells us to wait, but we are also told to hurry up. How do we wait? Waiting does not mean to be uninvolved, to let life happen, to be lethargic and complacent. Waiting means to make things happen. 3:11-12, reading from the Good News version,

What kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, as you wait for the Day of God, and do your best to make it come soon.

We are called to wait for the Day of the Lord, and we are called to hurry it up. Do your best to make it come soon, wrote Peter. Waiting does not mean slowing down the process. Waiting means hurrying up the process so the Day of the Lord will come. Over a century ago, the time had come to abolish slavery in this nation. It's day had come. But there were those who said, "Wait. Be patient. We're not ready yet. Slow down." And there was upheaval. There was destruction as prophesied by Peter. There was a horrible war--violence, fires, mass destruction, and deaths.

In the 1950s and 60s, the time had come--the Day of the Lord had come--to grant equal rights to people of all colors. There were those who said, "Wait. Be patient. We're not ready yet. Give us time." And there was upheaval. There were burnings, demonstrations, murders and assassinations. Our country is still in the process of granting each person, regardless of color, nationality or sexual preference, equal rights. It's time has come. Waiting does not mean to be uninvolved. To wait means to hurry it up, to influence, to join the forces of right, and work for change which is always accompanied by upheaval.

The time has now come to denounce violence, repudiate violence, and seek new ways of living together. Violence is out of control in our cities, rural areas, and even Merced. Two City Council members--Diaz and Bergman--spoke to the Ministerial Association last Wednesday. Here in Merced we have crime, violent gangs, drive-by shootings. The city is doing something about it, and is enlisting the support of the community, including churches. I told them the United Methodist Church will be very supportive and involved. We will hear more. They will come and speak to us about family networking, grandparent adoptions, etc. It is exciting. Waiting means action. Our church is already acting. Our concern for children and youth in our community led to the coming of Robert Williams as our Director of Christian Education to lead us in youth ministry. We are not just talking; we are acting. Pray and work for lasting results.

But, tackling the problem of violence is more than working with youth. Violence is at the very core of our society. Look at our dependence on nuclear weapons, violence in the streets and schools, lack of gun control, and violence in the home. Even though the cold war has ended, military spending continues to dominate national budgets around the world. That was the conclusion of the annual report by World Priorities, Inc. One interesting item defies logic: the developed countries in 1990 provided $56 billion in economic aid to poorer countries and sold $36 billion worth of arms to them! We give them economic aid and they purchase weapons.

It is time for the Day of the Lord to come and abolish violence as a means of handling conflicts. Hurry up and wait. A deep commitment to violence is in the very fabric of our society, and is reflected in movies, TV, gangs and our homes. Let's hurry up and wait. This Advent, let us hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord by repudiating violence in your own life and in your family. Here are some practical suggestions.

1) Refuse to purchase goods from companies that sponsor sadistic, bloody violence on TV, and write a letter to the companies telling them so. Don't write to the networks, write to the sponsor. Hitting them in their sales is the best way to make an impact.

2) Do not purchase any toy weapons for your children or grandchildren this Christmas. In fact, go further and remove all toy weapons from your home. In Family Camp one year, we were bombarded with water guns, so we declared all toy weapons off limits. For the last several years, we have had no guns of any kind, including water guns, and guess what! The kids have just as much fun, if not more. In our home, we did not allow our boys to have any toy weapons. Once in a while, they turned a stick into an imaginary gun; but they had just as much fun without weapons, and I hope set an example for their friends. Finally, Congress passed a gun control measure. The Brady bill is mild, but it's a start. Let's also get gun control in our homes. You say the kids will have a fit. Of course, but the Day of the Lord is accompanied by upheaval. Any change comes with upset. Hold your ground.

3) Watch carefully what video games you purchase for children or yourself. Some are horrible. Watching someone murdered on TV is bad enough, but actually killing someone yourself, accompanied by splattered blood, is hardly a game! What are these companies thinking of? Money--anything for profit. And, the way to stop it is to stop purchasing violent video games.

4) Abolish spanking. Do not hit your child or grandchild. Do not tolerate any form of child abuse. I was not spanked (except once when I ran into the highway!). I was raised nonviolently, and our children were not spanked. There are better ways of disciplining. What does spanking teach a child? The way to get someone to do what you want, or not do what you don't want, is to hit them. I can hit my brother, sister, or neighbor because my parents hit me. It must be okay. I'm considering offering a course to parents next year on how to discipline without spanking. Any takers?

Hurry up and wait to banish violence from our homes, the streets, and international relations. Do your best to make the Day of the Lord come soon. In the passage from 2 Peter, there are more ways to wait for the coming of the Lord. Continued next week.

© 1993 Douglas I. Norris