Sunday, November 28, 2010

Just Hanging Around?

Monday, November 29

Waiting. It can be described as bide, bide one's time, cool it, dally, fill time, hang around, hang onto your hat, hold everything, hold on, hold the phone, hole up, keep shirt on, lie in wait, lie low, look for, look forward to, mark time, put on hold, save it, sit tight, sit up for, stand by, stay up for, stick around, or sweat it. To us as we anticipate Christmas, less than four weeks away, it may mean wanting to cry out, "Wait! Not so fast! I'm not ready yet!"

To release that little jolt of anxiety, let's breathe it out in one big collective cyber-sigh as we invite the holy spirit to replace it with peace.

Prayer: "God, waiting just seems as if we are doing nothing productive. There are so many things on my task list, how can I wait patiently? Help me rest in your presence during this time and remember that you are at work in and around me now."

Genesis 8:6-12

6 After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark 7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. 9 But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

We all know the story of Noah and the Ark. It's one that is told throughout the church at all age levels from nursery to adult Bible studies to seminary Old Testament classes. It carries great importance as the story of the first covenant that God ever established with humans and other living creatures, a premise that is absolutely necessary for us to learn if we are to attempt to grasp what it means to fully accept the steadfast, unfailing love God has for us.

But if we will let it, it also has something to teach us about waiting. "Forty days and forty nights", in old Hebrew, was understood to mean not a literal span of days and nights but an unspecified, protracted length of time. Noah and his party could have been isolated on the Ark for three months, or a month, or eight and a half weeks. We don't know.

Noah didn't know either. He was there, "in the moment", so to speak, and could not predict the exact point at which the rain would cease, the floods would abate, or the land become livable once again. It makes me wonder which definition of waiting he would have chosen to describe his situation. Did he feel "put on hold", the way we are when calling the phone company? Was he "keeping his shirt on" as we are sometimes made to feel while waiting at the DMV? Or even "lying low", perhaps waiting for a family squabble to pass, the way some of us might have felt around family members on Thanksgiving day?

As I think about his sending out first the raven, then later the dove, to search for signs of dry land, I think he may have experienced a jolt of anxiety. "Wait! Not so fast! I'm not ready yet!" After all, up until that point, his tasks had been very well-defined for him, down to the precise design and measurements of the Ark, and whom he was to take on board and care for, and what he was to provide for them to eat.

After they landed, the instructions were less clear. He and his family were to find a world completely changed from anything they had previously known. How would they function in a totally reimagined environment? When he saw the dove carrying the olive branch back to the Ark, did the enormity of his future settle on him with dread, or with excitement?

One thing we can know for certain. While Noah waited, however he waited, God was active as God is always active. God is constantly on the move, fulfilling God's purposes, whether we are biding our time, dallying, or hanging on to our hat in breathless anticipation.

The coming of Jesus means a world completely changed from anything previously known. It means a totally reimagined environment. The enormity of such a future means that God is moving, and we may very well say, "Wait! Not so fast! I'm not ready yet!"

That's why we prepare over these not-quite four weeks. Like Noah, we're stepping off the gangplank into a miracle. It does take time and thoughtfulness to process.

Prayer: "Ever-moving God, waiting means different things at different times to everyone. Let me wait in excitement but engage in doing what needs doing to prepare for a world that is totally reimagined. Let me not waste a moment of this season but let me work alongside your purposes, Amen."

Blessings on your processing!

The full scriptures for Monday, Nov. 29th are:

Psalm 124

Genesis 8:1-19

Romans 6:1-11

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