All posts for the month November, 2011

November 27, 2011 at Saint Mark Catholic Church in Norman, OK

Isaiah 63, 16-64:7 + Psalm 80 + I Corinthians 1, 3-9 + Mark 13, 33-37

Somebody once said that “Time is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” It’s a good thought about something that is today very precious and in short supply: time. It’s odd how we use it and how we waist it; how we guard it, and want more of it. The season in which we live and the culture in which we live it uses time in ways that are often not particularly admirable. We rush and hurry, we look anxiously at our watches, fuss and fume when we have to stand and wait, and it’s almost as though we hurry up so that we can wait again for something else. Waiting is really what we do here.

Among other false gods, we have begun to worship efficency. Bill Gates is quoted as having said: “In terms of the allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient.” He went on to say: “There is a lot more I could be doing on Sunday morning.” Communists sacked churches all over the world and turned them into “something useful.” This idol, time, is one of the idols that the Gospel was meant to smash, and the “Sabboth” is one of the hammers used to do it. Like all the other signs in the Old Testament it was intended to point to the Lord of the Sabboth who is our real rest. That is why the tradition of making time holy or of making holy time continues in the Christian tradition of the Lord’s Day and of holy and sacred seasons, feasts, and solemnities. It is a habit of celebrating sacred play time that points to something else: the fact that vast amounts of time are spent waiting around.

Today, this weekend, we begin one of those waiting periods. We have been observing them for a long time. The apostles had one waiting for Jesus to reveal his power and his glory. When he didn’t do it the way they thought, they had another waiting period in an upper room for forty days until the Spirit came upon them. From the stand point of efficiency, this isn’t very productive. But then the whole of history demonstrates the same  thing; a lot of waiting.

Sciences tell us that the overwhelming span of time in creating the universe consists of unthinkable epochs in which humans play no role at all. Best estimates are that the universe is three times older than the solar system. The entire span of time our earth and sun have existed (4.5 billion years) had to pass and then pass again before the universe was ripe enough to have the right planet have the right star, the right poisition and orbit, the right size and composition, the right companion planets, the right moon in the right part of the galaxy, with the right combination of atmosphere, geology, and water, to have the possibility of life. Clearly God is leisurly in his long and slow construction of this cosmic Temple we call, Earth. The human race, both in Genesis and in natural history, come at the tail end of a story in which they play no part except for a newborn that the Father has taken great labor to preapre a safe nursery in a woman of great faith and favor.

The long wait of creation for our arrival is a sign and token that waiting is built into the fabric of things. Human beings are the only creature that God has willed for it’s own sake. The story of our salvation is the story of waiting. In fact, I think that is why the Old Testament is so much longer than the new: it is filled with long periods of waiting. 

There is Abraham who waited so long for a son. Moses who waited so long in the desert.

Israel who waited so long for the promised land. An old couple in the Temple who waited so long to see the Messiah, and even Jesus who waited 40 days in the desert after 30 years of silence. But all of that waiting has not been empty waisted time – it was full of promise and full of meaning.

We are living today in another waiting time and our Advent is just a reminder inviting us to refine our focus and remember what this time is all about: this time we use so carelessly yet so jealously. We are waiting for the climax of history for that moment when all will be over, when time will cease, and judgement will come about how we have lived, used, and made holy the gift of time itself in which God has often enough revealed himself to us who take the time to look, to believe, and celebrate in a way and in place that is hardly efficient and productive.

Those who do not believe in Christ wait in fear. They stock pile stuff to “get them through” the rapture. They spread dour and terrifying images designed to scare and frighten becasue fear is all this world has to offer. “News” these days in this world is about murder and robbery, thieves and tragedy because this world has turned a deaf ear to the “Good News”.  Yet those of us schooled and shaped by the Good News have been taught to wait in hope which the four weeks of this season let us practice so that we might get it right and be ready.

So we practice now and in the weeks to come. We practice waiting. We pracitice keeping our mind, our thoughts, our hopes focused on what is to come and how we must be ready when it does. Against all odds and common sense, in a world filled with economic doom, war, cultural meltdown, social chaos, terrorists, ecologial fears, and all the rest,  we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ: not to Bethlehem of Judea, but to this place so simple and so unknown by the rest of the world that is to busy to look.

In listening to some arabic speaking friends recently, I recognized a word being pronounced in two different ways. When I asked what it meant, one said: Bethlehem. Then the other pronounced the same word with a different accent which meant, Bread.

Think of that my friends, while we wait. Christ is coming to Bethlehem and to Bread.

It has been a long wait, and we must not tire, nor can we waist the time we have as though we did not know what we were waiting for.