Sermon for the 7th Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

*dramatic pause*
*still pausing*
*dramatic pause leading into annoying silence*
*annoying silence leading to people wondering if they should leave*
*break silence before they actually leave*

Don’t you just hate waiting? Waiting around for something seems like the biggest waste of time, as often we are just there in anticipation of what we expect to happen but it just doesn’t happen yet. The longer we wait, the more anxious we feel. The more anxious we feel, the more we just hate waiting. And the cycle continues.

We spend a lot of time waiting, don’t we? According to an article I read, the average lifetime of like 80 years spends about a total of 5 years in lineups, queues, and whatever other fancy words we can use to describe a lineup. And about 6 months of all that waiting are at red lights. 6 months of just waiting for a light to change and being scared of cops busting us for texting while we wait. That is a lot of waiting. Five out of 80 of our years, just waiting.

No wonder we get anxious when we have to wait longer than a couple minutes for basically anything. No wonder it seems like we do what we can to avoid or at least shorten our waiting. No wonder we can actually relate to situations like this:

Of course, we may not be as embarrassing as this (or are we?), but we can relate. The anxiety is real. The anger and irritation that comes with our wait being increased by just one person cutting in line is enough to start fights. But on the flip side, it’s funny and also telling that one of the greatest feelings in the world is when you’re in a long line up and someone in front of you gets tired of it all and just leaves. They just decide that whatever you’re all waiting for isn’t worth it anymore or they heard that there is another washroom on the other side of the stadium, so they just go. You try to play it cool and pretend you don’t even notice them leaving but inside your head, where no one can see, you’re doing imaginary cartwheels (I say imaginary because even at my top physical peak there is no way I could do a real cartwheel).

It’s hard to wait for things. It’s hard to be calm in our anticipation. It’s hard to essentially not know when whatever we’re looking forward to happen is going to happen, and that lack of knowing makes us anxious.

Maybe we’re waiting in the express lane to pay for our groceries, and there’s a person ahead of us with clearly more than the specified limit. Maybe we’re waiting in line with our young impatient kids for a free pokemon toy, and surrounded by a bunch of other equally impatient kids. Maybe we’re waiting for that webpage or app to load and something is wrong with our connection and we just get this spinning circle of death.

Or maybe we’re waiting for something serious. Maybe we’re waiting for test results from the doctor. Maybe we’re waiting to hear from a loved one that we’re worried about. Maybe we are waiting for a decision to be made that will determine the path of our future.

Or maybe we’re waiting for Jesus to come back.

I mean really, 2000 years we’re talking here. For the last 2000 years, every generation had groups of people just waiting for Jesus, likely believing that he will return in their lifetime. Likely expecting Jesus to show up at any time, and making everything better. Likely doing their best to reassure those around them that the wait won’t be much longer, while trying to squash that anxiety inside with every passing year of Jesus not returning in a bright flashing and glorious light.

We actually see this anxiety in all of the New Testament. Basically all of these 27 books are written with Jesus’ return in mind. Reading them under that light allows us different insights on what is being conveyed by these authors. They were waiting for Jesus, but at the same time they had different reasons for writing. For example, much of Paul’s writings and some of the other epistles were written early on after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, so they were still under the impression that Jesus would be back in their lifetime. They were like, anytime now. Probably kept looking at the sky every now and then, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus returning just as he left like those guys told the disciples how it would happen. And when that didn’t happen for a few decades, then the gospel writers started to realise that we might have to wait a little longer for his return so decided to write stuff down for posterity. They knew it was important to keep waiting for Jesus so they better inform the next generation of exactly what to look out for. Because soon, Jesus will be back and you know, restore the kingdom of Israel, right? Isn’t that what he promised? Isn’t that what the Messiah is supposed to do? Isn’t that what the whole point of all of this is?

Seems like it, huh? That is what the disciples asked in the first reading that we have for today out of Acts were thinking at least. “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Jesus was back from the dead as he promised, the disciples finally sort of get all the resurrection talk, and things seem like they are actually getting better for once. Now should be the time.

But Jesus doesn’t answer in the way they had hoped, or perhaps in the way that any of us would have hoped. He says pretty much “that is for me to know and you to find out” “mum’s the word” “none of your beeswax, suckers”. He wasn’t going to say, but even his non-answer kind of confirms that it will happen, doesn’t it? His way of deflecting the question tells us that there is an actual answer to it but he just doesn’t want to talk about at this point in time. Jesus’ answer, in typical Jesus fashion, yet again uses a lot of deep sounding words that doesn’t really tell us what we want to know, but still tells us that we do have something to look forward to, something to anticipate, and that there is hope.

But still, a lot of good that answer did them, or us, or religion on a global scale.

Because seriously, are we still waiting for Israel to be restored? The political climate in that region is shaky at best and I shudder to think how many wars have started because of this notion of Israel being more special than all the other nations (now, I’m not saying that they’re not special, I just question how special in comparison to all the other non-chosen-by-God nations out there). And it has been like thousands of years since all of this has happened, when is it safe to say that we’re going to throw in the towel of this waiting game? When can we concede and think, so maybe Jesus isn’t going to come back in this lifetime in that big flash of light and trumpets and all that like we thought? When can we say enough is enough and maybe Israel is as restored as it ever will be and not sound totally sacrilegious?

So if we aren’t waiting for Israel to be restored, then what are we waiting for Jesus to do? Maybe restore our country? Maybe bring peace throughout the earth? Maybe even just revitalize our church and bring some young families in? Because we need Jesus to do something, we need Jesus to act, we need Jesus. So we wait. We wait for that positive change. We wait for Jesus to be glorified in all the nations, bringing peace among the different cultures and political views. We wait for Jesus to spark in the minds of the people in our neighbourhoods so they all will come to church again and bring a new life to our worship and service.

We wait, and we wait, and we wait. And it’s tough, but the thing is I don’t remember Jesus saying that all this will and can only happen with some mystical and magical and overly dramatic return where the heavens break open and he descends down to earth. I don’t remember him saying that we need to sit around twiddling our thumbs and wait for his return before this kind of restoration can happen. I don’t remember Jesus saying that he can only be glorified when he returns in the flesh.

But I do remember two angel-like dudes asking the disciples what the heck they’re doing just standing there looking at the sky. I remember an actual angel-like angel in an empty tomb asking Jesus’ friends why they are looking for the living among the dead. I do remember Jesus praying for us, commissioning us to go forth into the world and make it a better place in his name.

You see, we needn’t wait for Jesus any longer, because Jesus is here. Jesus is with us in the Spirit, Jesus is with us through the bread and wine of community, Jesus is with us by the very name that we are given and we bear, the name of children of God. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, the Messiah, is here in us and through us, united with us by the grace of God, empowering us to do what is right and good in the world.

So if we are waiting for anything, it is for us to act. We are waiting for us to see and understand Jesus living in our midst through the Spirit and community. We are waiting to be able to recognise Jesus in all that is good in the world, in the joys and pains, in the peace and suffering, in the love and hate. Jesus is with us.

As Jesus prays for us to be united in today’s gospel lesson, so we pray for and unite with each other, together waiting for the Spirit to move us into action, waiting for our community to boldly act in the name of Christ, waiting for the world to see the glory of God, shining through the church in love and service, blessing all people with grace and mercy.

We are near the end of the Easter season, the time of resurrection and new life, may we move ahead into the Pentecost season of action, that we may be faithful to the call to be God’s children and servants, blessing all whom we encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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