I hate waiting. There, I said it, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. We wait in lines and in doctors’ waiting rooms. We wait for test results and for traffic lights to change. We wait for our favorite TV shows to start and for our loved ones to arrive home.
So it was a surprise when I was following the readings for this Sunday to find the word that summarized the reading, Acts 1:6-14, was “wait.” I read it again, but that was the word the Spirit had for me in this season. So, I set out to overcome the glorification of busy-ness that our culture often promotes and find the way that Easter people wait.
The first memory that came to me was the mornings at my grandparents’ house on the lake. They have both gone on to glory now, but when I was little, I would often spend a good bit of my summer with them.
Each morning, I would stumble out of bed, blearily setting out to find my grandparents. Without fail, they would be out in the “arky” room, a screened in porch with a beautiful view of the lake. My Mumo would open her arms and I would climb into her lap, just resting in their soft conversation and the smell of coffee. Together, we would wait with the earth, watching the birds and squirrels go about their business, seeing the sun crest the tree line, all of creation coming to be a new day without haste or any effort from us.
Waiting is a common theme in our Scripture. Abraham and Sarah wait for the child who will fulfill God’s promise to them. God’s people are enslaved in Egypt, waiting for deliverance, then wandering and waiting for forty years in the desert before they enter the Promised Land. A persecuted and suffering nation waits expectantly for God’s promises to be fulfilled in a Messiah who will bring justice and usher in a new kingdom.
So it should come as no surprise that the first verse from the reading for Sunday, Acts 1:6, poses a question from the disciples to the risen Christ, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” The disciples are a part of a waiting people and they are anxious for the time to be now. Like a child on a road trip, they wonder, “Are we there yet?”
Despite what some would have us believe, God’s great acts in history don’t occur everyday or even frequently. Most of the Bible deals with real people living in the long gaps between God’s mighty acts. We can wonder why we have to wait so long, and get frustrated that we’re not there yet, but this is part of the mystery of our God. Jesus replies to the disciples, “"It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).
So, what is our part to do as we wait? Our reading has a few words of guidance from those first disciples:
1) Don’t just stand around watching for Jesus to come back. This earned the disciples an angelic admonishment, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
2) Wait for the Holy Spirit. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
3) Stay together and pray. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together” (Acts 1:14a).
Bishop Will Willimon writes that “waiting, an onerous burden for us computerized and technically impatient moderns who live in an age of instant everything, is one of the tough tasks of the church.” Waiting implies that there is something that needs to be done that’s beyond our individual abilities. Something that can only be done together, undergirded by prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So Easter People wait. We wait actively, not staring up at heaven, but engaging our lives for the sake of the gospel with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray this Sunday finds you devoting yourself to prayer, together with a family of faith. There’s always room for you at our house.