A child waits for Christmas to arrive, We wait in traffic when a street has been narrowed from two lanes to one. A woman and her family await the birth of a baby. A student takes one course after another, semester by semester, waiting–actively–to receive a diploma. We wait beside the bed of a sick loved one, waiting–we hope–for recovery or for a merciful end. We wait, here in Michigan, for spring weather to come, and finally it does.
Every one of us know what it is like to wait.
The first disciples of Jesus do their waiting as well. Forty stupendous, surprising days after he is raised from the dead, Jesus leaves this world again. He ascends into heaven, promising that his disciples will be baptized and empowered by the Spirit within a few days, and that they will witness to him across the face of the earth.
And so these disciples wait. They wait together. The group of eleven, along with women followers of Jesus, and some of his relatives, including his mother Mary. They wait in the upstairs room that is theirs in Jerusalem. They wait there, and they pray. Their prayer–and often ours as well–is a waiting on God.
We wait, the first disciples wait, all people wait in a variety of ways. Could it be also that God waits?
We may not imagine the eternal God, sustainer of all that exists, as one who waits, but I believe God does, and does so to a degree that far surpasses our human experiences with waiting.
Sometimes we choose to wait, while often waiting is forced upon us. But the waiting God does is always something God chooses. It is God’s choice to open himself to this experience which we regard as so human, just as it is God’s choice to open himself to suffering and pain, something else that is very human, yet is not ours alone.
God waits and chooses to wait.
God waits during countless billions of years as he works through his creation to bring about the most delicate transformations and establish, at least on this tiny pinprick of a planet, the environment capable of sustaining the forms of life known to us, ourselves included.
God waits during countless more billions of years, working through this same creation to bring about the most delicate transformations and raise up innumerable species of bacteria, plants, insects, fish, lizards, birds, and mammals, until one of these splendid species is crowned with the divine image and likeness.
God waits during many more millennia, touching repeatedly humanity’s heart and soul, enticing us generation by generation, inspiring sages and shamans, priests and prophets with some inkling of himself, and calling into covenant a community of faith, the children of Jacob, the Israel of old. They will be his people; he will be their God.
God waits, God waits for the time, the time like no other, to send his Son as one of us, to send his Spirit to dwell among us, and turn humanity into his tabernacle on earth. Young Mary welcomes the angel’s message and accepts the sorrow and joy that await her. The new Israel gathers in an upper room, waiting in prayer for the Spirit’s power. They join in the waiting of God.
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The waiting of God is not over. It does not end on the Day of Pentecost when divine fire falls on the first disciples. God still waits today. He waits, in different ways, for each of us and for all people.
And what is God waiting for? How is it that he is kept waiting by you and me and everyone?
It has to do with the things God has been talking about since, well, the beginning of time. Nothing surprising: justice, mercy, love.
Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2 and an international activist, offers us a picture of the God who waits for us.
Bono says: “I think that God is on His knees to us, to the Church. God is on His knees to us, waiting for us to turn around this supertanker of indifference, our own indifference a lot of the time. That God Almighty is on His knees to us–I don’t know what that means. Waiting for us to recognize that distance can no longer decide who is our neighbor. We can’t choose our neighbors any more.”
Bono’s right. We can’t choose our neighbors any more. All of them, near and far, are neighbors given to us by God. God waits for us to see that.
The first disciples wait in the upper room. They wait for power on high to make them witnesses to Jesus. There they pray. This prayer is their waiting on God.
God waits as well. What God waits for now is for us to turn around “this supertanker of indifference,” for us to be instruments of justice, mercy, love. And so God prays. He’s down on His knees to us.
Like any good poet, Bono does not claim to understand the complete meaning of the images he uses. Following his example, I’d like to offer yet another image of the God who waits. Each of us can explore for ourselves what this image means.
On the back deck of my house there is a rack attached to the wall. The rack is meant to hold rolled up place mats, those we use when eating out on the deck.
Recently I noticed that a bird’s nest had appeared in that rack. There was a rolled up place mat at the bottom, topped by some straw. Cushioned in this nest was a lovely, white egg. Later there was a second egg. Perhaps now there are others.
Sometimes I see the bird sitting on the nest, secure, attentive, waiting. Spring has come, and the God who waits, the God who waits for us, is a lot like that secure, attentive, waiting bird.
— Copyright 2006, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.