Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C
February 21, 2016
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
Hurry up and wait! Some days it seems like that’s all one does, whether clenching the steering wheel in traffic jams, tapping toes in clogged grocery checkout lanes, or thumbing through magazines in medical waiting rooms. According to author Alex Stone, writing in The New York Times, Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours waiting in lines each year. Why then is it so hard to wait for God, to dig deeply into scripture, spend time in prayer, and listen for divine direction?
This week’s lectionary lessons have a common thread of waiting that weaves them together. In the first lesson from Genesis 15, we encounter Abram weary from waiting and hoping for an heir. God comes to Abram in a vision and tells him not to fear, for God’s got this covered, and Abram’s reward will be great. Abram asks God for more details, and God shows him the cosmos unfolding in the night sky. We are told that Abram believed God’s promise of heirs more numerous than the stars, yet the waiting is too much and Abram wants more. God meets his impatient faithful one where he is and makes a covenant with Abram that involves animal sacrifice, terrifying darkness, and a smoking firepot and flaming torch. It’s quite the image of what can happen in the divine waiting game.
Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi encourages the waiting disciples, who likely faced ostracism, hostility, and censure as unpatriotic cultural and religious outsiders, to remain faithful and follow his example. Paul writes from Rome where he is under house arrest. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about waiting in less than ideal circumstances. Yet still he is able to offer encouragement to others whom he dearly loves and misses. Yes, waiting can be awkward and frustrating.
Jesus is also playing something of a waiting game with Herod in the gospel lesson from Luke 13. Herod’s clearly out to have his hide, but Jesus will not be dissuaded from his ministry. Yes, he’s coming to Jerusalem where he will confront the powers of Empire and religion, but he will do it on his time and in his way.
This Sunday, however, why not focus your teaching and preaching primarily on Psalm 27? This beautiful song of praise and lament, of uncertainty and surety is so appropriate for our time. As we lean into a contentious election season, and as violence and terror continue to erupt around the world, as our climate and future may seem uncertain, and as poverty and disease still frustrate and elude easy fixes, the psalmist’s words provide comfort as we watch, wait, and live into an uncertain future.
What is certain, in all of these lessons, is that God is ultimately in control of time, of space, of every breath we take. We are not promised an easy or pain-free life. We do not know the full shape or path our journey will take. And we do not know the span of time on earth we will be given. In some ways, life is indeed a waiting game. The good news is that when we wait for the Lord, we can be assured that we are looking in the right direction. No matter what life throws at us, whether a fox like Herod seeks to undo us or our way of life, or whether we live in the shadow of empire or terror, or whether we wonder about family, home, or work, we can rest assured that we will see the goodness of God in the land of real and lasting life. So hurry up and wait; just make sure you are waiting on the Lord.
Photos: Andy Wright, Marc Cooper, and Moritz Haase, Creative Commons. Thanks!