Dear Yates Family,
“How Long, O Lord?”
It is a powerful question. We read it in the Psalms, the Prophets and even the Book of Revelation. It’s a question that comes when our patience with the way things are has reached its limit. Behind the question lies the lingering frustration as we grow more aware that we really cannot go back to the way things were. There is no consensus about when we should emerge from our isolation, what that might look like, or how we all gather back together. All I know is that I’m eager – and cautious.
I write today with a lot of love in my heart, because I miss seeing you and sharing life and worship together. When, from time to time, we encounter one another distant face-to-distant face, it never fails to cheer my heart. I am reading the Bible differently these days, too, especially the letters of Pastor Paul (otherwise known as “the Apostle Paul”) to the churches he planted. The words of Scripture like we find in his letter to the Philippians mean more: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Somehow this rings truer than ever before!
Yet all indications are that we must wait. “How long , O Lord?” indeed. I have encouraged you, and myself, to use this time for personal and community edification. There are opportunities to grow, learn and serve. If you would like to explore ways to volunteer safely during this season , I encourage you to take a look at this website: http://www.handsontriangle.org/covid19-volunteer-needs. There you can find many ways to help feed, support and encourage your neighbor on-site and from home. Continue to care for one another as you have so well, and continue to locate ways to volunteer your time and service to the neighborhood.
I was looking back at my notes and realized the sermon I preached the Sunday before we broke face-to-face fellowship has much to say to us today, probably more. In the context of our long wait, reflect on what God was pointing us toward in worship in the sermon on March 8, 2020:
“In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a famous experiment that has come to be known as “The Marshmallow Test.” Groups of 4-year-olds were given one marshmallow each and told that if they waited 20 minutes before eating it, they would receive another. If they ate it without waiting, they would not get any more marshmallows. Some kids could wait and others could not.
The researchers then followed the progress of each child into adolescence and demonstrated that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted and more dependable (as determined by surveys of their parents and teachers), and scored an average of 210 points higher on their SATs.
Some of us would not only have eaten our own marshmallow right away, but would have taken the other kids’ marshmallows as well. Most of us are not great at waiting for things. We get cranky when we have to wait in line at the store or at a traffic light, which means we’re cranky a lot. Waiting is stressful.
Sometimes we think of waiting as passive, powerless exercise. But developing the spiritual discipline of waiting requires being active. Active waiting involves doing the things Jesus calls us to do: pray unceasingly, tend to the needs of our world, serve those in need, forgive, share what you have, live a life that’s shaped by the patterns of worship and informed by the Word of God…”
I think God was preparing us at Yates for such a time as this! There is much uncertainty and much we cannot control. We did not ask for or invite this time of pandemic and the task of untangling the enormous public health, economic, academic and political knot in which we find ourselves. But we can make choices every day about how we will wait for God in these times. When we wait for God — for whatever purpose, to help, heal or direct, it is possible to get ahead of God. You wait and nothing seems to happen, so you get impatient and start to work things out on your own. With a measure of discipline and a whole lot of trust we can grow in ways we cannot imagine as we actively wait on the Lord. Yes, I said we can grow.
That is what we aspire to be, “a growing community alive with Christ, energized to share God’s transforming love.” So let’s wait like it this week! We are in this together, and together we will see it through.
Grace and Peace,