Waiting Watching

Preacher: Nathan Hosler

Scripture: Lamentations 3: 22-33

Waiting, watching

Yearning

Patience—waiting—biding time?

Impatience—urgency—struggle. Struggle for justice, for survival, for joy.

Nostalgia—what once was. Regret.

Hopefulness—imagining what might be.

There is a trail along the west bank of the Potomac River. It starts across the river from Georgetown at Roosevelt Island. What, in the Avengers movie, Age of Ultron was the headquarters for S.H.E.I.L.D. The trail is called the Potomac Heritage trail and follows the river for at least 10 miles. We have spent hours running this trail. However, it is far enough from our house in northeast DC that outings to run have been irregular over the years.

 Over the past year and a half there have been times when the main parking areas were closed. However, the trails were still open for those who could get there. A number of years ago Jenn and I noticed a small 3 car parking spot at around mile 6. We pinned it on our phone and figured out how to get there. It is back a small road lined with multimillion dollar homes and no one really knows it exists.

Almost every Saturday morning since last March we have parked there and hiked with Ayuba. The rhythm of knowing when we needed to leave the house to park to hike to stop and do “archeology” on an upturned tree stump, when to stop and have a snack to turn around to make it home in time for Ayuba to nap was manageable.

This was a sort of active patience. A form of waiting and watching-observing. In addition to the joy and healthful practice of movement in nature, there was an unexpected but not all that surprising discover which brought great joy. The progress and movement through the seasons along the same narrow trail (presently much narrower at certain spots due to stinging nettles). We moved along and the forest moved through seasons.

From cool and bundled against the air off the river—avoiding stepping in the chilly water at a creek crossing.

To first buds and then opening

To the Virginia Blue Bells lining the paths filling swaths of open ground.

The first growing fuzzy raspberries

Not worrying about stepping in the water at the creek crossing and now even dipping fully in.

And then eating these raspberries

Super muggy mid-Atlantic summer

Changing leaves

Snow and ice

And again, first buds

In the scriptures there are a range of references to time, timeliness, anticipation. Waiting on God.

Psalm 90:4

For a thousand years in your sight
    are like yesterday when it is past,
    or like a watch in the night

Ecclesiastes 7:10

“Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

James 4:13-15

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”

Theologian Karl Barth wrote, “What unites God and us… is that He does not will to be God without us, that He creates us rather to share with us and therefore with our being and life and act His own incomparable being and life and act, that He does not allow His history to be His and ours ours, but causes them to take place as a common history.”  (Barth, Church Dogmatics, Reconciliation, 7)

In Lamentations we hear of waiting. During great suffering and doubt, there is an abiding trust in what God will do and who God is. It contains “five poems that describe suffering…confusion, bewilderment, and anger of those who remained in Jerusalem after the Babylonian conquest (587/586 B.C.E)” (Bailey, 266). African American Biblical scholar, Wilma Ann Bailey, asserts, that this book of intense language and expression is part of the grieving process. (Baily, 266). She continues and reflects on her community’s theological reflection of suffering and notes that while Lamentations attributes the suffering to God it also undermines or subtly questions this theology—clinging to the hope of “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” The passage we got from the lectionary is almost only this type of trusting language. We may aspire to such trust but many of us may rarely experience it. However, the passages before and after are stark and even brutal.

10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,
    a lion in hiding;
11 he led me off my way and tore me to pieces;

Or

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
    and broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
    with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me sit in darkness
    like the dead of long ago.

After 20 verses in this vein, in this chapter alone, the speaker turns, writing,
But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

There is a conscious turning. An active and intentional reminding and reciting. An active repeating of the goodness of God.

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,[b]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for one to bear
    the yoke in youth,
28 to sit alone in silence
    when the Lord has imposed it,
29 to put one’s mouth to the dust
    (there may yet be hope),
30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter,
    and be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not
    reject forever.
32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not willingly afflict
    or grieve anyone.

We live and are called, recognizing that we are not alone. At times we may feel alone, despair, hopelessness. To this the passage not only reminds but demonstrates a spiritual practice—a tactic of bringing to mind, intentional remembering. We are with God, are with others, we are surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses that are before, around, and we anticipate into the future. We acknowledge that God works with and through us and is not limited to us. We watch, waiting in eager expectation for the works of God.

Waiting trusting patient struggle

Waiting trusting patient struggle—proclaiming and living the Gospel of Peace. Amen.

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