The Gospel of John sometimes mystifies me. We have been hearing these mystical-miracle stories each Sunday during Lent. There is much controversy about John’s Gospel, when it was written, who wrote it and why, and why it differs so much from the Synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus uses more common language, short simple statements that go straight to the point. The author or authors of John’s Gospel dare to try to describe mysterious things like the incarnation and divinity of Jesus, the divine Logos, the Word that was with God and that is God. Jesus tells us that the man was not born blind because his parents sinned, but so that the works of God could be revealed in him. He tells the Samaritan woman that the water he gives will become a spring of water gushing up to new eternal life, and to Nicodemus, that no one can enter the kingdom without being born again of water and the spirit. I read these passages with a childlike faith, loving the beauty of the words, not really trying to make sense of them and simply believing that Jesus truly is God, man, the bread of life, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life. I try not to make sense of it, but to hear something new.
This morning I’d like to share some thoughts about waiting.
Here’s what I know about waiting:
#1. Waiting is hard.
#2 Waiting is something I’m not very good at. I don’t like to cue up, I’m impulsive and I’m usually in a constant hurry. I can remember being anxious to graduate, then to get that great job and then to retire. (My Mother called this “wishing your life away!”) and..
#3. I know that miracles can happen during the waiting, especially if we wait with hope and keep faith, that the Holy Spirit will help us make something new of the waiting. These are confusing times. There is so much happening that we don’t understand. Someone said that God is not interested in making sense; God is interested in making something new.
How long did the whole House of Israel have to wait? They waited until their bones were dry and rattling. They felt their hope was lost and that they were cut off completely, but they were not. They finally let the breath of the 4 winds blow upon them, and they lived and stood on their own feet.
The Psalmist cries out to the Lord…”I will wait, I will get my hope from God’s word, where there is mercy and redemption, as the Watchmen wait.”
In Biblical terms the 4th watch, from 3 to 6 am comes from the ancient Romans’ way of dividing the military guard hours.
My many years of night shift nursing taught me some things about watching and waiting, most especially that important things can happen in the darkest hours, or perhaps that we can more easily tune ourselves in to those important things. Our hearing and all of our senses are more acute. We are removed from the usual distractions of our light-filled hours. This dark stripped down time can help us to see and hear more clearly. I loved Barbara Brown-Taylor’s book “Learning to Walk in the Darkness”, she says that darkness is divine and that it is where God dwells. In Isaiah 45 we hear “I will give you hidden treasures in the darkness”.
Sometimes Jesus is the Lord of urgent action in the brightness of daytime. He is swift to reach out his hand to save a drowning man, he restores sight to the blind man and he feeds thousands of hungry people on the beach, but in today’s Gospel story, the last miracle story before his own passion, death and resurrection, Jesus shows us how to wait.
In the midst of his own grief over the loss of his dearest friend Lazarus, the Gospel writer tells us: 1st; Jesus waited. He was greatly disturbed and deeply moved, he did not hide his grief and he wept. He raised his eyes to God and He spoke a prayer of thanksgiving, praise and hope, that the Glory of God would be revealed in this dark hour. Here is our great teacher, again, showing us how to be human.
All of Lent is a waiting, and next week, on Palm Sunday, we are privileged to begin waiting and watching with Jesus as he begins the final leg of his journey to resurrected life.
What might come of our present waiting? What is the new thing that God will reveal to us? My 2 year old grandson Zooms in for story time with his nursery school teacher and classmates every morning, and some of our older parishioners are using computer skills that they never could have imagined using. Kids are getting to know their parents in new ways and a teenager in Northampton figured out how to make plastic face shields for healthcare workers on his 3-D printer. We witness many acts of Love every day. What new thing will be revealed for us in our waiting?
I pray that we might tune our senses more acutely to the breath of the 4 winds, to the silence of the 4th watch and to the Word of God, that God’s glory will be revealed to us in our time. Amen.
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