We live in a fast paced world and I think that our technology creates the illusion that time passes more quickly because we get information at lightning speed and consequently we have become a nation of fairly impatient people. How many of us have been glued to the news over the past week because we wanted to know the results of the election the second they were announced? How many of us get angry when the first person in line at a traffic light takes more than 2 seconds to press the gas pedal? How many of us get upset if we don’t hear back from someone within an hour of sending them a text or email? We do not like to wait and that is a detriment to our ability to be faithful people of God. Our impatience can go far beyond the physical world, it can, and in many cases does spill into the abstract world as well. What I mean by that is humanity, or at least most of us, seem to desire clarity. We like to know where we stand with people and when we have been wronged or upset we like to resolve the issue as quickly as possible so we can “move on”; we like to know the answer as quickly as possible, as if knowing the answer is going to change our lives; we want to know what our purpose is, as if there is some mystical meaning behind our existence. Our desire for immediacy conflicts with our faith because the purpose of the christian life is to live expectantly and hopefully, trusting that God will come into our lives with compassion and redemption; but living in hope does not mean that we should see ourselves as somehow immune to the harshness of the world, believing that God will somehow swoop in like superman to save the day; that is false hope and not at all the promise of the risen lord.
The parables we have heard over the last few weeks have all had the same theme; they have all given us a window into what is expected of us while we wait for Jesus to return and none of them point to resting on our laurels with the expectation that we will wake up one morning and find that the world is all fixed; instead we learned from the parable of the faithful and wise slave that we need to continue the work of spreading God’s redeeming love while we wait; we learned from the next parable that God has entrusted us with the care of creation while we await Jesus’s return; and from the parable of the the bridesmaids we learn that we need to be shaped by the knowledge that Jesus will return and be open to an unknown future that will be shaped by God, through us.
In his address to the diocese yesterday Bishop Doug quoted Corrie Ten Boom, who was Dutch woman that helped many Jews escape the Nazis during WWII, she said “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” I found these to be profound words for many reasons and it caused me to think about my own relationship with God and all of the times that I have been afraid of the future and did not trust God. I also thought of the times when I did trust God, even though it was extremely difficult to do.
The future of the world, our nation, our state, and even our community is unknown. We are in the process of wrapping up a very contentious election and there are just as many people who are upset and even heartbroken over the results as there are people who are overjoyed. We continue to be a society that struggles with racism, sexism, and classism. We continue to be a society that ranks near the top of the list for gun violence. We continue to face an unchecked pandemic that has taken the lives of over 1.2 million people worldwide and over 243,000 lives in our country. We do not yet know the long term economic effects of the pandemic, nor do we know how long it will take to recover. What we do know is that because of the pandemic more people have gone without food and community, and there is great fear that the homeless will suffer more than usual this winter as warming facilities and shelters either don’t open or are only able to open at reduced capacity. There has been an increase in mental health conditions since the pandemic has begun and there is fear that this will lead to an increase in suicide attempts. I have had multiple conversations with students in the last week about their mental health and how the isolation of being at home is affecting them and I am worried. If there was ever a time to place our future in the hands of God, it is now, but how do we do that? Corrie Ten Boom did not know if she would be able to save any of her neighbors, she did not know what would happen to her if she was caught, she did not know if she would be caught, she had good reason to be afraid because more than likely if she and her family were caught they would have been executed. What she did know was that God was on her side and armed with that knowledge she acted. She could have easily waited out the war safe in the knowledge that she and her family were likely safe from direct harm, but she clearly decided to take a chance, knowing that the outcome was uncertain and whether she really thought about God in that moment is not particularly relevant because her, and her families, actions answered the call to love your neighbor. Now, obviously we are not facing anything as dangerous as a Nazis genocide, but there doesn’t need to be a major crisis or threat in order for us to be faithful servants; we are not called to address all of the needs of the world, we are called to address the ones that are in front of us. We alone will not heal the division in our country, but we can do our part by talking with people. We alone will not make the pandemic go away, but we do have a role to play. We alone will not be able to house and feed everyone who is homeless or food insecure, but we can help. We alone will not be able to stop every person who decides to end their life, but we may be able to save one. Working for justice and respecting the dignity of every human being is one way we prepare for the return of Jesus. We do not prepare by using our gifts for our own benefit; we do not prepare by ignoring the world and the issues it faces; we do not prepare by only interacting with people we agree with; we do not prepare by waiting until the last minute to spring into action; preparation for the return of Jesus is a long process, it is a process that will take a lifetime, it is a process that requires patience, commitment, and most importantly hope; hope that the world can be better than it is; hope that God, despite our best efforts to destroy creation, will redeem us; hope that God’s love, through us, will win the day.