Sermon: Easter 3 RCL A – “A Waiting Soul”

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A woman’s car stalled in traffic. She looked in vain under the hood to identify the cause, while the driver behind her leaned relentlessly on his horn. Finally she had enough. She walked back to his car and offered sweetly, “I don’t know what the problem is with my car. But if you want to go look under the hood, I’ll be glad to sit back here and honk for you.”

If we were to go around the room, I suspect we would discover that there are very few of us who have no plans for the rest of the day. Not many will head back home, prop their feet up, and enjoy. Instead, if we were to go around the room, I suspect that there are many who are only waiting for the last candle to be snuffed out on the altar before taking off to the next event on the calendar. We are very busy people and I suppose that is OK, we can enjoy the busyness just as much as the quiet, but that busyness has a way of changing the way we think. We can begin to believe that if we aren’t doing something, if something isn’t happening, then we are wasting time, and if we believe that we are wasting time, then we will lay on the horn until that idiot gets the heck out of our way, or if there is no idiot, we will invent something to fill the time.

Our Gospel reading today begins, “Now on that same day two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.” “Now on that same day…” We have to go back and look, but the day being referred to is the day of the resurrection of Jesus. So these two disciples, Cleopas and most likely Luke, had been in Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the following day had been the Sabbath, so they wouldn’t have travelled, and then the next day – today – they headed out to Emmaus. In deciding to go to Emmaus, they must have left late in the day, because it doesn’t take but maybe three or four hours to walk seven miles even if you’re going slow, but they don’t arrive until evening.

I can’t say for certain, but I suspect they had sat in a room with the others trying to make sense of all that happened, just as they had been doing on their walk to Emmaus. And I also suspect that they headed off to Emmaus knowing they wouldn’t make it until nightfall simply because they couldn’t take it anymore, just sitting there. They were desperate for a change of scenery and they absolutely reached a point where they had to do something to fill the time. Maybe they thought about remaining with the others, but decided – after all the uproar – they just needed to get away and so starting off to Emmaus was as good as anything else. At least they would be moving.

Along the way, although they did not recognize him, Jesus appeared to them and asked, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, asked him, “Exactly which rock did you just crawl out from under?”

I should find fault with these two disciples and their actions, but if I find fault with them, I’m going to have to find fault with myself, and that’s just not going to happen. Truth is, we all do it. We get antsy, impatient, bored, call it what you will, but we get to where we need a bit of moving about and occasionally we get irritated with folks who get in our way and so we lay on the horn to hurry them along, and we do the same thing with God.

Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” So, we knock and when there is no answer, we knock again. We will knock until we have bloody knuckles, and when that doesn’t work, we ring the doorbell, we bang, we look for an open window to shout in, we lay on the car horn, we curse, we shake our fists. In our lives, in our spiritual walk, in our prayers, we say to God, “I got things to do!” – whether we really do or not. We have that need to be doing something or to have something… anything happen.

They told us in seminary that one of the dangers of staying in a parish for too long is that after awhile, you have to start burying your friends. This past week I experienced that again with Christie. In a visit with her a few weeks before she died, I shared with her Psalm 62. It is a go to Psalm for me in situations like that and I firmly believed – and still do – that a person in distress can find comfort in those words. When I heard how much it meant to Christie, I looked at it again and then wished I had known her a lot longer, because I believe I could have learned so much from her. Perhaps it only came at the end – I don’t know – And I shared this on Wednesday at the funeral, but but I think she was able to live into the words the Psalmist spoke:

For God alone my soul in silence waits;
truly, my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

The Psalmist then speaks of trials, difficulties in his life, but then returns to the same prayer, adding even greater understanding to the soul’s waiting on God:

For God alone my soul in silence waits;
truly, my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor;
God is my strong rock and my refuge.

After experiencing the faithfulness and security of God in his own life, the Psalmist shares what he has discovered, by saying:

Put your trust in him always, O people,
pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

The Psalm is a tremendous response to our statement to God, “I got things to do!” For if we will learn to wait in silence on him and to place our hope in him, then we will witness his faithfulness to us, his beloved children.

I am doing my best to wait patiently for my roses to begin to grow at home; however, there are other plants that take much longer to produce, the Chinese bamboo tree being one of them. Once the gardener plants the seed, he will see nothing but a single shoot coming out of the bulb – for five full years! That tiny shoot requires daily food and water, yet during these first five years, the exterior shoot will grow less than an inch.

However, at the end of five years, the Chinese bamboo will perform an incredible feat. It will grow an amazing ninety feet tall in only ninety days! So ask yourself this: when did the tree actually been growing?

The answer lies in the unseen part of the tree, the underground root system. It’s a bit like an iceberg. When you see one, you’re only seeing about 10% of the total size, the remainder is under the surface of the water. The first five years of the Bamboo tree’s growing cycle are taking place under ground where it is putting out an extensive fibrous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth, preparing to support the incredible heights the tree will eventually reach.

It’s been said that when God wants to grow mushrooms, he can do it overnight, but when he wants to grow a mighty oak or, in this case, a towering Bamboo tree, it takes many years. When it comes to growing the pinnacle of his creation – us – it can take even longer, perhaps even a lifetime.

When in the midst of these sometime slow growing seasons, instead of taking off for Emmaus for lack of anything else to do or laying on the horn and shouting up to God, “I got things to do!”, remember the words of this remarkable Psalm:

For God alone my soul in silence waits;
truly, my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

Remember these words and take refuge in him.

Let us pray (a prayer from St. Thomas Aquinas): Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.

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