Sunday, April 5, 2020

What is Going on Any Way? - A Palm Sunday Sermon

Matthew 21:1-17
And here we come to the triumphal entry, just like we do this time every year. Those of us who have grown up in the church have had some version of this story in our heads since we were small. What each of us may or may not realize at this point is that the story in each of our heads is really a compilation. Our head cannon has bits and pieces of the way each of the Gospels record the event and then most of us have thrown in some imagined details, we don’t even realize are not even in scripture.
As a pastor who has been at this for some years to now, I think it is fair to say that I have preached some version of the triumphal entry . . . once or twice. Finding a new way to think about this passage, a new way to approach it so that my sermon this year is in some way different from the nearly 20 others I have, is hard for me.
When I see the scripture reference, I can instantaneously identify which “Triumphal Entry” passage this is, before I even open my Bible. Before I even read one word, I already know what I think. I know all the preaching points I have used over the years and which ones like the best, and which ones have fallen flat in years past. I know all the background information for this passage. At this time Jews would come pouring into the city. I know what and how they would have been celebrating.
I know there was another procession of Romans coming into the city to “keep the peace”, which was most likely going on simultaneously with Jesus’. I know about the Romans, I know about the Jews, I know about the Passover and the various meals and celebrations that took place around it. I know what is going on in the temple, what is going on in the streets and what is going on in homes all across that city. And if I can’t bring the information to the forefront of my memory, I know where I can to find it.
The fact may very well be that I KNOW TOO MUCH. I am not just familiar with this passage, I already know what I think about it, what I am supposed to think about it and even before I read the passage this week, I was already cycling through the different angles I could take on it.
With this passage and so many like it, it would be nice to come to it not really knowing what to expect, seeing it as if it were for the first time, so I can perhaps really see it. But I can’t, I can just look at it, read it, listen to it and try to really hear it and I tried this week. I really did make a valiant attempt to look at the passage, to allow the passage to just be and, not forget, but put on the back burner what I know, or I think I know and just live with this passage, what it says and what is going on here on this day, at this time and what Matthew has to say about it.
So I decided to imagine that I was a stranger visiting a strange town and I happened up this procession. And tried to ask myself the same kinds of questions some might ask if they happened upon these events. What are some of the questions one might have if one were seeing this procession for the first time?
As I rounded the corner in my imagination and saw what the Gospel writer says was happening first question I would have is, “Why is that man trying to ride two mounts?” Now that’s weird. No seriously look at the passage.
“The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.”
Why in the world is Matthew giving us the impression that Jesus is riding two mounts?
The easy answer is, well because Matthew is quoting: Zechariah 9:9
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Zechariah is speaking of a king coming in peace and humility. The passage uses a Hebraic redundancy of wording which when used was supposed to highlight the point being made. The King will come, triumphant in humility and victorious in peace and this is pointed out by the fact that he is riding a “colt, a foal of a donkey,” and not a war horse, not even a horse, but a donkey.
But still come on why two animals? 
There is also an historical/cultural answer. It was also common practice for a military leader to ride in a procession with a secondary mount, one which was there just in case your primary mount went lame, or if it was a particularly long procession, to ride when the primary mount was tired and needed to rest. To process in riding a donkey, not a particularly grand mount and to have a colt or a foal as your secondary mount would further emphasize the humility and peaceful nature of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem
But then you might want to know, come on pastor, did Jesus really ride two animals?
 I don’t know. Matthew is the only one which includes two animals. He could be right, Jesus might have come in with two animals, but none of the other gospel writers thought it was important enough to mention, or Matthew could just be trying to make a point about the nature of Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem. I think it is alright to not know for sure.
So the next questions we might have is, “What is going on with the palms and cloaks?” I am mean this is what Palm Sunday is all about. It is the one Sunday a year when, if we were all in our sanctuaries, we would lay our dignity aside and march around the sanctuary singing Hosanna. But, why?  Why palms? Why cloaks?
Jesus was processing in a humble, peaceful manner, but the crowds were seeing this as something else. The crowds were welcoming a conquering king. They were showing signs of reverence and celebration that was common when the new ruler came to town. You put your cloaks on the ground to show reverence and respect for a dignitary. You waved branches and sung praises to let the new ruler know that you loved and adored him and welcomed him and his rule into the city. He is coming to set up a Davidic kingdom; to set things “right;” to restore their nationhood and set himself up on its throne.
The next question many might have is, “What does even Hosanna mean?”
It is a Hebrew word which we just bring right over into English without translating. It means “save us.”  It is a prayer, a cry to God. Save us!  Seem about right doesn’t it.
I think we all could get on board with dancing around our homes singing, “Save us!”
They are crying, but they are celebrating this prayer, this cry. They are saying it as if their cry has been heard, as if their prayers have been answered. Can we say, “Hosanna,” with the same kind of assurances? When we cry, “Hosanna,” this morning can we do it, knowing our prayer is heard, is being answered?
We all know what we would like God to save us from right now, but what did those singing that day need saving from?  Why have they been crying out to God?
The Romans: at this time the people of Israel identified most with their ancient ancestors in Egyptian slavery. They wanted to be released from Roman oppression. They were crying out to God from their “enslavement,” Hosanna, God save us, release us from our Roman tyrants.
This is happening at the beginning of Passover week, when they are about to celebrate how God used Moses to bring them up out of Egyptian slavery, to “save them.” 
Does knowing that they are saying these words at the beginning of Passover week add any meaning to this?
This is a huge celebration in which the Hebrews celebrate how they won independence from the Egyptians how they were saved from their oppressors.
Let’s say the United States falls apart from all this, and various parts of it are now a part of other countries and New England is annexed into Canada. What if we here in the new New England providence of Canada continued to celebrate Independence Day – July 4th? 
Let’s say the officials of Canada put up with our celebration because it is mostly harmless and they just increase police presence in New England’s capital city, Boston, where all the “Americans” like to go every year to celebrate together with picnics along the Charles and fireworks. For three days Boston is full. There are reenactments all over town of various “Independence events”. We reenact the Tea Party, the Massacre, the first shots fired on Bunker Hill, the lantern lighting, it is HUGE. And then on July 4th both sides the river are lined with people picnicking, cooking on small grills, children running up and down the grass, families gathered together, it is a wonderful celebration when we remember when we were once a fine nation and we once won a revolution.
But imagine one year a man from Western Mass or perhaps Northern Vermont, comes to town. Some of us have heard of him, he has some interesting things to say. He seems harmless in and of himself, but some people seem to think he has come to bring about a new revolution, to set us free from our tyrannical Canadian overlords, so that New England can be the seed of re-envisioned, re-instated United States of America!
Can you imagine that? Well that is basically what these people think Jesus is up to. They are celebrating because they think Jesus is coming to set them free, from their Roman oppressors.
Jesus is coming in riding a donkey (and a foal?) he is processing as one who is coming in peace, who is coming in humility. The people are welcoming him as a military hero, as a new king, as a revolutionary.
They say with their words that he is a prophet, but their actions say he is coming to set things “right,” in the way they see things being set right, as a prophet of revolution. So he is one of those radical prophets who have come to stir things up and make trouble for the status quo, to shake up the regime and turn everything on its head, over throw the empire and set up a Davidic dynasty. They had a lot of expectations of Jesus. They really thought they knew what he was about and what he was about to do.
But this is not what Jesus is doing, not at all. We know what the people think Jesus is up to, but what does Jesus really want to do and to say with his entry into Jerusalem?
Most of us can be on board with Jesus not trying to come as a military or a revolutionary hero, or even a rabble rousing prophet. Jesus was not telling the people that he was their conquering hero, coming to regain the Kingdom and set himself up as the new king of the new country of Israel. And we can know this by what Jesus does next. He does not come into town and storm the castle. He does nothing that could lead anyone to believe that he is a revolutionary attempting to overthrow anything.
I know this as an outside observer because, nothing he does next does anything to accomplish these goals. He rides into town and he goes into the temple and clears out those who are buying and selling in the market place, quoting Isaiah and saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” and then he goes on to declare, but you are making it a den of robbers. Now that is harsh.
But why does he do this? What is he so angry about?
Well, in the outer most court of the temple merchants set up booths, to do several things, change money, and sell animals that would be needed by those who had come too far to bring their own, to make their sacrifices. For the Jews who have come to Jerusalem for Passover, money changing and having animals to purchase for their sacrifice, are much need amenities. Jesus is not upset about people needing to do this, he is upset that it is happening in the temple court.
In theory there is nothing wrong with these people doing these things. But it was also pretty common practice for money changers to short change their customers. There was no standard rate of currency exchange. There was no central body determining how many Roman gold pieces equal a denarii. So the money would determine how gullible or knowledgeable about what the exchange rate should be they believed their client to be, and would change the rate accordingly. Then at the animals stalls it was common for the price of the animals to have gone up steeply right about the time of Passover, when there were more people  “from away” who would  not know that a pigeon cost half as much last week. So Jesus is upset that “robbing” others in that way, was common practice in the temple court.
But that is not all he is upset about. You may or may not remember that the temple is set up in a series of courts. The inner most section is the Holy of Holies, only the high priest went in there once a year. Outside of that is the Holy Place where only the priests were allowed. Outside that was the Inner Court where only the Jewish men came to pray and to worship. The court directly outside of that was the Outer Court, or the Court of Women, which is where the Jewish women came to worship and pray. The outer most court of the Temple was the court of Gentiles where Gentile followers of God, known as God Fearers, were allowed to worship.
All this money changing and all these animals and all these booths and all the hub bub and commotion of a marketplace and of commerce was located in this outer most court. The only place that people who were not Jews, but who had come to know God as the one and only living God of the universe, we allowed to worship. They were basically told the only place they were allowed to worship and was in the chaos and commotion out on the corner of Prospect and Mass Ave, out there in Central Square, or some other busy city intersection, you know like it use to be, back when there was traffic and people, not like it is right now. I am sure if you or I wanted to do that we could figure out a way to worship and pray there on one of the benches, but it would not be ideal.
And that is why Jesus is angry. Is that some people are blatantly disregarding others, putting their own convenience above the needs of others.
When Jesus is finished doing this, he sets to heals people. You, know like ever good conquering hero does, when he attempts to take down a tyrannical regime. He heals the blind and the lame. He comes into town, is received like a conquering hero and then he heals people. Again this does nothing to set him up as the new king, it does nothing to start a revolution, or anything like that.
Ok, but then what is with the conversation between Jesus and the Chief priest and scribes?
Jesus is the temple healing people and something interesting happens. The chief priests and the scribes, who seem to not be able to keep up with Jesus, and what he has been doing, come in questioning him about what the people had been singing when he was outside. I mean he just kicked some people out of temple and they are still upset about the songs the crowd was singing. It is almost as if they are just as confused about who Jesus is and what he is all about as the crowd who were thinking they were welcoming their conquering hero.
Passover, at this time was the most volatile time period in Jerusalem. Jews from all over the Roman Empire come to Jerusalem to celebrate the time when God emancipated the Jewish people from a ruling empire. There were extra soldiers in town to “keep the peace” and there was all this pressure from the government for the Jewish leaders to keep “their people” under control. The last thing they needed was some kind of rabble rouser to incite the people to a revolutionary riot. That would not go well for anyone.
So they ask, “Jesus do you hear them out there?” You can’t do this, it is not going to end well. You need to get them to stop before this all goes south and we stuck in it and have no way out.
And Jesus’ answer is odd. He quotes a psalm declaring that even the smallest children, infants and babes will give praise to God. Jesus is choosing to interpret the singing as worship and praise. And is not a too surreptitious way of saying that he is God, and is thus deserving of such worship and praise.
But then he just goes away?
Then Jesus just goes to Bethany (presumably to the house of Mary and Martha, since that is where they live and we know from other gospels that he spent some time there about this time doing something, you know mildly remarkable. But that is another passage in another gospel) Jesus comes into town, does all these things and then leaves. Leaving those of us who witnessed these events, wondering what has just happened? What is going on? Who is this Jesus person anyway?
We are there this series of events this morning? Who are we most like? Whose thoughts and feelings most align with ours? If we were in the streets of Jerusalem that day, with whom would we most relate?  Are we a part of the gathered crowd who sees Jesus as a conquering hero coming to fulfill our hopes and our dreams. Is Jesus, for us, a prophet who proclaims the words we want to hear?
Are we one of chief priests or scribes; he is a trouble maker going to create a bad situation with the authorities and the powers that be, when all we want to do is to keep our heads down, be good citizens and live peacefully, making due the best we can with the situation we are currently in?
Are we money changers, trying to get ahead the best we can and see him as an impediment to our livelihood and messing up our way of living?
Are we just another Jewish person there for the Passover, who worried about how change our money and buy our Passover lamb from the merchants in the temple, not thinking about or even realizing we are participating in a broken system that is allowing us this convenience while disregarding the humanity, and the needs of others, whom we many not even realize are disadvantaged by our activities, and here is this man who is disrupting OUR lives, OUR way of doing things, making things more difficult so that others are no longer disadvantaged by our activities? Are we here to be healed?
We are there this morning; we are someone in this story. How do we see what Jesus is doing, what he has done?
And however we see Jesus’ activities in this passage, what does it mean for our conquering hero, the prophet, the rabble rouser, the trouble maker, the weird guy over throwing a broken and oppressive system, whomever we presume him to be; what does it mean for him to die? What if he really is God, as he himself more than kind of implies here? What does is mean for God to die? What does it mean for the Jesus we find in this passage, who we know and understand, or misunderstand to shortly die?
And Jesus goes off to Bethany to spend the night and we are left to wonder who do we think Jesus is? Who is he? What is he doing? What is his purpose?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 3

Psalm 3:1-8
Key Verses: 3:5-6
“I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.” NLT
Right now we have ten thousand microscopic enemies which are threatening to come against us each day. We are surrounded on all sides. The numbers of those infected go up daily, but God is our shield. When we say, “Come save us, Lord, God!” We can know God hears us. God is watching. We can rest knowing God is here. We worship the God who is with us. With us as we rest, with us in our homes, with us when we are anxious or afraid. We have many thousand enemies surrounding us, but God has given us a way to remain safe, a way to slow the spread of our enemies. The experts say, Stay home stay safe. And we can know that we can rest in our homes and wake up in safety there. Stay home, stay safe, rest knowing God is there with us even in the midst of our current enemies.  

Thing to Think on
Although this virus is an enemy right now, are there other enemies in your life right now?
Do you feel overwhelmed and surrounded? Do you feel unsafe?
Take time again today, to tell God, how you feel unsafe. Call out to God to save you from what makes you anxious or afraid.
Then rest knowing God is with you wherever you are and protects you from the enemy which surrounds you.

A Prayer for Today
Lord, right now I feel surrounded. It feels as if no place is safe. Save us! Rescue me! Help! I need to remember how to trust that you are here, with us now, with me. I am not alone. We are not alone. Help me to know that you are with me, with us in and through everything that is going on. Lord, trusting is hard. Help me to trust. – Amen

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 143

Key Verse: 143:5-6
“I remember the days long past; I meditate on all your deeds; I contemplate your handiwork. I stretch out my hands to you; my whole being is like dry dirt, thirsting for you.”CEV

I remember the days . . . Remembering is a way to be able to trust God when the events of life are difficult.  When we remember the good God has done we are able to better trust the good God will do. While we are going through “dark valleys;” when the sorrow and grief overwhelm us, when we feel like the struggle we are going through right now feel as if it will never end. We can focus on the good of the past, and remember that God is good, even when life is not good. And in the place we are right now we can thirst for the goodness of God. We can tell God how dry we feel, how lost, how abandoned. We can tell God, I trust you, but right now it is hard. God sees our struggle. God understands our grief and our pain. God is at work weaving good things in the midst of the darkness. The dawn will come, the dry ground will know water once more. Right now trust in the Lord, and remember. . . .
Thing to Think on
How do you feel today?  What do you need from God today?
Let God what you need today. Tell God how you are feeling.
Can you count your Blessings today? What are the good things in your life?
Is it easier to trust God when you focus on the good things God has done?
Try to spend time remembering the goodness of God today. Make a list.

A Prayer for Today
Lord, I am scared. I am tired. I am hurting. I am lost. There are so many ways the darkness of this world is overwhelming me. I need you today. I need your love, I need your mercy, I need your kindness, your strength, your comfort and your support. Help me to remember how you have been all these thing and more for me in the past. Help me to see your goodness of the past, so that I can trust you right now to bring me to goodness in the future. Lord, I trust you, but right now it is hard. - Amen

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Manna for Today: Psalm 1

Psalm 1:1-6
Key Verses: 3
“They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade. Whatever they do succeeds.”
Right now we all may feel like trees uprooted; uprooted from our normal routines, uprooted from our friends, from our family, from being able to do all the things we want to do. But we are not uprooted and left in the sun to dry and shrivel up, like a weed taken from a garden. We may be uprooted, taken away from all we once knew, but we are replanted. And we are not just replanted anywhere, replanted by the cool streams, where our roots can go deep and we can drink fully of the goodness of God. This is a time to fill ourselves with the nourishment only God can give us. To drink deeply from the scriptures, to feast on communion with God through prayer, a time to seek out the good and wonderful things of God, to nourish and help us grow, so we can come away from this time and bear God’s fruit, be trees who reflect the glory of God in all we do. Grow strong so we can shine with the love of God in all the place we will once again go and be and work and do.  
Thing to Think on
What can you do today to draw closer to God?
How is God helping your grow at this time in your life? How can you lean into that, to drink deeply from the things God is giving you right now to help your grow and flourish?
What can you do to allow yourself to succeed in the things God will have for you when we are once again released into the world?

A Prayer for Today
Lord, today I feel like a tree uprooted. Help me to be replanted in you. Help me to find in you the nourishment I need to grow strong, to bear fruit and to be the person you are calling me to be. Help me to us this time of stillness and waiting to not be idle but to grow in my relationship with your and grow to better reflect your love in this world. - Amen

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Manna For Today: Psalm 31

Psalm 31:1-24
Key Verses: 24
“All you who wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage.”
Right now we are waiting, staying at home, being still, not going anywhere, waiting. As we wait it is easy to become anxious, to become agitated. It is easy to let our boredom get the best of us, cause us to do things that are not wise, to allow us to turn to fear, or desperation; cause us to hoard what we don’t need and to acquire things that are not in our own best interest. As we wait for God to bring redemption to our loneliness, and solitude, and find our hope God and the things of God. Let us not resort to fear, or desperation, but instead let us be strong. As we rest in the Lord, let us find strength in God and in the ways we reach out to one another. Let us courageously be at home, but continue to find ways to build relationship with those who live with us, as well as those who do not. Be strong; let your heart take courage, because we know God is at work. God is and will continue to bring goodness, wholeness and healing to us and to our world.

Thing to Think on
Find one way to be strong today.
Go for a walk.
Reach out (while social distancing) to a friend.
Write in your journal about how you are feeling. Tell God about your fears. Allow God to fill you with courage.
Take time today to send a note (in the actual mail with an actual stamp) to someone who might need encouragement today.

A Prayer for Today
Oh Lord, God. Staying home is hard, slowing down is hard. I want to do something. I need to move, to be a person of action. Waiting is hard. Help me to wait for you. Help me to find strength and courage in you. Show me how I can reach out in the bravery and the strength you have given me to others who might feel the same as I do, so that they too might find strength and courage in you. - Amen

Monday, March 30, 2020

Manna For Today: Psalm 30

Psalm 30:1-12
Key Verses: 11-12
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!”
The promise here is not that we will not mourn, nor is it a call to turn our funerals into joyous celebrations. The promise here is that mourning will not have the final word. There is pain. There is death. Our souls will ache with the sorrow of it. Throughout our lives, we will encounter the dark pit, but the promise is, each time God is there, with us and God will not leave us to the pain, to the sorrow, to the darkness. God will raise us up. God will help us find our way forward. And will help us find our joy again. Even in the face of death, of pain, of sorrow, God’s redeeming power will bring goodness, righteousness, and beauty to everything, to every situation, to every hurt, to each death. God will bring redemption to it all. We will be able to see God at work. And our response is to not remain silent, but to proclaim God’s goodness in it all, and through it all. To give thanks and glory to God even as we wait to see how God will bring redemption.

Thing to Think on
Look back at one the biggest struggles you have had in your life, how has God brought redemption (brought good things into and out bad) to that situation?
Can you see God bringing beauty, goodness and righteousness (redemption) to what is going on right now in your life?
What does it look like for you to not remain silent about the ways God’s redemptive power in your life?

A Prayer for Today
Lord, God you make beautiful things grow out of dark soil, you bring life where there is death and beauty where there only seems to be pain. Help me to see the green shoots of your work in my life. Help me to watch them grow and find joy in them. Lord also help me to “sing” of your goodness, to speak of your greatness and to give thanks to you in all things.  - Amen

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Cross Roads: Where We Wait

Psalm 130 

This is the third Sunday on which we have done things like this, as we begin the third week of what is becoming our new normal; a new normal in which we work hard to stay at home, which includes a daily address from our president, at least a weekly address from our governor; a new normal in which we hardly go outside, and in which we are careful to not come too close to anyone we may meet on the street, where there are marks on the floor telling us how to stand in the grocery line and we try not to touch anything we do not need to touch.
We have come to accept; the numbers of those infected by the illness will go up. We accept, the numbers of people who have lost their jobs, whose lives have been turned upside, the number of those who are hurting and in need will go up.  We accept this just as we accept the numbers which show us the strength of our economy will go down. Yesterday, as we were walking across a field on an evening walk, I expressed to Mike how important I thought it was that we continued to go for walks. We need to go for a walk every day, just in case a day came, in the near future, where we were encouraged to no longer go outside at all. We should make sure we take advantage of our ability to enjoy each and every beautiful day, just in case, just like so many other things, walking freely about our neighborhood becomes a luxury we no longer have. This is where we are right now.
It is from this strange reality in which we now live, the words of this Psalm comes to us, “Out of the depths, I cry to you Oh Lord.” And it is from the depths in which our society currently finds itself, we all cry out to God. We ask God to hear our voice, to be attentive to our supplications, to our requests for relief, for healing, for the complete irradiation of this virus which currently plagues so many the world over. We ask the Lord to look not at our sins, at our failings, at all the ways we have turned aside from the ways God and instead turn to us in compassion, mercy, forgiveness but most importantly healing and restoration.
“Out of our depths we cry to you, Oh Lord, hear our voices, listen to our pleas.”
The psalmist cries out in pain, in desperation, from whatever depths he was experiencing at the time, he does not tell us why he is crying out to God, which allows us, alongside believers throughout the centuries, to co-op his plea and allow his words to give voice to the cries of our own hearts. His words also express a turning to God, something we too find ourselves doing. The Psalmist cries out to God, not because he fears God cannot or will not hear him. He does not cry out to a deaf and dumb god, who like the gods of the countries around him were nothing but metal and wood, without ears to hear, or a will which can be moved on his behalf. The psalmist calls out to the One and only living God of the universe, who has the power to speak all things in to existence; has the ability to hear his voice and can move to give him aid, comfort, healing and mending to his brokenness.
The Psalmist calls out in faith. Some might think, crying out like this would be a sign of a lack of faith. But it is the exact opposite. When we cry out to God, in our pain, from the places of our hurt, in fear, and in desperation, this is a cry is a cry of faith not of unbelief. When we say to God, “Where are you in this,” “Why can I not see you,” “Can you even hear me,” “Do you see what is going on,” we are calling out to God and even though the words we say my seems to question God, the fact that we continue to cry out to God, is a statement of our faith none-the-less. As we lay our hurts, our cares, our fears, our own desperation upon the ancient words of this psalm, can do so from the same place of faith from which the psalmist originally penned them.
Each week this Lent, I have reminded you that Lent is a road down which we are traveling and as we travel, the psalms are the cross roads we encounter along the way, this week we come to this new cross road. As we come to this new road which crosses our path, carrying the burdens of our hurts, of our fears, of our concerns, of the losses we have already experienced and the losses we may soon experience, we stop. We look this way and that. The road no longer seems familiar, we are unsure which way we are supposed to go. The way forward is uncertain and we cry out to God hoping for a response, hoping for guidance, knowing God can hear us, but unable to know if we have heard a response. Unsure of the way to go, we set down our burdens and wait. And this is the hardest part.
If there is one thing these last two week have told us, if we did not already realize this, is that we are horrible at waiting. When the best thing we can do for ourselves is to stop for a while, to slow down just a bit and wait it out, we find excuses to go to the store more often than we should, we try to come up with reasons we need to go visit our friends, and we become tempted to join others in the park, when we know we really shouldn’t.
 We live in a time and a place in which what we do is our identity. We tell people, I am a pastor, a doctor, an electrician. It is the second question we ask others, following right on the heels of asking their name. The subtext of this culture of, “you are what you do,” is that you are nobody; you are nothing, if you are not doing something.  So we are a people who are unable to sit still, to do nothing, because we are afraid that means we are nothing.
The absolute worst thing for anyone to tell us is that in order to accomplish something, or anything is for us to wait, to be still, to do nothing. It makes no sense it goes against our training, against our inherent beliefs. It goes against everything we have been told all of our lives. Our cry in the face of any hardship, any obstacle, any hurt or pain, is, “There’s gotta be something I can do!”
Yet, here we are in a place where we must wait; a place where we need to be still, to find our way, by not going anywhere. And even here in our waiting, we join the words of this psalm as the psalmist say, “I wait for the Lord.” We wait, and we do so faithfully, expectantly, because we know we are not alone. We are not waiting for that which will never come. We are waiting for God. But we can’t make it happen; there is nothing we can do right now to bring about the working of God in this situation. We can do nothing but be still, stay at home and wait; wait knowing God redeems all things; wait knowing God hears us, knowing God will respond. We wait knowing God will bring redemption even to this.