As We Wait—Heb 10:14-25
If nothing else, Good Friday teaches us to wait. Our life as Christians is
really a life of waiting. Christians have been waiting a long time. I suspect we
will be waiting a long time yet. We here have waited with many brothers and
sisters in faith. Some of them are here with us. Many, oh, many, are no longer
here. We have waited, watching beside the caskets or the urns containing their
earthly remains. It has been hard on us, as we have sat there beside more and more
caskets, more and more urns. We have grown older and fewer as we have waited.
We have lived through what seemed a time of confidence and abundance in
our church, and that time seems to have passed, as the pews have become emptier
and fewer people seem interested, and we have found it harder to reach out to
people. Many of our brothers and sisters within our denomination seem
determined to stray from Truth, from the teaching of Christ and the teaching of
Scripture, faithfully handed on from generation to generation for nearly two
thousand years. Our society seems more indifferent and sometimes more hostile to
our faith than at any time we are able to remember. Society seems to say, “Keep
your faith to yourself,” and all too often, we say, in reply, “Okay.”
The Book of Hebrews speaks to us in our time. There is a Word for us here:
a Word of faith, a Word of encouragement.
“[L]et us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering” (10:23a). We
hear many words, many words that sound urgent, in these times, many words that
seem to demand action: liberty! justice! freedom! equality! Here, though, is God’s
wisdom: on this day, we are called to wait, patiently, prayerfully. Some say, “Act
now, for there is no God to act.” Others say, “Act now, for God is not acting.”
Still others say, “Let us act on behalf of God,” yet what they demand that we do
does not sound to my ears as if it is from God, God’s way, God’s will.
Here is the Word we hear in Scripture, though, that we hear today, this day
of solemn remembrance, of prayer, and of song: “[L]et us hold fast to the
confession of our hope without wavering” (10:23a). Holding fast requires
patience. Holding fast requires perseverance. Holding fast requires faith. Holding
fast requires hope. Holding fast requires love, great love, a love we know only
through God, through grace, the God-given grace that enables us to love, to hope,
to have faith, to persevere, and to be patient.
Such love enables us to hold fast, as our reading from Hebrews encourages
us to do. We hear this also: “provoke one another to love and good deeds, not
neglecting to meet together” (10:24, 25a). We are encouraged to encourage one
another. We are encouraged to share life together. We love. We serve. We share.
What a blessing it is for us to be together with each other as the darkness gathers
Our waiting is long, but it is not idle and it is not fruitless and it is not hopeless.
There can be no waiting when there is no hope. Only the hopeful wait. The
hopeful continue to love. The hopeful continue to do good deeds. The hopeful
gather together and share life together, rejoicing in God who sent His Son to die so
that we might live.
We wait and we hope because we cannot do what God can do. God does
great things. We do small things. In God, we do small things with great love. On
the cross, God has done a Great Thing. Come, now, to the foot of the cross. What
do you see, as you stand there at the foot of the cross? A limp, ashen body,
coagulating blood, a cruel crown, the hair of his head lightly lifting in a gentle
breeze that seems out of place. See Mary there, deep in grief, pierced to the heart,
and beside her John, alternately looking at her and looking at that body fixed to
that rough wood. John is there, weeping, wondering.
And then the nails are pulled loose, one by one: who had that sad task? And
then the body is lowered down, hurriedly wrapped, and carried along to the tomb.
Walk along in that mournful procession. Linger a while just outside as they lay the
body in the tomb and then close it: how quiet, how still, how dreadfully quiet, how
awfully still. How heavy the stone!—like some period punctuating the final
sentence of the story.
And now how quiet, how dark, as dark and as quiet, maybe, as that immeasurable,
unknowable time before time, the darkness and silence in which God
contemplated, the darkness and silence into which God spoke . . .
God does great things. On the cross, God did a Great Thing. In the early
dim darkness of the third day, God did a Great Thing. Now, though, we are in the
time between, just as the disciples of Jesus, regathering one by one, discouraged,
sad, maybe frightened, unsure what will happen next, unsure, maybe, what to do,
how to go on. Waiting is hard, maybe the hardest thing of all, harder, even, than
dying. The person who can wait, patiently, I have always felt, is especially
blessed. I have been blessed by the patience of others many a time in the course of
my brief, impatient life. I have been blessed by the patience of God, who has
witnessed my every fault, even the faults no one else has seen, all the faults for
each of which my Savior was wounded and died. As I contemplate each weeping
wound, how I need grace to sustain me, to see me through! I contemplate each
wound, realizing that the one whom I wounded is the very one who does sustain
me, who sees me through!
As we wait, contemplate, and hope, God instructs us in patience. May it be
a blessing for us. As we wait, contemplate, and hope, we come to know of God’s
patience. May it be a blessing for us. As we wait, let us hold fast and do God’s
let us “provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet
together.” We wait with hope, we wait with love, we wait with faith, and we share
these, blessing one another as we wait.