Lent Devotional: Hurry

Thursday 3/26 Rush hour, Northwest Highway, Grapevine, Texas

I took today’s Lent picture yesterday when I was out for a walk with my husband. What a strange sight to see a nearly empty Northwest Highway. It was around 5:30PM, and most week nights that same intersection is packed with cars as people rush home from work, rush out to their evening activities, or line up in their cars for dinners delivered through drive-thru windows. Ordinarily, I would not have been in that spot at that time of day – and I certainly would not have thought to take a picture of the typical evening rush of traffic. According to my calendar, I had plans to be at a junior high track meet, most likely eating another last minute dinner of something like popcorn and a hot dog from a booster club’s concession stand.

In fact, my usual life is all too often defined by the word “hurry.” I rush to get kids out the door to school in the morning, hurry to get dressed up and ready for work, wade through speeding traffic, scramble to meet deadlines, quickly consume lunch, hustle to wrap things up at the office, hurry home fighting traffic again, grab a bite to eat, run out the door to catch the evening’s activities. And so the cycle repeats the next day.

But not this week.

This pandemic and its accompanying stay at home order has slowed my routines to a halt. It has slowed many of us – and painfully caused emergency rushes to others. I don’t know about you, but I am so ready to have things back to normal, so we can have this all behind us. I long for days of normalcy.

One of my favorite quotes is this:

“The trouble is I am in a hurry, but God isn’t.”

Phillips Brooks

While I long for days of normalcy, long for these troubled times to be over, there are things we can learn while we wait.

Today’s scripture reading is from Revelation 21:3-6 CEB:

“I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring.”

The book of Revelation, considered apocalyptic literature, often confuses and scares people. We don’t want to think of end times, even if we as believers know that end times include the promise of all things made new and the reign of God, and the symbolism of the book can be overwhelming. However, the term “apocalypse,” often glamorized by Hollywood movies or end-times fictional novels, doesn’t really mean what we think it means. Actually, the word “apocalypse” is a Greek word that means “revealing” or “revelation.”

While I don’t think the times we are in are apocalyptic in the “world ending” sense, they are revealing some very important things. Through this global experience, much has been revealed about our human experience and values.

For me, I have been forced to come to terms with what I value the most. I have had more time for reflection and less time for hurry. Family time is cherished in a whole new way. When my family wants to do something together like an extended walk, we just keep walking together. This is not a time for hurry.

I long for normalcy, yes. But I also wonder what I might want to let go of in my normal life – it’s a good time to take stock of what matters the most. My deepest desire is not to return to rushing around for hurrying’s sake, but to return to connection with others and being immersed once again in community.

Dear friends, God will bring us through this and something beautiful will emerge. We can count on God’s promises. God is making something new. As resurrection people, we can always know that the worst thing is never the last thing.

For now, we wait.

Scripture readings: Revelation 21, Psalm 130

Prayer: God of all time, it is so hard to wait through something this difficult. We lift up all who are ill or who may become ill, we pray for healing. Heal us physically, Lord, and also heal us spiritually. We count on your promises. Remind us that you are always present no matter our circumstances. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Reflection Questions: What have you learned about yourself in these last few weeks? Where have you seen God at work? What have you learned about your values?

Lent Devotional: Wait

“I cry out to you from the depths, Lord—
 my Lord, listen to my voice!
    Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!
 If you kept track of sins, Lord—
    my Lord, who would stand a chance?
But forgiveness is with you—
    that’s why you are honored.

 I hope, Lord.
My whole being hopes,
    and I wait for God’s promise.
My whole being waits for my Lord—
    more than the night watch waits for morning;
    yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

 Israel, wait for the Lord!
    Because faithful love is with the Lord;
    because great redemption is with our God!
 He is the one who will redeem Israel
    from all its sin.”

Psalm 130 Common English Bible, via Biblegateway
Roadside bench, Isle of Iona, Scotland

And so here we all are – just waiting together.

The words for this Lenten devotional series were selected weeks before these days of shelter-in-place orders. It was just a few weeks ago, but none of us imagined our circumstances today – collectively staying home and waiting for a coronavirus to run its course. Waiting for a vaccine or a waning of outbreak, waiting for the go-ahead to join together again. When the word was picked, I envisioned a devotional about the perils of waiting our turn in long lines…now I cannot wait to be back in large crowds, just waiting with other people around. What an unexpected place to be. What can we learn through our waiting?

Waiting is not new to God’s people.

Scripture is full of stories about when God’s people had to endure with patience as they waited for God’s next actions. Noah and his crew waited through 40 days and nights of rain, followed by about 10 months of more waiting in the ark. The Israelites wandered through a desert for 40 years on their way to a promised land. God’s people waited patiently under cruel leaders, God’s people endured hardships, plagues, persecution, wilderness. Jesus’ followers waited through dark days until resurrection. We wait now in the already-not-yet time, knowing Christ is with us, knowing we are accompanied by the Holy Spirit as we wait for God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. And so we wait in good company.

We wait in hope because we know that God is faithful.

What all of these waiting stories have in common is God’s faithfulness throughout. God never leaves nor forsakes God’s people. God provides the manna for each day, faithfully sustains us. During this time of waiting, may we be people who rest in God’s faithfulness. May we be a witness to the hope that God continues to provide. May we wait things out so all of God’s children can rejoice together on the other side. To God be the glory.

Scriptures for today: Psalm 130, Romans 8:18-28, 12:12

Prayer: Patient and loving God, be with us as we sit in the in-between places of our lives, waiting for the next thing to happen. We are grateful that you never abandon us as we wait. Help us to see the good that is all around us as we wait for your reign on earth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Reflection Questions: What is something you are waiting for with great anticipation? When have you struggled with waiting patiently? What can you learn from waiting?