They also serve who only stand and wait*
[Easter 3 (25 Apr)]
And so we wait, our quarantine extended. Our days are quiet and yet the news recounts the busyness, burdens and sacrifices of others. Meanwhile we only stand (or maybe sit) and wait. Anxious to ‘get stuck in’, fearing an unknown future, simply feeling useless; in times of crisis it’s the waiting that tells. Above all, perhaps, waiting reminds us that we are not in control of the things that matter most; and then we fret.
Fretting solves nothing. Jesus once asked “can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Mat 6:28). Indeed, the opposite is true. But Jesus went on to say that God knows what we need, and if we seek his kingdom then our needs will be met. Though it also needs saying that God’s ideas of what we need are frequently not the same as ours – and, yes, faith and patience appear to go hand in hand.
As a crisis unfolds, waiting sounds so negative; as if time waiting is time wasting. Yet Isaiah, speaking to a people facing the disaster of exile, was able to say ‘they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ (Is 40:31). Words of hope indeed. God’s people had to wait, and as they waited, they had to get on with life, as and where it was. As they lived, they were called to listen to God and learn. What the exiles learned as they waited on the Lord, blessed generations to come.
It’s a repeat story. From Abraham longing for a son, to the disciples waiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. Time and again we see the most valuable lessons learned the hard way, in times of waiting. We see too that the blessings are an inheritance to hand on. So what of us, can we lay aside our impatience?
“God doth not need either man’s work or his own gifts; who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed and post o’er land and ocean without rest: they also serve who only stand and wait.” (John Milton, Sonnet 19)
The Pew Sheet for this week is also available in the Download section of the website.
*With apologies to John Milton