Not Yet, Not Yet

   Click on link for poem by John Bell of the Iona Community with musical refrain:  14 Lord Of Life

Advent 1 – Not Yet, Not Yet

Mark 13:24-37

Isaiah 64:1-9

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

is Isaiah’s prayer.

Maybe you’ve prayed that prayer.

It’s the prayer of those of us who realize

that there’s something going on here in this world

that we can’t fix by ourselves.

We need a little more of God…

a little more of God’s power,

a little more of God’s mercy,

a little more of God’s love…

or a little more of all three –

We need a little more God and we need it right this very minute – we need it now.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

In Isaiah’s case, it’s the cry of a people

who have been in exile and now are returning to their homeland…

but the return has been marked not only by joy –

but by divisions and power struggles.[i]

Sin has taken over – Isaiah writes that

“we have all become like one who is unclean”;

“our () deeds are like a filthy cloth…”;

“our iniquities like the wind carry us away.”

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

And God’s answer is, “Not yet.  Not yet.”

It is an Advent answer.

In Advent, God says “I am coming…I promise I am coming…but just not yet.”

….ARRRGGHH!

We are a people who do not like to wait.

And yet we do an awful lot of it.

In his book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”

Dr. Seuss reminds us that much to our frustration,

before we go anywhere, much of our time as adults is spent in waiting:

“Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come,

or a plane to go

or the mail to come,

or the rain to go

or the phone to ring,

or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.  Everyone is just waiting.”

Waiting can be frustrating,

but there can be something precious about waiting, too.

It is largely what we make of that time.

This Advent, my prayer is that all of us make some space for holy waiting.

Maybe your Advent space will include midweek worship.

We will gather amid darkness and candlelight,

around the Word and Holy Communion,

and in company with those who have experienced profound times of waiting in the midst of the darkness.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

Now!

I had lunch this week withDelDel, who will be speaking here at the service on Wednesday.

Delis a student at the seminary and is one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”

I asked him to share the story about his experience as one of the lost boys.

He asked me, “Which story would you want me to tell?  There are four.”

There’s the story of leaving family, fleeing the village to go into the bush

as rebel forces either killed or conscripted boys for the army,

and then walking hundreds of miles with other boys into a refugee camp inEthiopia.

Then, there’s the story of being forced to return toSudanbecause

Ethiopiadecided they could not house them any longer.

And then there’s the story of moving on once again,

in a line of boys stretching for miles toward a refugee camp inKenya.

Finally, there’s a story about leaving the other boys in the refugee camp

to come to theUnited Statesto begin a new life, meanwhile searching for relatives who had disappeared.

Four stories.

Four Advent stories of darkness, longing, and waiting for God to appear.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

AsDeltells these stories,

they are stories of hope.

They are not stories where God says, “No.”

Rather they are stories where asDellooks back on it, God has said, “Not yet.”

“Not yet” are not words of despair – they are words of promise yet to come.

They are words for the precious and holy season of waiting.

Poet, pastor and song-writer John Bell of the Iona Christian community in Scotland has

written a beautiful poem which reflects the challenges of living in our “days of waiting.”

It is entitled: Lord of Life.

When all the tests have been done,

and the doctors have all the evidence

and the truth will soon be known…..

but not yet…..not yet…..

Lord of life, we come to you.

When the time for leaving has been set,

and the tickets have been bought

and the farewells are being said,

But is it not quite time, it is not quite time.

Lord of life, we come to you.

When the big day is ahead

and the excitement mounts,

and joy and apprehension mix together,

But it is still ahead, it is still ahead……

Lord of life, we come to you.

When prayer has been made,

the earnest prayer, the serious and honest and deep prayer,

and there is no answer, no conviction,

just God’s word to go on…….

Lord of life, we come to you,

Lord of all, our Saviour be.

Come to bless and to heal, in the light of your love.

John Bell concludes his poem with these words:

God, keep safe all who wait,

and give them patience, and a sense of proportion,

for we are not in charge of time, you are.

And we believe that you have a purpose for every season, even the waiting one.[ii]

May this waiting season of Advent be holy and precious for you this year.

Amen.


[ii] John Bell, “Lord of life,” from CD There is One Among Us, by John L. Bell and the Wild Goose Worship Group, copyright 1999.

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