2nd Sunday in Lent, 2016, Psalm 27
Ps. 27:14, Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.
We could all use some “wait training.” I’m not talking about lifting weights to strengthen our abs, pecs or biceps. It’s wait training while an automated voice goes through 1,000 options on the phone. Wait training while the person in front of us at a stop light isn’t paying attention. Wait training when the shortest line at the checkout counter seems to be the longest.
But there is waiting of a much more serious nature going on in our gospel lesson. The Pharisees may have warned Jesus to flee from Herod, but they themselves were waiting for an opportunity to eliminate him themselves. Jesus is waiting, waiting for Jerusalem to turn to him, to seek shelter from judgment in him. He will wait in vain. But Jesus is also on the way to Jerusalem, the city of peace, where those who refuse to turn to him will turn against him and violently crucify him. Jesus too is waiting to complete His father’s plan of salvation developed even before He created the heavens and the earth.
“Wait for the Lord Psalm 27 encourages.” Waiting for the Lord, led psalmists to cry out, how long, Lord, will you be roused to such fury? How long, will you fume at your people’s prayers? How long will the foe utter his taunts?” Many can relate to the great New England preacher Phillips Brooks. He was noted for his poise and quiet manner. At times, however, even he suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him feverishly pacing the floor like a caged lion. “What’s the trouble, Mr. Brooks?” he asked. “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!”
Indeed, we wait for the one for whom a thousand years are but a day. Yet, waiting for the Lord is waiting in hope. Simeon who was waiting for the consolation of Israel saw it in the infant Jesus. There were those present that day who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. St. Paul writes to Titus of “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Training in waiting for the Lord begins with our baptism. We were baptized into union with Christ Jesus. We are enmeshed into Christ. United with him in his death, buried with him in his tomb and now living a new life of his resurrection in expectation of our own rising. However, there are times in this world, when the only hope we have, the only solution to our situation, the only cure for our condition…is to wait for the Lord.
Nevertheless, while we wait for the Lord we do so encompassed by the Lord, as indicated in the psalm which beings and ends with “Lord.” The one for whom we wait is our light and our salvation which leads the psalmist to declare, “Whom shall I fear?”
Over the years popular songs tell us of finding light. Aaron Copeland’s “You are my Sunshine, my only sunshine.” Stevie Wonder’s, “You are the sunshine of my life” and Debbie Boone singing, “You light up my life; You give me hope to carry on.” But when life has turned to darkness, when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death where do we find light? Rick attends the Friday morning bible Class I teach. He is a Vietnam veteran. Recently he said, that in Vietnam, the worst times were at night. “We hated the dark.” Because the ally during the day may be a deadly foe at night. I think of John Leininger, a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lea, Minnesota. He joined the army right out of high school fresh off an Iowa farm. He said that while on nighttime guard duty he would recite the Apostles Creed, which gave him a sense of the presence of the Lord during the long lonely night. “The Lord is my light.” writes the psalmist.” St. John wrote of Jesus, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Later Jesus says of him, “I am the light of the world.”
The Psalmist also recognizes that the Lord is his salvation, his rescuer. God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. After which they sang, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God and I will praise him.” During this Lenten season we remember God’s greatest act of rescue. His rescue from sin, death and the Devil through the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ our Savior. During these weeks we concentrate on his amazing grace that Christ would bear our sins; that he who knew no sin became sin for us; he carried them to the hill of his crucifixion along with the cross and there on that hill he bore the full weight and penalty of our failures to be the disciples’ we are called to be.
But the psalmist also thinks back to how God had been his beautiful savior even in this life. Have you survived an accident, and wondered how could it be that I am alive? I can remember a couple of times while growing up on a farm driving tractor or working in the woods that something happened and I just had to stop, sit quietly and think about it for a while. It might be some foolish thing we did as a teenager and when we look back we wonder that we made it to age 20. I think of Lois in Collinsville who was told she had terminal cancer more than fifteen years ago. Upon hearing the news, she told the doctor, “We’re all terminal.” The last time I was back there the cancer had not yet terminated her life. God’s rescue may come in a job when everything looked hopeless. It may be an escape from a destructive relationship, or from an addiction to alcohol or drugs or texting. Thus we wait in hope for the Lord to save and become our refuge, a very present help in the time of trouble even now.
However, waiting does not mean doing nothing. The psalmist goes on to take action in prayer. He prays that the Lord would hear him, “Hear when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me.” His first petition is really for himself that he would seek the face, the presence of the Lord. In psalm 73 the writer is befuddled and on the brink of losing his trust in God when he thinks of those who succeed even though they are arrogant and lack any sense of conscience, “Their hearts overflow with foolishness.” He is bewildered why people turn to them, until “I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” They were on a slippery slope from which they plunge to a destructive end. For the psalmist it was good to be near God in the fellowship of worship.
Then finally, he confesses, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Though we live our life now in the land of the dying, where suffering and disappointment is every day news, nonetheless we still live in the goodness of the Lord. Clinging to our Lord as our stronghold, our fortress, does not guarantee a life free from adversity nor does it mean all days will be calm and peaceful. Yet, we live in the land of the living where faith is not just a doctrine, but a living trust in the Lord across the times and places of challenge.
“Wait for the Lord,” the psalmist urges us. St. Paul promises, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. Therefore, stand firm in the Lord.” Yes, wait for the Lord.