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01.19.14 While We Wait, Psalm 40

by on January 21, 2014

This sermon was preached at the 5th Presbyterian Church of Baranquilla, Colombia with an interpreter.

While We Wait, 2nd Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A

Almighty and Everlasting God,

As we gather to worship you in this time called Epiphany,

Make your presence known to us once again.

You who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” come shine in our hearts.

Give us the light of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

In his light, transform us from glory to glory.

And as in 1562 you sent Saint Luis Bertran to Colombia to preach in Spanish to the native people

Though the language was foreign to them, he proclaimed your Word and the Gospel of Christ.

So on this morning may I faithfully proclaim

And those who are gathered faithfully hear

Your Word to us in Christ, across our many differences, including language.

For it is in Christ’s name that we pray. Amen.

The prophet Isaiah called the coastlands to listen, and to the people far away to pay attention.

And so we know that all who listen for God’s Word are one together.

Though we may be far away from one another,

As far as the coastlands of Baranquilla are from the mountains of Colorado,

God’s Word brings us together, and makes us one.

And so Paul also says, because God has made us holy in Christ, we are all saints together.

We who call upon Christ’s name in every place, are one by that name.

We may feel alienated and alone by the powers of sin.

In the face of evil, we may feel there is nothing we can do, being so small and alone.

In the blackest moments of the dark night of the soul, we may feel blind, and lost, and destitute.

But we are not alone.

The Word of God is heard in the coastlands, and by the people far away.

Though we may not see one another, God has made us family, and we are not alone.

We are connected in the Spirit, and what one does here affects another far away.

This we have seen during our visit here to Colombia.

When my congregation prays for peace throughout the world, we pray for Colombia.

When our families adopt children through Compassion International, it is Colombian children we come to love.

When our presbyteries become partners with other presbyteries, it is the presbyteries of Central Colombia, the Uraba Presbytery, and the North Coast Presbytery with whom we partner.

These are fundamental truths we have to remember when we feel we are alone.

These are realities we may not see, but which we hear about when we listen to one another.

The Psalmist speaks of being lifted out of the desolate pit and the miry bog.

How we long today to have sure footing.

How we desire to walk through a country free of violence.

How we pray for countries to be free from the fear of roadside bombs and land mines.

How we long for the peace of Psalm 40.

In the United States we had a prophet who stood for the rights of African Americans.

The preacher and martyr Martin Luther King, Jr. stood against systemic injustice and prejudice.

While in prison for breaking unjust laws he wrote about peace.

He wrote about peace as the absence of tension.

This is a peace we would welcome, indeed.

This is the vision of peace promised by the world’s politicians.

It is a peace that can be enforced with power.

It is a peace that is possible when opposites are equals and they fear mutual damage from hostilities.

Martin Luther King, Jr. called this kind of peace a “negative peace.”

“Negative peace is the absence of tension,” he wrote.

But, he said, there exists a “positive peace, which is the presence of justice.”

This is the true peace for which we long.

It is the peace proclaimed not by politicians in the world, but by Christ as the Kingdom of God.

It is a peace that is realized not by force, but by self-restraint.

It is a peace that is enduring because it depends not upon fear, but upon God’s grace.

This is the peace that results when justice is present.

Justice characterized by safe working conditions.

Justice characterized by fair wages.

Justice characterized by work that is freely chosen.

Justice characterized by workers of an appropriate age.

Justice characterized by caring for those who cannot work.

Justice characterize by sharing instead of stealing.

Justice characterized by restitution instead of displacement.

In the presence of such justice, peace results.

“I waited and waited for the LORD,” says the Psalm.

“God inclined to me and heard my cry.”

. . . We so often find ourselves still waiting.

What are we to do while we wait?

The psalmist says God had given him an open ear.

Let us pray that God will open our ears to hear God’s Word to us while we wait.

The psalmist says God’s Word resides in his heart.

Let us meditate upon God’s Word while we wait.

The psalmist speaks of God’s deliverance in the great assembly.

Let us sustain one another with stories of deliverance while we wait.

Stories of deliverance we read from the Scriptures, like Psalm 40.

Stories of deliverance we remember from our own past.

Like we are, the Corinthians were also waiting—they were waiting for Christ to be revealed.

Paul assures them that God will strengthen them to the end.

Even though they are waiting, Paul says, they are already rich in speech, and knowledge, and in spiritual gifts.

Even though we may be called to a season of waiting, there is action that may also be taken.

Like the Corinthians, we are rich in speech.

This week we have heard your stories of deliverance; now our waiting may be hopeful.

We have heard your psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; now our waiting may be joyful.

Like the Corinthians, we are rich in knowledge.

We know our destiny is in fellowship with Jesus Christ, so our waiting is full of faith.

We know that we call upon God together with all the saints, so our waiting does not despair in loneliness.

And like the Corinthians, we are rich in spiritual gifts.

Whether gifts of service, or teaching, or prophetic speech, or mercy,

Whether your gifts are in leadership, or care, or wisdom, or generosity,

These gifts of the Spirit are given to us to use in service to the church and to the world while we wait.

While we wait, we pray and remember God’s faithfulness.

While we wait, we encourage and serve one another.

Ten years ago the Presbyterian Church USA started training people in the United States to accompany people in Colombia.

We have trained 150 people to wait with you for the peace that comes from justice.

Many of you have met our accompaniers over the past 10 years.

When we accompany one another in waiting, we begin to experience together the peace for which we long.

When we accompany one another in waiting, we invite others to join us in faith.

“Many will see and stand in awe,” the Psalm says.

“Many will put their trust in the LORD.”

When we accompany one another in waiting, the Spirit of God is incarnate with us once again in the body of Christ which is the church.

On December 25th we celebrated the incarnation of God’s Word in the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the ancient Eastern church, they celebrated Christ’s birth on January 6th.

It is called the day of Epiphany, which means “appearance.”

Not only did they celebrate Christ’s birth on Epiphany, but they celebrated other appearances of God in Christ.

They celebrated his baptism and his first miracle of changing water into wine.

Today we speak of a season of Epiphany following Christmas.

It is a time when we see more and more clearly that God is indeed with us in Christ.

And so in John’s Gospel, instead of stories about Jesus’ birth, we find a gradual epiphany, a gradual appearance, of God with us in Christ.

When John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God, Andrew began to follow him.

Jesus turned to Andrew and said to him, “What are you looking for?”

This is the question Jesus continues to ask his disciples today.

It marks a new beginning of the spiritual journey, every day, no matter how long we have followed Jesus.

“What are you looking for?”

“What are you waiting for?”

“What are you hoping will appear?”

. . . The prophet Isaiah promised that the servant of the Lord does not labor in vain.

The servant of the Lord does not spend his strength for nothing.

The servant’s cause is with the LORD, and his reward is with God.

The one chosen by God will be a light for all the nations.

We declare that this servant has come in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

He takes away the sin that makes victims of the poor and the powerless.

He takes away the sin of oppressors who idolize wealth and power.

But we also declare that we are God’s chosen ones in Christ.

Christ’s light continues to shine in us, God’s servants, God’s chosen ones.

And so as we, like the Psalmist, wait for the LORD, may God incline and hear our cries.

Let many see and stand in awe.

Let many put their trust in the LORD.

Let us pray.

Strengthen us to the end, Powerful and Holy LORD of hosts.

Do not withhold your compassion from us.

May your steadfast love and faithfulness keep us safe all our days and into your kingdom.

As you reveal yourself to us in Christ, may we reflect your light to the nations.

In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

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