I wait for the Lord more than watchers wait for the morning, more than watchers wait for the morning. Psalm 130:6
Do you ever feel like life is endless waiting? We wait in line. We wait for a chance to be in line. We wait for a diagnosis. We wait for a break. We wait for society to change. We wait for the grief to end. We… wait. When Amanda and I lost our third baby, Edwin, we waited until the grief settled to try again. When we struggled to conceive again, we waited for those two lines on a pregnancy test. When Amanda’s water broke at eighteen weeks and we didn’t know what would happen with her pregnancy, we waited to see if the little spark of life within her would continue to grow. When Amanda was admitted to the hospital on bedrest, she and I waited to see how long she and our baby could hold on and if our son would be able to breathe when he emerged from the womb. When Ford spent four months in the NICU, our family waited for him to grow stronger and breathe easier so he could come home. And now we are currently waiting for insurance approval for an overnight sleep study as we attempt to fully wean Ford from supplemental oxygen. Waiting is frustrating. Waiting is hard. But, waiting gets us to the next point. I wonder if waiting is more active than we thought. Might there be activity in the waiting?
Even though I often get frustrated with waiting, sometimes the waiting is good for me. Sometimes I begin to see things more clearly. If I wait on a situation before commenting, I often find the waiting teaches me more about patience and grace. If I wait in humility, I often find that I am more refreshed and ready to move through the next experience. Yes, waiting isn’t about doing nothing, it isn’t about camping out and being indecisive. Waiting is about being in the in-between, being in a moment that only God can get us through or help us understand. Waiting isn’t camping. No, waiting is active hope.
C.S. Lewis remarked in Mere Christianity about the importance of waiting and not camping in the central hall of Christianity, his metaphor for the place one waits between the time he or she has come to Christian faith. Lewis says, “It is in the rooms [or denominations], not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless [God] sees that it is good for [them] to wait. When you do get into the room you will find that the long wait has done some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping.”
And, as much parading and pomp and procession that we see on Palm Sunday in this story of Jesus entering Jerusalem, it is still a waiting time. For Jesus, it is the time of waiting between the end of his ministry and before he is captured, tried, and crucified. And this is also the point in the story when the disciples were tired of waiting. They thought this was the moment they’d been waiting for. This was it! This was when Jesus would lead an army into Jerusalem and take back their home from the Empire. No more waiting. It was time to act! They’d been expecting this moment for Jesus’ entire ministry and everything was at a breaking point. Jesus’ followers were tired of waiting.
One commentator agrees and said that the Hebrew word for “wait” conveys a sense of almost tense expectation, like pulling on two ends of a rope and waiting for it to snap. So, I did a little more research on waiting. What did “waiting” mean for the writer of Psalm 130? The Hebrew meaning of the word “wait” is “to expect.” And so, as listeners of this Psalm in ancient Hebrew culture heard the word “wait,” what they were actually hearing was an action word, a word that was similar to binding or twisting together, as in that tense and tight rope. Or other interpretations reveal a picture of a vine that twists itself around a trunk of a tree. This image creates a picture of strength and interdependency. It’s almost as if when waiting, two things actively participate together to become one.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Have you heard that verse of Scripture before? But those who wait upon the Lord… Other translations have, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Hoping and waiting are interchangeable. Hoping and waiting are active words not passive ones. To wait on God is not passive. To wait is to learn, to pray, to study, to renew oneself to be ready for the next action of God. To wait is to become one with God, intertwined with God, in mission and in purpose. It was a season of waiting for the Psalmist, but God was doing something. It was a season of waiting for the disciples, but God was doing something. It was a season of waiting for Jesus, but God was doing something. It is a season of waiting for us, but God is doing something.
And God was doing something through Jesus in Jerusalem during his Palm Sunday entrance. The tension was high when Jesus entered the city. One spark could have set off a revolution in the waiting people, the expectant people. The waiting had become so intense that many Hebrew people were ready to take back their city by force and maybe by bloodshed. It felt as if there was no more waiting for God’s people. Jesus was here. The Messiah was here. The time for waiting was over!
And I think that’s why exploring Psalm 130, especially this verse about waiting is so important for this Palm Sunday. Because we join with the psalmist in proclaiming, maybe even complaining, “I wait for the Lord more than watchers wait for the morning, more than watchers wait for the morning.” Like us, the psalmist waits, with even more intense expectation “than those who watch for the morning.”
This was a profound image for the psalmist, the writer of Psalm 130. You see, sentinels often stood guard on city walls, as did soldiers in camps during times of war, watching in the darkness for danger and waiting expectantly for the safety that daylight brought. And so, we are like those waiting for the sun to rise, or for the disciples, the Son of God to rise, and usher forth a new and bright day.
Like the disciples, we feel as if our lives are on the edge of exploding into chaos and rebellion. Or maybe they already have. And like the watcher, we have been through many dark moments, dangerous moments, and debilitating moments. We are exhausted from waiting. We are tired of waiting. We want Easter to be here, resurrection to bring life from death. We can’t wait anymore!
Preacher and professor, Will Willimon, tells a story from his childhood:
After baseball practice one afternoon, I realized I had forgotten my books and went back to the field. I was surprised to find a buddy of mine in tears. (It was inconceivable to me that this tough guy would be crying.) He was clearly embarrassed that I had seen him crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My mom was supposed to pick me up here thirty minutes ago, and she’s not here,” he said, sniffling. “Well, thirty minutes is not all that long,” I said trying to comfort him. “Maybe something’s come up. You know how mothers can be.” “Not my mom,” he said defensively. “She’s never late. She’s never forgotten to pick me up. It’s not like her.” “Oh,” I said. “Well, er, would it help if I waited with you?” “No, not much,” he said. “You go on home. I’m sure she’ll be here.” I hung around a couple more minutes, then I said, “I’ll wait with you. As you said, she’ll be here before long. That’s the way she is.” Sure enough, fifteen minutes later, his mom showed up. The battery in her car had gone dead, thus the delay.
Friends, it’s going to be a long week waiting for Easter. It’s already been a long year waiting for an end to this pandemic. And it’s been an even longer time for those waiting for racial and economic justice, or freedom from prison, or protection from gun violence, or for help to come. We’re waiting. We’re waiting for Easter. But we aren’t doing nothing. We are waiting in solidarity. We are waiting in expectation. We are waiting with resolve. We are waiting with ingenuity. We are waiting with hope. Because we can see daylight coming.
For next week, daylight is coming. We’ve seen sickness hit our world, our nation, our families, ourselves. But daylight is coming. We’ve witnessed people beat down or even killed based on the color of their skin or their nationality or their sexual orientation. But daylight is coming. We’ve felt lonely and defeated, our finances dwindling, and our trust in our leaders eroding. But daylight is coming. We get Jesus entering Jerusalem only to be berated, betrayed, and beaten. But daylight is coming. Daylight is breaking into our world even though we have one more week of darkness. Daylight is coming although we have one more week of pain and heartache before resurrection. Daylight is coming. Promise is breaking into our world even if we have one more week of persecution. Love is breaking into our world even though we have one more week of loss. Daylight is coming.
Friends, the people of Israel were waiting, watching for a Messiah. The political Messiah they were waiting and watching for was the one they thought would ride into town on a big, proud stallion with a sword in his hand and vengeance in his eyes. But the passionate Messiah of a loving God, the savior of all people who sacrificed his own life, that is the Messiah that actually showed up. That Messiah entered Jerusalem on a donkey, with palms and coats on the ground, and gentleness in his demeanor. Jesus entered Jerusalem not to overthrow, throw out, and throw away, but to join with those who were waiting. Jesus revealed God. Because that’s who God is. God is waiting with us in our sadness and tears. God is waiting with us in our joys and jubilations. God is waiting with us in our hurts and heartaches. God is waiting with us and God will come right on time. We’ve only got one more week to wait. Easter is coming… right on time.