Scripture: Psalm 130
Waiting for the Morning
Finally, the sun began to rise.
I hadn’t really slept for hours, often staring out the window in anticipation for this…very…moment.
The orange-and-rose streaked sky shone across my face as I glanced across the room at the man in the hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of tubes and monitors. “We made it,” I thought—or was it a prayer?
It had been a long night, the darkness punctuated by alarms beeping and nurses running to assist. There had been several close calls.
I smiled weakly at the man’s spouse as our eyes met. I imagine her head was also echoing with the surgeon’s words—words we had heard just hours ago—was it only hours? It seemed like days.
I smiled again at the sunrise as the surgeon’s words echoed a second time in my head: “If he makes it through the night, he should be OK.”
“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord…
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning”
I know the joy of the morning after the darkest night. And I have smiled at every sunrise since.
Last week (Psalm 23), I spoke of the power of presence—a power beyond words. The Psalm this week continues that theme of presence, focusing it under particular circumstance: that of waiting.
Waiting is not popular; it is not chic. We want what we want, and we want it now. If we cannot have our purchase at the moment we pay for it, we will take our business elsewhere. Or even better, we get our purchase before we pay for it, using credit and borrowing against our future.
We may not like waiting, but waiting is life. We wait in lines. We wait in traffic. We wait for that movie to be released. We wait for our kids to get out of school. We wait for our plane to take off, or land.
People who study these things—God only knows why—they tell us that the average person spends two weeks or more of their lifetime simply waiting at stop lights. Waiting in general may total five years or more of one’s lifespan.
Waiting is life, but that doesn’t mean we are good at it. It may (in fact) be our least-developed life skill. But that just means it is even more significant when we wait with one another.
The reason why is obvious. Time is truly the most valuable thing we possess. It cannot be traded or sold. We never know how much we have. And we cannot acquire more.
The Gift of Time
But time can be gifted. Maybe this is why the presence of another person impacts us so profoundly—Even if we do not acknowledge it consciously, we somehow recognize that they have given up a part of their very life to be with us.
And when that gift of time comes during a time of waiting—especially when we join another in the “depths” of life—it is truly the greatest gift we can give: To join another person in the mundane, soul-wrenching task of waiting. In the surgical waiting room at the hospital. In line at the DMV. By the phone expecting news of a relative in the military.
When we wait with another person, we gift them a part of our life—quite literally: these seconds, these minutes, these hours of my life, I offer up on the alter of my love for you. Why? Because you are that important to me.
That is love. That is, quite literally, the greatest love even Jesus can imagine. In John 15:13, Jesus tells us: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” When we wait with someone—especially in the dark, uncomfortable depths of tragedy and unknowing—then we lay down our life for our friend, and we embody the greatest love we can show.
Because of all of this, I believe this psalm’s instruction to us this Lenten season is “Be watchful,” which of course involves attentive waiting.
On some level that means “Pay attention!” because God is at work and we need to see that.
On another level that means “Be patient!” because we have to wrestle with the night in order to really know the joy of the sunrise.
But it also means “Be present!” because we love and serve others most like God does when we give up the most valuable thing in life: time. And this involves being watchful not just of what God is doing in the lives of others, but also being watchful of where we can be present in the lives of those we love, of what their needs are, and of what we can do to give as God has so graciously given to us.
Now, as I am wrapping up this morning, I cannot help but make a connection between the lessons of Psalm 130 and the Table before me.
Much as we do in preparing to take Communion, this psalm—this prayer, this song—confesses our sins, and it admits that we can never stand before God on our own merit: “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” (v.3).
The psalm then goes on to to assure us of forgiveness: “But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered” (v.4).
The Psalm then, like the Lord’s Table, reminds us to wait expectantly for God. In the psalm, the singer awaits deliverance (and maybe even forgiveness) with a hungry hope. At the Table, we remember that we await the return of our savior, Jesus Christ, in that day-of-days that will end all days, the time when our salvation and our transformation will be made complete, and we will be fully with God and like God.
The psalmist, like the Communion service, reminds us that there is redemption with this God, there is resurrection with this God. The day will come, when we will climb (with our God) out of the dark depths of this life and into the sunrise of an eternal tomorrow, to know fully and experience eternally the steadfast love of our God.
Be watchful, and wait with me. God is on mission. God is present with us. And God is building that tomorrow for us, today.
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ is coming again.