Reflections to start the week
Monday, February 2, 2015
What are you waiting for?
Anna gets her fifteen minutes of biblical fame in the second chapter of Luke’s gospel. Her story is told each year on the second of February, the Feast of the Presentation. Anna had been married for seven years, a widow after that. She was now 84 years old. Do the math: she’d been a widow for more than 50 years in a culture where widows didn’t count for much. Luke tells us that she had spent those years in the temple, praying, fasting, waiting to see how God’s promise might be fulfilled. When the infant Jesus is brought to the temple for ritual presentation, Anna sees what she has been waiting for. She echoes what has just been said by Simeon: “My eyes have seen the salvation.” What must it have been like to wait all that time? To be faithful. To battle resentment. To keep hope alive.
Her story echoes other biblical stories of faithfulness, persistence, expectancy, hope, maybe even holy stubbornness. Back in the book of Genesis, Sarah had been promised a multitude of children, as many as the stars in the sky. Just one problem. She was 90 years old and had yet to birth a baby. When told by visiting angels that she would have a son, she laughed. When that son arrived, she named him Isaac, which means “to laugh”. What was it like for Sarah to wait, day after day, year after year during which no angel visited? Moses fled Egypt and worked for 40 years watching sheep. I imagine mornings when he wondered where he had gone wrong, how he had squandered opportunity. What was it like for Moses to waken and watch sheep, day after day, year after year, when no burning bush said anything? The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. There were lots of Monday mornings that must have seemed like every other morning, with no sense that promise would ever be realized. What was it like for them to put one foot in front of another, day after day? I think of contemporary witnesses of people of faith who wait. Nelson Mandela, decades in prison when there was so much work to do, day after day constrained by prison bars. Mother Teresa, morning by morning, Monday after Monday, faced waves of overwhelming poverty. When asked how she could keep on keeping on, she answered that God called her to be faithful, not necessarily successful.
On this mid-winter Monday morning, another week begins. Maybe you’re in some valley or on some mountaintop. More likely, you face routine which may leave you wondering when God will act, or what God is up to, or if God is around, or if things could be different. That’s where we live a lot of the time. But we are people of promise. We watch and wait in faith that God is at work. So how do we wait? I had the privilege of hearing Brene Brown speak last week. (If you don’t know who she is, that’s why we have google.) She talked about how she and her family put faith to work in the world. She said that we don’t so much need an attitude of gratitude as we need a practice of gratitude. She and her family begin each meal not only with a prayer of grace. They also go around the table and name things for which they are grateful. I’ve mentioned before a friend, a rabbi, who invites her congregation to list 100 blessings each day. These are ways that some folks navigate the journey of faith, often about faithfulness, persistence, holy stubbornness. And today we remember Anna, who reminds us that God shows up. We give thanks for what we know about her. Not a lot, but enough to help us through this day, enough to help us when it’s hard to wait.
– Jay Sidebotham
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. -Luke 2
A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. -Henri J.M. Nouwen
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. -E.M.Forster
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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