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Until God Fixes Things

Some of my most interesting theological conversations take place in the hot tub at the YMCA.  Kind of a strange thought, isn’t it? 

Let me tell you about just one conversation.  The fellows name is Hank.  He is about 70 years old and a widower.  His wife died about 18 months ago during the week of their 50th Wedding Anniversary.  Hank visits the hot tub after doing some cardio and weight training – and he loves to talk.

 “You’re a pastor, aren’t you?” Hank asks, after a few minutes of idle chit-chat. 

 “Yes, I’m the pastor of …”

“That’s nice,” Hank said, as if he didn’t really care.  “Listen, I have a question for you.  ‘Why doesn’t God fix things?’  Look at our world.  First, there was Katrina and now Rita.  Every time I get a gallon of gasoline, it reminds me of all that devastation.  Then there the mess in Iraq, the threat of terrorism, crime, poverty, and cancer.  I want to believe there is a God and that this God is good, but it’s hard when things are in such a mess.  So I want to know: ‘Why doesn’t God fix things?’”

It occurs to me that this is the same question the disciples asked.  “Lord, at this time are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?”  “Jesus, are you now going to finally fix things?”

 All there lives the disciples had lived under Roman oppression.  The line of Herods were corrupt and cruel.  Their religious establishment was more burden than blessing.  Everything was a mess!  No, following the resurrection, the disciples were more convinced than ever that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  So they ask a very logical and theological question:   “Lord, at this time are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?”  “Jesus, when are you going to fix things?”

 We’ve had to deal with that question.  We’ve dealt with that question in our personal lives, in our churches, and across the denominational landscape.  No doubt we have all prayed: “Lord, when are you going to fix things!”

 Jesus’ reply is both encouraging and discouraging.

“It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by His own authority!”

 That’s encouraging.  It means that one day God WILL fix things.  God will wipe out all illness.  God will dry every tearful eye.  God will cause wars to cease.  God will bring an end to poverty and injustice.  GOD WILL FIX THINGS.

 It’s also a bit discouraging because the times and the dates are not now – and we are a people who live in the now.  “Now is not the time,” Jesus says.  “Today is not the date.  Go back to Jerusalem and WAIT.”  Oh, we hate waiting.  We are from a culture of fast cars, fast food, instant pudding, and instant coffee.  We have stood in front of a microwave oven and complained it was taking too long.  We hate to wait. 

Yet waiting is EXTREMELY important.  Those who have learned to WAIT are the people who have learned more about what it means to have faith.  Jesus is saying hold on, keep trusting, and depend on God. 

Maybe we misread read the tone of Jesus voice when we read the word WAIT!

We read it like this:  “You want God to fix everything?  Well, you are just going to have to wait!”

I think it might be more like this:  “You want God to fix everything?!  Oh, you just wait!”

 “You just wait!  The Holy Spirit is going to come and fill you!”

 “You just wait!  You are going to be filled with power from on high!”

 “You just wait!  You are going to be my witnesses!”

 “You just wait!  God will provide all you need to advance the Redeemer’s Kingdom.”

“You want God to fix everything?!  Oh, you just wait!”

I imagine that the post-resurrection that the disciples were a highly motivated group of people.  “Lord, is this the time when you are going to lead us to make everything right!  We’re ready go, Lord!  Just say the word!” 

 Perhaps Jesus is saying, “You think you’re ready now.  You just wait and see what’s going to happen when the Holy Spirit comes.” 

There are times when we feel passionate and self-motivated to act on behalf of the Lord.  Then Jesus speaks and says, “Wait!  I don’t want your self-motivated passion!  I want Spirit-filled living.  It is not by might, nor by power, but it is by my Spirit, says the Lord.”

I clipped out this picture of a bumper sticker I’ve seen recently:

It reads, “Jesus is Coming Soon!  Look Busy!”  The sad reality about this statement accurately describes too much of our philosophy about Christianity.  We think that Christianity is all about OUR activity for God.  The Bible teaches that Christianity is all about God’s activity in us and through us. 

The challenge is that we think that waiting means being passive.  It’s not about being passive at all.  It’s about being receptive.  We actively wait through receptive prayer. 

 Richard Foster tells about a man walking through a shopping mall with his two-year-old son.  The boy was cranky and nothing the father did would settle him down.  When nothing else works the father finally picks his son up, held him close, and began singing a song he made up as he went along” “I love you.  I love you.  I love the way you laugh.  I’m glad to be your dad.”

 The song did what nothing else could.  His son’s eyes get wide, his mouth closed.  He nestles into his father’s chest and listens all the way out to the car.  When his father puts him into his car seat and buckles him in, his son throws out his arms and says, “Sing it to me again, Daddy.  Sing it again.”

That’s the way we should pray.  With simplicity of heart we open ourselves up to God.  We allow ourselves to be gathered up into God’s loving embrace and God sings to us a love song.  We learn to let of self and to rest in the gracious grip of God. 

 And when that happens… “Oh, you just wait!”

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