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Congregational Development and Revitalization | WAIT Week 2: Waiting on Salvation

“WAIT Week 2: Waiting on Salvation”

Psalm 85:1-2 and 8-13


When thinking about Christmas all of us have our usual Christmas traditions and with those traditions comes expectations.  We expect certain things for the Christmas Holidays and we also anticipate feeling a certain way.  According to a 2013 Pew Research poll in which people where asked what they like or dislike the most about the Christmas holiday season the following is a list of what people most look forward to at Christmas time:

168 percent said spending time with family and friends

211 percent mentioned religious services or religious reflection

311 percent look forward to the Christmas "spirit" of joy and good will

45 percent said music, decorations, and shopping

54 percent look forward to the end of the Christmas season


Just as we all have certain expectations of Christmas, we have certain expectations for our relationship with God.  When we make a decision to follow Jesus we typically believe we will go to heaven one day.  We believe that God will help us solve our problems.  We believe God will help us to feel a certain way.  We believe our relationships will get better.  After all, we hear preachers talk all the time about how when we follow Jesus, life is better…. Accept when we choose to follow Jesus and it doesn’t seem like our circumstances are changing.


We have been exploring the them of “Waiting for God”  in this sermon series.  Last week we talked about waiting on God when God is silent.  Today I want to focus in on waiting for God’s salvation or waiting on God to do all that we expect God to do inside of us and in our relationships.


The lectionary reading cuts out the middle section of Psalm 85, but it is important backstory information for what the Psalmist is waiting on.  The middle section of Psalm 85 is a prayer of salvation for God’s people.  It is a cry for restoration and forgiveness.  A prayer of salvation assumes that their is a need to be saved from.  The beauty of this Psalm is that it’s language transcends the need of the Psalmist and includes the need of the one reading, praying, or singing the text.  Being restored to the their land may be in view for the Psalmist, but it asks us to probe our inner being and ask in what ways are we waiting for salvation.  Are our lives broken and shattered? Do we need the pieces to be repaired?  Have we fallen away from God and living lives that we know are hurtful to ourselves and others?    Are we having financial struggles, relational struggles, or life struggles?  Are we addicted to things that are destroying us?  


The Psalmist reflects first on God’s goodness in the past in that God restored their fortunes and forgave their sins.  It is a reflection on the character of who God is.  It is God’s nature to love God’s creation and want what is best for them.  Sometimes in the midst of our brokenness we feel the anger of God like the Psalmist does in verse 3, but hopefully we will move to place where we understand that God always wants what is best for us.  Sometimes we feel or believe that God is working against our happiness but we need to be reminded that God is wanting us to be truly happy.  We have a hard time with this idea because our anger as human beings seldom wants the best for the person we are angry with.  Normally we want to see someone punished and suffer.  That is the human way, but it is not God’s way.  I do believe God allows us to go through tough times and experience consequences, but God is always working through consequences to bring us to a better place.


What does Salvation Look Like?


Salvation in verses 8-10 seem to manifest in four different Hebrew phrases.  “Steadfast love”, “faithfulness”, righteousness”, and “peace.” This is an interesting choice of words to describe salvation primarily because our concepts of salvation revolve around either going to heaven when we die or having our sins forgiven.  Another way of saying this is that we typically view salvation as something to be saved from.  We are saved from our sins.  We are saved from hell.  We are saved from…. The Psalmist seems to suggest that we are being saved to something.  Although this Psalm asks for sins to be forgiven, it is in order to help Israel become something different than they presently were.  


At one church a young preacher would always say “God loves you just the way you are.”  One Sunday after the church service a lady came to the front of the church to talk to the pastor.  She complimented him for the way he reminded people every Sunday that God loved them the way they are.  Then she said, “Can I make a suggestion?”  She continued before he could stop her. “Remind people that God never wants to leave them the way God finds them.”  Isn’t that so true.  God loves us the way we are.  God doesn’t want to leave us the way we are.  God loves us so much God wants to change us and move us to a place where we can be the people God wants us to be.


One way of viewing these four words is to suggest that each one of the above words represents an emotion that we experience through our salvation process.  We experience God’s steadfast love, being able to trust God, and God’s righteousness that leads to peace.  So the end goal of salvation is the peace of God in our lives and in our relationships.  


Maybe we are alike in our struggle for peace with God and in our relationships.  I always want to try my way first.  I want to come up with the plan and execute it thinking I can control peace with God and with other people.  When my plan fails I come up with a new one and repeat the process until I get to the point where I am desperate and realize I am powerless on my own terms.  In AA the first of the twelves steps is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Substitute whatever you are dealing with for alcohol and you get the point.   It is then that we feel the pain of the Psalmist and our desperation that begin to wait on God to give us what we cannot give ourselves.  


Golf is a a very difficult sport for someone to begin playing as an adult.  I tried my best to pick it up in my early twenties.  I would play with these people who could hit the ball a mile.  I would get up and swing as hard as I could and slice it in the woods, the weeds, and the creeks.  I would come up with a plan as to how to stand to make up for my slice and then I would pull it left.  I couldn’t win.  One day a friend told me to stop swinging so hard.  I asked how I was supposed to hit it and he told me, “Trust the clubs and let the clubs to the work.”  Instead of trying to manipulate salvation to get peace, we have to trust God and let God do the work in us.


Active Waiting


At times we confuse waiting on God with doing nothing at all.  We have the idea that we are passive in that we continue to be and do what we always have and at some point God will pick us up, save us, change us, and give us peace and then plant us back into our everyday lives.  However, God is not in the business of overriding our own freedom.  God wants to do all those things with us as we cooperate with God.  John Piper in his Christmas Devotional The Dawning of Indestructible Joy says, “God is truthful; God keeps his word; God does not lie; God can be trusted!”  Then he says, “Receive it as a wonderful Christmas Gift.”  So waiting is active and not passive.  We have to receive the gift, be actively waiting on the gift, and anticipate the gift.  


Think back over the years of Christmas and all of those “must have gifts.” In the 1980’s there were Cabbage Patch Dolls and then Nintendo systems and Game Boys.    Then there were Beanie Babies and Tickle Me Elmo's in the 1990’s.  In the 2000’s there was The Kindle, Angry Birds, and the sing along Elise Doll from Frozen.  To get these prized gifts parents had to plan way in advance and prepare to give this gift.  I would be fascinated to know how long the emotional attachment to these gifts lasted.  Days, weeks, maybe months, but not forever.  The reality is that the person who received the gift moved on.  The gift that is given only has significance to the one who accepts it.  God gives us the greatest gift of all and that is salvation.  Its significance is really up to the one who receives it.  The question is not how long will God hold out, but how will accept the gift that is given.


Read about WAIT Week 2: Waiting on Salvation in this story from The Call

Annual Conference wrap-up: Shared love for Africa triumphs over divisions

ALCOA, Tenn. (June 18, 2018) The Holston Annual Conference gathered June 10-13 with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Under the theme, “Jesus is Good,” 1,948 members represented Holston’s 877 congregations ...

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