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Congregational Development and Revitalization | WAIT Week 3: Waiting on the World to Change

WAIT Week Three: Waiting on the World to Change


Isaiah 61:1-4 and 8-11


The season of Advent calls us to prepare for the celebration of God’s arrival in Jesus and to get ready for Jesus’ second coming.  With Advent we have been looking at the theme “Waiting on God.”  We have looked at how we wait for God in the silence to discover that God has really been waiting on us.  We also looked at waiting on salvation or that feeling we hope we get when God enters our life.  Our waiting is to be an active waiting to anticipate what God wants to give or show us.  Not only do we wait on our own salvation, we also wait on the salvation of our world.  We sometimes call this God’s reign or God’s justice.  


NT Wright in his book Simple Christian reflects on this hope for justice.  He writes,

You fall off your bicycle and break your leg. You go to the hospital and they fix it. You stagger around on crutches for awhile. Then, rather gingerly, you start to walk normally again … . There is such a thing as putting something to rights, as in fixing it, as getting it back on track. You can fix a broken leg, a broken toy, a broken television. So why can't we fix injustice. It isn't for lack of trying. (Simple Christian as summarized by Preaching Today).


We all long for it and hope for it and believe as Christians that it will come and then we turn on the evening news or read on Twitter about another massive shooting we realize the world isn’t as it should be.


I love the time of year when we sing Christmas Carols both old and new.  While some churches wait to sing Christmas Carols until Christmas Eve, our culture blasts Christmas music after Halloween.  Call me crazy, but I really enjoy singing those classic songs.  

Some of those songs remind us of this very idea of justice coming in our world.  Take Joy to the World as an example, 

He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love.


God ruling the world with God’s righteousness and love.  Why are we proclaiming Joy to the World?  Because we believe in Jesus that God will rule the nations with righteousness and love.  This idea of God putting the world right is woven into the fabric of why we celebrate Christmas.


The idea of God bringing justice to the world is not a recent idea.  The Old Testament is full of passages that point to this hope. In our Scripture lesson from Isaiah 61 it speaks of this exact hope.  This section of Isaiah is sometimes referred to as Third Isaiah because it may have been written after the Israelites had returned home from exile. However as they return home they find that there are tons of issue to be dealt with and things are not the way they had imagined when they arrive home.  The walls and temple were destroyed.  They found a lot of poverty and brokenness in the people that were left home.  Their world was not as they had imagined.


So Isaiah shares that God has anointed him to bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and open up the prisons to those who are bound, and comfort those who mourn.  The reality is all of us fall into one of these categories.  All of us are poor physically and/or spiritually.  All of us either have been, are or will be broken hearted.  All of us are captive to something.  The good news during this Advent season is that God wants to set us free and release us.  This news isn’t for someone else.  It is for you and me.  The world changing begins with you and I changing.  


In 2015 Tesco, A British company posted about an ad for a new job—a Christmas Light Untangler. The company's website offered the following description for the 36-hour-a-week job: "This new position will offer you the chance to show that every little bit helps, by running the unique in-store service with a friendly, flexible approach and making a genuine difference to the little things that matter to our customers this Christmas." The first duty includes "[Manning] and managing the Christmas Lights Untangling stand.” Think about the genius of this job.  It takes forever to untangle the mess of Christmas lights at my house.  I would love to hand this job off to someone else.  Just as we need to untangle the mess of Christmas lights we need the Savior of the world to again offer to untangle us from the messes we weave ourselves into.  A friend of mine posted on Twitter recently, “Wanted to change the world.  Today I am wise so I am changing.”


Passively Waiting or Actively Doing



Isaiah mentions that God has told him to proclaim the year of The Lord’s Favor.  This is associated with The Year of Jubilee in which it was said that every fiftieth year all debts would be forgiven, slaves freed, fields allowed to rest, and property restored to its original owners.  This was a command back in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.   We are not sure if it was every practiced.  Isaiah 61 points not just towards individual restoration,, but total and complete restoration.  


This is a similar concept to God’s Kingdom coming in the gospels.  In the the prayer that Jesus teaches the disciples to pray by asking for God’s kingdom to come, he then teaches them to ask, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  This makes a great deal of sense because if we are to ask that God’s kingdom be present with us now, we are also asking that God’s will be done here and now.  So God’s will on earth is that everyone be free, liberated, and comforted.  However, in asking that God’s will be done, we are in some way acknowledging that God’s will does not always happen now.


I used to believe passages like Isaiah 61 and the Lord’s prayer were about asking God to do something while I sat back and waited. However, I now think that praying the Lord’s Prayer is more than just asking for God to do something.    I think Jesus is teaching us in the Lord’s Prayer to commit ourselves to actively bringing about the kingdom of God and to actively be doers of God’s will.  C.S. Lewis in his book Letters to Malcolm says, “The petition is not that I may patiently suffer God’s will but that I must vigorously do it.  I must be an agent as well as a patient.”  God’s will is something that does happen to us, but it is also something that we invest in.  It is something that we take part in.  It is something that we actively do so that in doing it; we will show others what God’s kingdom looks like until the day Jesus fully brings it about.


Brian McLaren in his book Generous Orthodoxy says, "Remember in a pluralistic world, a religion is valued based on the benefits it brings to its nonadherents. [T]he gospel brings blessings to all, adherents and nonadherents alike.”  Often we believe salvation is only for the person being saved or for Christians only, but if this faith we profess at Christmas is really true, the whole world should benefit from God’s grace through us.  Justice, love, mercy, and grace for the world begins with waiting on God, but it also involves us being the change we want to see in the world.  


I remember reading a story several years ago about a man named Greg Parady who went into a Walmart in Villages, Florida and paid off more than 75 people’s layaway account balances.  He went to pay for some bicycles to donate and while waiting on his wife and business partner to arrive, he overhead a mother tell someone else that she didn’t know if she would be able to pay off her layaway account.  He gave $20,000 and paid half of every person’s bill that was over $100.  Most of us don’t have $20,000 just laying around, but the point is that waiting on justice is doing little or big things to show God’s love and grace here and now.  We may be waiting on Jesus to come back and set the world right again, but we can practice doing in one gracious act at a time.

Read about WAIT Week 3: Waiting on the World to Change in this story from The Call

Two more districts ask questions about church future

ALCOA, Tenn. (Sept. 19, 2018) -- About 340 United Methodists gathered for organized discussions earlier this week to learn more about the future of the denomination and its disagreements over human sexuality. The gatherings were ...

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