Waiting in Hope (sermon)

It takes a lot of work to make full-time farming work. If you’ve never had the chance to experience a real working farm, I commend it highly. It is a miracle of planning, technology, and working with, or battling with nature and the elements.

As some of you know, I grew up on a working family farm… and one of the things I’ve become aware of recently is just how many people it takes to farm. It’s not just the people who till the ground, but the local suppliers who source the seeds and tools. It’s the co-ops and markets that create places for product to be sold. It’s the farmer or farmers down the road who lend a hand, or offer advice, that take farming from an impossible task, to a communal endeavor.

Enter, Buddy Hance.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met this person. If he’s part of my father’s generation or my grandfather’s generation. But when something wasn’t working, the answer was “call Buddy Hance”. Other times, my father would walk in to the room and say, “oh, I just got off the phone with Buddy Hance”, and you knew that as soon as he said it, you were going to hear the local farm gossip, or some advice about a piece of machinery.

Buddy was the person you called when you needed help, or a bit of perspective, or camaraderie. And Buddy is just one name of dozens… of farmers, suppliers, of old timers who knew what it took to make a farm work.

And so, when there was a problem, you knew that sooner or later, you’d need to reach out to the Buddy Hances of the community.

You knew that you couldn’t fix this yourself, and needed some support.

This moment, the moment before the phone call, is where we find ourselves this week. It is the sixth Sunday of Easter, and I think this is the point where we start to get a bit antsy… like, how long does Easter last? Even our readings have shifted in tone.

This week, we find ourselves waiting all over again, a mini-Lent, perhaps. We can’t stay in Easter forever. On Thursday, we mark Ascension Day, when Christ will ascend to the Father. No more breakfasts on the beach, no more roads to Emmaus, no more breaking bread and locked doors.

So, what happens when Jesus goes back to heaven? What happens when it’s just us?

I wonder if we’re able to relate to this question a bit more, this year.

Perhaps, like never before, we know what it means to wait. There were a lot of jokes about the period of the pandemic being like a neverending Lent, and while not literally true, it does feel as it we’re still waiting for something hasn’t happened yet.

Maybe what you’re waiting for is seeing a friend in person, or going to your favorite coffee shop, or being able to visit your parents in their assisted living facility.

Maybe you’re waiting for school to open again, to be able to go to school, or just to have a bit of quiet at home.  

Maybe you’re waiting for a time when you don’t have to worry for your friends and family who are most at risk, or a time when the day will pass without some new sorrow or grief.

Maybe you’re waiting for a time when you can get outdoors again: if you don’t have the privilege of a backyard or walkable neighborhood.

We are waiting, friends, and you don’t need me to tell you that.

We are waiting, but we’re all waiting for something.

And talking with people during this time, I’ve realized that even in the midst of those pandemic, we’re waiting because we are… hopeful.

We wait with hope because we hope that there will be a vaccine. That there will be an end. That there will be some way of seeing our friends (not just online), that there will be some sort of normal life after COVID.

We wait with hope.

So, what does happen when Jesus goes back to heaven? What happens when it’s just us?

The gospel captures this moment of waiting with a promise. A promise of the thing we are to hope for. Jesus tells his disciples that “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever”.

We know, unlike the disciples in this moment, that this is “This is the Spirit of truth”, the flame of living fire that alights on the heads of the disciples at Pentecost. This is the Holy Spirit, who abides within us, and who works within us as we learn to live lives of faith.

And this life of faith is not easy. We know that, we who sit in the tension between our present reality, and what we hope for.

We know that, we who are waiting and working impatiently for change.

We know that, we who sit by the broken machinery or crop conundrum, waiting for a call back from the Buddy Hances of the world.

But we know that there is something to wait for.

The writer of 1 Peter reminds us of what we can do while we’re waiting, when they write that you should “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you”.

There is always hope. As Christians, we believe in a hope that springs eternal. A hope that transcends life and death, health and sickness, joy, and fear. We are bearers of an eternal hope: the same hope that the disciples had as they waited for the Spirit to come at Pentecost.

Like the disciples, we are waiting, for an unknown amount of time.

But there is always hope, in the God who calls us, the God who loves us, and the God who will call us home.

So in this time of waiting, we must be prepared to give an account of the hope that is in us.

That no matter how long we work and wait for this pandemic to end, that there is a brighter world ahead… in this one, and in the next.

There is always hope, my friends. That is the very definition of our faith.

So as we wait, may we know the hope that is found in Christ, the promise of a new creation. May we live faithfully into this tension of a promise yet to come, for in this waiting, our hope springs eternal.

Preached virtually at St. Mary’s, Arlington, on Easter VI, 2020

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