Waiting: Alertness to the Word

Rev. Jim Carr, Minister of Pastoral Care

I am sharing thoughts from an article by Henri Nouwen, A Spirituality of Waiting: Being Alert to God’s Presence in Our Lives. He has told us about the nature of waiting, and now he is speaking of the practice of waiting. Last week, he said that in community, we create space for each other to wait. Now, he says to us, “Secondly, our waiting is always shaped by alertness to the word.”

About this practice, he says, “It is waiting in the knowledge that someone wants to address us. The question is, are we home? Are we at our address, ready to respond to the doorbell?” His words remind me of those Advent scriptures that implore us to be alert, stay awake, because either the Lord or the thief may be at the door, don’t be caught napping.

In order to hear what Nouwen says next, we need to remember that he has pointed to the nature of waiting as active, being fully present to the moment. He says, “We need to wait together to keep each other at home spiritually, so that when the word comes it can become flesh in us. That is why the book of God is always in the midst of those who gather. We read the word so that the word can become flesh and have a whole new life in us.”

It is easy to nod and say, “yeah, uh-huh,” and pat ourselves on the back. But be careful! Stay awake! The word of God is active, and if it comes with purpose, it just may transform us into a completely new creation. And this is the process of birthing, of being reborn into something new. And the times we are living through may require this of us. We cannot continue to live contentedly off of the inheritance given to us by our mothers and fathers in the faith. Our roots as United Methodists came from such a time as today. Remember John and Charles Wesley and their relationship with the Anglican Church from which they came. If you need to regain your balance, read: Psalm 130:5, Psalm 46:10-11, Lamentations 3:25-26. But then hear the word in Isaiah 55:10-11; 40:31:

“My word . . . shall not return to me empty . . . it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (from Isaiah 55:11)

“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)