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Congregational Development and Revitalization | WAIT Week 5: Waiting to Knock 2018 Out of the Park

Wait: Waiting to Knock 2018 Out of the Park

 

Luke 2:22-40

 

Just about every night growing up my dad and I would watch the Braves baseball games on TBS.  I still remember hearing this phrase, “He waited on a fastball and hit it out of the park.”  Think about that phrase for just a moment.  A fastball in Major League baseball comes at a batter at 90+/-mph.  I don’t know about you, but there doesn’t seem to be much waiting happening.  Last fall I went to the batting cage and tried to show off to my son and hit 60mph baseballs and let me tell you, there was a lot more swinging than waiting.  Yet science will tell us that the line, “waiting on a fastball” is actually what happens.  The best hitters in baseball know how to “wait.”

 

Over the last 5 weeks we have looked at waiting.  Ironically we have talked about waiting during the most difficult season to wait, namely Christmas. Now it is almost the beginning of a new year and we again find ourselves waiting on the new year and hoping 2018 will be our year to do and accomplish everything that we have been waiting on. 

 

In Luke’s gospel, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple so he can be presented to God as was the custom for every firstborn son.  They meet two people at the temple that day who have been waiting all their lives for Israel’s salvation.  Jewish persons in the first century for the most part believed that a messiah would come and liberate Israel from Roman rule and establish Israel again to a special place where God was worshiped and honored and would be a light to the nations around them.  Like us, they have been waiting.  Maybe like you and I they have been waiting on what seems like the impossible.  

 

What is it that you are waiting on heading to the new year?  Are you waiting on the right career or job to come along? Maybe you are waiting to get married or maybe your marriage isn’t what you want it to be?  Is it having kids?  Buying your dream house?  Is it wanting you to be a better you?  Do you hope to lose some weight thinking it will make you like yourself more?  What is it that you are waiting on that you believe will make the world right for you?  

 

When Flying Away Isn’t An Option

 

Both Simeon and Anna were waiting on God.  Luke tells us that Simeon was waiting on the consolation of Israel.  Anna also was waiting on the redemption of Israel.  When we think of salvation, redemption, ect. we automatically think that means going to heaven in our culture.  Notice though that upon seeing Jesus at the temple that day, they believed Jesus WAS the salvation they have been waiting on.  In other words, they didn’t hold onto salvation as being pie in the sky I will get it when I die, it was something for them to see and experience  right away.  

 

Too often our Christian faith is only focusing on the afterlife.  I am not saying eternal life isn’t promised in the Bible because I believe it is.  I am not suggesting that it isn’t important because I believe it is.  However the Bible and more importantly Jesus is not just a ticket to help us get our eternal home secure.  Jesus is so much more than that.  Salvation isn’t just about what’s happens later after we fly away, it starts now and it begins with all those things that we have been waiting on.  

 

I am convinced that if Heaven was all the Bible cared about and all God really had in mind for us the most loving thing God could do for us would be to zap us so we could leave this life behind.  It doesn’t seem like God gives us that option though.  Salvation is something that we can begin experiencing right here and right now.

 

It is Right in Front of Us

 

All the waiting that Simeon and Anna did and then this little baby is brought into the temple and when they look into his eyes they know that this baby is what they have been waiting for all along.  I wonder if Luke is setting up a comparison in his gospel between Simeon and Anna verses those who were teaching the law and serving in the temple?  My guess is from what I know about Judaism in the first century is that for the most part they were all looking for the same things, namely the salvation of Israel which would bring in God’s rule and reign as a replacement of Roman rule.  

 

The comparison Luke seems to be setting up is that unlike those religious leaders and teachers of the law, this day in the temple Simeon and Anna recognize what is right in front of them in this baby boy.  As Jesus grows and is around the religious leaders and teachers they continue to fail to recognize what God is doing through Jesus in their midst.  

 

If I am honest I seem to find myself more in the place of the religious leaders and teachers of the law in that I search, hope, and pray for all of these amazing things to happen in my own life and often fail to see what God is doing right in front of me.  I wonder if this is the case because I have a preconceived idea of what I think it should all look like and I miss on something even better that God wants me to experience.  Certainly those religious leaders had their preconceived ideas of what it would all look like and they missed God’s answer to what they were searching for.

 

In the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Clark is waiting on his bonus check to arrive in the mail because he has already put a large deposit down on a swimming pool in anticipation of getting his yearly bonus check.  On Christmas Eve the mail boy brings him an envelope that contains the bonus in it, but when he opens it he only receives a year long gift certificate instead of his usual check.

 

Clark goes crazy with rage and anger because all his hopes and dreams are tied up in that bonus check.  That is the thing that he sees as being his salvation and happiness.  Eddie decides to do something special for Clark so he kidnaps Clark’s boss.  At the end of the movie everything works out and Clark gets his bonus after his boss realizes what a jerk he had been.  What Clark releases is that all of the plans he makes for the family that blow up in his face, the swimming pool and the bonus are not what brings happiness.  He realizes what brings happiness is right in front of him already.   As we begin a new year perhaps God is trying to tell us that knocking the New Year out of the park may not be all the things we are dreaming about, but may be in what is already in from of us that we keep missing.

 

Use The New Year to Knock it Out of the Park

 

To be honest to one thing that I dislike about the passage is that we don’t get to see the kind of lives Simeon and Anna lived.  The texts makes clear they were faithful and that God granted their wishes in letting them see Jesus before they died.  It almost seems as if they spent their whole lives miserably waiting and then they fade out of the picture.  I imagine that their lives weren’t just waisted away.  My guess is that they made their waiting count for something.  I believe their waiting was used to make a difference with the people around them.  As we head into 2018 I hope we can become people who wait with a purpose.  

 

Earlier I mentioned that baseball players wait on a fastball before they swing.  What I didn’t mention is that my reaction time and your reaction time to hitting a fastball is about the same as that of a Major league player. The difference isn’t in how fast they swing, it is in what they do with the split second they have when they wait on it.  Did you know that if you wrote a number on a baseball and shot it out of a machine at 100mph, that a Major League player could tell you what number was on the ball?  They use that time of waiting to help them hit the ball.  

 

In 2018, we have to make up our minds that while we wait on God to guide us into all the things we believe we want for this coming year, we will do something positive in the waiting period.  Maybe that is serving in a ministry somewhere or reading through the Bible in a year or choosing to forgive someone.  And who knows…. if we are proactive in our waiting maybe we will hit 2018 out of the park.

 

 

Read about WAIT Week 5: Waiting to Knock 2018 Out of the Park 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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