Pastoral Letter #27

Dear Members and Friends,


One of my children played percussion in high school that included performing in a variety of ensembles, constantly packing and loading his drum set, then re-packing and unloading after each performance. He also played in the community symphony.


He played when they needed more than the usual number of percussionists. The symphony rehearsed every Tuesday night for I-don’t-know-how-many hours. After one rehearsal he said, “I only play a tiny part in one piece. I’m going to ask the conductor if I can leave rehearsal after we practice that one.” He asked. The conducted said no.


Ginny and I went to the concert. He played during his one piece. He played the triangle. I knew he said he had a tiny part, but he only struck the instrument twelve, yes, only twelve times. All that sitting and waiting through many hours of rehearsals.


You can see the difference between his waiting in rehearsals and the waiting we’re all involved in today. He knew what his specific task was. He knew when the concert would be performed or, perhaps more empathetically said, he knew when it would all be over and he’d be back to a normal schedule.


Relative to his experience, we don’t know much at all. We don’t know if we’ll be going out of our residences in one month or many months from now. We don’t know what that’s going to be like. Will some be allowed at  out first while the rest remain inside? What businesses will be open? Will schools open for special sessions? Will we be allowed to gather in church buildings? How many of our friends and neighbors will not have jobs?


My percussionist waited with somewhat certain knowledge. We wait with significantly uncertain knowledge. It’s easy to want the first, but we have the second.


Our waiting has parallels to what we read in the Biblical narrative. His followers had been told Jesus would live. Did it strike them as incomprehensible no matter how much they hoped it would be true? They didn’t know when. They didn’t have any certainty about what it meant for them. Afterall, they had misinterpreted Jesus’s teaching so much of the time. A sign of his early followers’ challenge is that, when they did encounter him, they had mixed feelings joy/amazement together with fright.


Think about this. While there may be parallels between our situation and that of Jesus’ followers, what was the experience of the people who were enslaved in Egypt, or those who wandered in the wilderness, or those besieged in Jerusalem by much larger and more powerful armies, or those taken into Babylonian captivity?


I come to this conclusion. It is clear why the Psalmist writes about waiting on the Lord. Even on Easter Sunday, we’re still waiting on the Lord for things to become clear. What things to become clear? For God’s action to become clear so that we can follow God’s intention.


This word “waiting” has two sides to it. One is passivity as in sitting in front of the movie screen waiting for the previews to expire and the feature to begin. The other side of waiting is activity. This activity consists of the things one wants to do while anticipating someone to come or something to happen as in a senior in high school mailing out commencement announcements.


I believe we are called to the preparation side of waiting whether it’s waiting to see signs of new life that we associate with resurrection, or what we’re going to do or how we’re going to be when we return to public space, meeting face-to-face, to hugging those who want to be hugged, and putting facemasks and gloves away.


We can make individual preparations in waiting. We can also make corporate preparations as we discern rehearse what we will be together as the body of Christ. Today is the time to rehearse who we, the people of First Presbyterian Church, are called by God to be as a congregation, as groups in the congregation, and as individuals who living in our faith?


With gratitude,