I’m not a big fan of waiting.
I get irritated watching my Keurig machine brew a cup of coffee. I glare at the microwave for at least the last 15 seconds of pretty much any cooking time. And when my kids take an extra minute when they’re summoned to the supper table, they get the stink-eye from Dad …
… and shudder.
So in the 10 days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday, I really sympathize with Jesus’ first disciples.
As wonderful as the Easter-Pentecost super-season is for us modern-day Christians who know the whole story, Peter, John and co. had to be pretty dazed and confused by the whole business: They signed up for the Jesus Team thinking his ultimate goal is to overthrow the Romans, but instead, he goes willingly to the cross and dies. Then, to their astonishment (despite several predictions from Jesus that this would happen), He comes back to life, and STILL doesn’t choose to overthrow the Romans. Instead, He eats with them a few times, teaches them a couple of new lessons, and without warning (that they understood at the time, anyway), he leaves them – after instructing them to wait in Jerusalem.
(By the way, if you’re looking for insight on the Ascension and its lessons for you and me, check out this sermon. It’s called Up in the Stands, or Out on the Field? and it was preached by my pastor and friend, Stephen Hambidge, this past Sunday. It might be the best Ascension sermon I’ve ever heard … and that is saying something.)
Luke thought this ‘wait’ instruction was so significant, he mentioned it twice: in Luke 24:49, Jesus instructs his followers: ‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ and in Acts 1:4, Jesus says: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.’
Wait for what, and for how long, you ask? In Acts 1:5, Jesus provides an answer: ‘For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
But does that really clear things up for the disciples?
What does He mean by ‘a few days’? That’s a pretty nebulous ballpark, isn’t it? To me, ‘a few days’ would be less than a week for sure. So if I were in their Sandals, by Day 8 or so, I’d have been tempted to chalk this instruction up to another misunderstanding between an often-mysterious rabbi and His clueless followers.
Let’s also remember that the disciples had no idea whatsoever what ‘baptism with the Holy Spirit’ might look or feel like. If I were one of them, I’d have been tempted to second-guess if the big event had happened and, because I was distracted by something irrelevant (Squirrel!), I’d missed it.
And in light of what they’d just watched Jesus endure, a mere six weeks before Ascension Thursday, and knowing that being a follower of Jesus might lead me to a similar fate, I might not be looking forward to this baptism with the Holy Spirit in an entirely positive way.
Anticipation. Expectancy. Impatience. Excitement. Ambiguity. Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear.
That’s where we are in the story arc, folks. As we do every year, we’ve been journeying through Jesus’ life, from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany to Lent to Easter to Ascension, and now we’re waiting for Pentecost.
And rather than skipping ahead to Acts 2, I challenge you to stay in Acts 1 this week, and wait. And imagine that you don’t really know what you’re waiting for, or when it will come – and see how that affects your experience. (If we’re really honest with ourselves, maybe entering into this kind of emotional and spiritual mood doesn’t require as much imagination as we think.)
Now, we don’t know a lot about what the disciples did during their 10-day waiting period, but we know one thing:
They waited together.
Acts 2:1 tells us, ‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.’ And I think we’re called to go and do likewise.
That’s why, if you’ll be anywhere near Calgary this weekend, I’d like to invite you to wait with us, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, on Saturday night.
We’re hosting a Pentecost Eve Prayer & Praise Service, where waiting will be a key theme. For example, we’ll sing songs that feature these anticipatory lyrics:
- ‘Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You; we long for You!’
- ‘I hear a voice of one crying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord’
- ‘O, Lord, come! We await your Presence, O Lord, come!’
- ‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord’
We’ll also join together as a community (and that includes people who don’t normally worship at our church), and pray. So whatever you’re waiting for in your own journey, we’ll wait with you.
We’ll have an ‘open-mic’ time for participants to share their petitions or their thanksgivings with the whole assembly, as well as with God. There’ll also be opportunities to be prayed for by a squadron of thoroughly normal people who happen to be seasoned prayer warriors, who will give voice to your requests, or silently lay hands on you and let the Spirit do the praying.
Meanwhile, the worship music will guide us on a quick walk through Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, to help remind us of where we are, and where we’ve been, in the story. And finally, we’ll sing a couple of Pentecost songs to whet your appetite for the Pentecost Sunday service at whatever church you attend.
The service starts at 7 p.m., and is scheduled to last about 90 minutes. I hope you’ll join us, because let’s face it: waiting sucks. But it’ll be a lot more bearable for each of us, if we do it together.
Peace be with you.
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