We are nearing the season of Lent in the Christian calendar. During Lent, we prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection. We may sometimes think of Lent as a time to “give something up.” There’s a long history of Christians spending these forty days before Easter emulating Christ’s ultimate sacrifice by making sacrifices of their own by giving up chocolate, or fast food, or shopping, or Facebook. But we also can see this Lenten season as another season of waiting. We wait for what’s in store at the end of Lent, which is the recognition and celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the culmination of our Christian story. It is the reason for us to live lives of joy and service. And we have the season of Lent to prepare for it.
If the idea of waiting, of preparing, feels familiar to us, there’s a very good reason for that. The idea of waiting is all over the Bible and inseparable from Christian faith. The four weeks before Christmas is the season of Advent, where we waited and prepared for the birth of Christ. David pines for the Lord in Psalm 130: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” And in Psalm 27: ” Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Acts 1:11 says, ““Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.””
What does it mean to wait for God? Our first thoughts, frankly, might be frustrating, because we think of the foot-tapping, watch-glancing impatience we feel when it seems God’s not responding to our fervent prayers. But perhaps the idea of waiting for God is sweetly simple: we are born to wait. People of faith live lives of expectation, of the desire to see promises fulfilled, wrongs made right, a broken world made new, and we are called to move that broken world toward newness as long as we have breath.
We sometimes talk at Granite Springs about “slow worship.” The Holy Spirit forms our souls over a long earthly time, and through consistent exposure to His Word (the Bible!), and his community (the church!). The instant conversion experience, while valuable and formative for some, may not be a spiritually healthy expectation. We believe that the kind of formation into Christ-followers that God has in store for us is a process that can take years, perhaps a lifetime. And since we’re fallible humans who can never be truly Christlike, maybe this timeline is infinite.
The poetry of Lenten music can help guide our waiting. It both intensifies and soothes the beautiful ache of anticipation, and gives words to the preparation of sacrifice and suffering, and of the knowledge of impending death. But there is a rhythm to waiting, a rhythm to patience. It’s not the staccato 4/4 of an energetic march. It’s the legato string section of a 2nd symphony movement, rising and falling, inhaling and exhaling, faithfully dancing through J.S. Bach’s bittersweet harmonies in O Sacred Head Now Wounded or the lone, and lonely, voice that rings out the haunting, bluesy melody of Were You There? and trusts that we are all in the midst of a great unfolding story, and that the end will be worth waiting for.