The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Back in the early 1980s, the late Tom Petty wrote “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.”  While it is obviously a song about a woman, I’m guessing it wasn’t written about the prophet Anna, though it could have been.  Anna, Luke tells us, was waiting for the Messiah.  For nearly sixty years, Anna had lived in the Temple, praying, fasting, and waiting for God to fulfill the promise of a Messiah who would restore Israel and redeem the whole world.

After almost 11 months of waiting to see y’all in real life, I’m over it.  I can’t imagine doing this for another 700 months, 21,500 days, or 516,000 hours, give or take.  The waiting is the hardest part, but some things are worth waiting for.  For Anna, the wait was certainly worth it.  She was a prophet, not in the fortune teller sense.  Instead, for Anna, being a prophet meant she was in tune with God’s word.  Through her spiritual discipline of prayer and fasting, Anna had cultivated a deep relationship with God.  She had received the promise of a Savior, but didn’t know when it would come.  As she waited, I’m sure there were days of frustration.  I’m sure there were moments of desperation.  After 60 years of waiting, I’m certain that Anna had seen the depths of worry and sorrow, but then she saw him, and she knew.

How she knew that this forty-day old baby boy was the one for whom she had waited, I don’t know, but she knew, and she believed, and she praised God for the fulfillment of the promise of a child who would redeem the whole world.  As we wait for the full rollout of the vaccine, for life to slowly return to normal, I wonder how God might be calling us to deepen our relationship, to see the world through God’s eyes, and to work toward the Kingdom of God.

The waiting is the hardest part, but in the waiting, there is plenty of work to do.  I pray this day that God might give us all the spirit of Anna, that we might wait, patiently and with conviction, for the redemption of the world.  Amen.

The Presentation

There are only a small handful of Feasts that take precedence over a regular Sunday celebration.  A couple of them – Easter, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday – regularly fall on a Sunday.  One, Ascension Day, can never be a Sunday as forty days after Easter Day will always add up to Thursday.  All Saints’ Day can be celebrated twice, but it is only Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Name (January 1), the Presentation (February 2), and the Transfiguration (August 6), will bump a regularly scheduled Sunday.  This week, we have a rare double Feast as the secular festival of Super Bowl LIV happens to fall on the Sunday of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple – a name that just rolls off the tongue.

The Feast of the Presentation, while not often celebrated on the Lord’s Day is still a pretty popular story in the minds of many Episcopalians.  Anyone who grew up going to an Episcopal Church Camp could probably still recite the Song of Simeon from Compline by heart.  Simeon’s song sums up not only the hope of an old man who longed desperately for the redemption of Israel, but it strikes deep chords within all of us who are looking forward to and working toward the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is through the light to the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people that we as Christians have come to know not just our salvation, but the redemption of the world.

blog7.1

What gets less play, because her words were not recorded, is the prophet Anna who, Luke tells us was also waiting for the restoration of her beloved Jerusalem.  Upon seeing the babe, she too couldn’t help but express joy, praise God, and tell anyone who would listen what the birth of this particular child would mean for the whole world.

While the focus in the name of this Feast is the ritual act of presenting Jesus at the Temple for purification, what really stands out to me this morning is the faithfulness of Simeon and Anna, and their willingness to share the hope that was within them.  Too often in our worship, Episcopalians focus on the ritual acts, forgetting that the Eucharist is meant to nourish us spiritually that we might go forth to share the love of God and the Good News of salvation in Christ with everyone we meet.