June 24, 2018: Wings

Pastor Steve Mechem

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Isaiah 40:26-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

So, a couple of weeks ago at our monthly Second Saturday Youth Gathering, Monica was leading us in an icebreaker centered around superheroes. One of the questions she asked us to respond to was “what superpower would you like to have.” If you could have one superhero superpower, what would it be?

I’m kind of curious- “what superpower would you like to have?”

Well, members of our youth group gave some deep, thought out answers that were amazing. I was so impressed by their introspection and articulation. Of course, I was not so adroit- I just blurted out the first thing that came into my head. I said I would like to be able to fly.

Wouldn’t that be cool? To fly! I am not talking about jet back flying, I am talking about looking up in the sky, thinking “fly,” and taking flight.

Now I have to be honest and say that I probably would not use my superhero ability to save the world or perform magnificent feats of heroism. I am afraid I would use my superpower of flying to primarily make my life a bit more convenient.

Think about it.

In the morning, as I head out the door, rather than looking up the hill toward the bus stop to which I must walk, or getting in the car and driving through the Hanley Road morning traffic, I just look up in the air and fly.

I imagine that I would soar up 50 or 60 feet into the air, above the trees, and glide to the church. I don’t have to fly fast, I don’t have to break speed records, I just fly above the traffic taking in the sights. As I get to the church, I come in for a soft landing. I walk through the office door, I sit down at my desk and I begin to work. Ahh, the ability to fly. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

So that’s my superpower- flight!
You know- the idea of flight or wings in flight is used symbolically in writing and oratory for exceeding, for doing well, for living fully, for living boldly, being above the fray.

There is an old saying, “You can’t soar like an eagle and live like a chicken.”

Soaring is about taking flight, being bold, embracing life.

In the Bible, the image of flight or soaring comes along with the idea that God is blessing you, God is leading you, God is with you. Scripturally, taking flight is what happens as you come to the other side of struggle. After the “dark night of our soul” comes the morning sun with its invitation to take flight.

And we come to this beautiful passage in the book of Isaiah.

“Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

The prophet declares that all of us will stumble and fall, even the strongest among us will find ourselves weakened, even the best will fail. It is a part of the human condition. But for those who are willing to wait upon the Lord, the prophet intones, they will discover renewed strength and will indeed, soar like eagles.

Over the last few weeks, we have talked about waiting, the hard virtue of waiting, the struggle of waiting, and the sense of release and freedom when it’s past.

This morning I want to affirm for you that
1) waiting really stinks.
2) there are things that we learn in the process of waiting
and 3) there are things we can do while we wait.

While we wait we learn to trust, Interestingly, a couple translations render the phrase, “those who trust in the Lord, rather than “those who wait for the Lord.”

We learn to trust that God is with us through the wait. And we learn to rely on the hope that when the wait is over, a new day begins!

As we wait and trust, we pray. I’m not talking about that idea of prayer that involves patterns and rote-ness and formulas. I understand prayer to be communion with God. So as we wait, we learn to connect and commune with the Other.

The story of Job, who is highlighted in the Beatitude window that I look at from my chair each week, is a story of long, hard, waiting. And in the waiting, Job learns to commune with God, and God speaks clearly in whirlwind of Job’s waiting.

As we wait, we are not motionless. We continue to move. We continue to strive. We continue to work. Waiting isn’t a seditary activity.

Have you ever played tennis? The very first thing you learn- excuse me, the first thing you learn is to swing your racket with a level motion- but one of the first things you learn is that you should always keep moving. As you wait for your opponent to serve, you don’t stand flat-footed with your racket hanging limp. You are up on the balls of your feet moving up and down, swaying to and fro. Your racket is held nimbly in your hands, so that as the served ball crosses the net, you are ready to pounce and return the serve.

Waiting works like that. You have to keep moving, ready to receive whatever it is that is coming your way.

I used to get mad at myself because I would pray about something, and “leave it in God’s hands” only to immediately begin to think about ways I could fix the problem that I just left with God. I would be so frustrated that I didn’t trust God enough to let go of the issue or situation. But I think I have learned that our thought followed by actions are, quite often, the way God works in our prayers. I get the phrase, “Let go and let God.” But when God sends a row boat, you best be moving to get in that thing.

It is important to understand that when one is waiting, one is moving. But we shouldn’t think that by moving we will automatically be soaring. The movement is necessary but it’s not the end result. Movement is preparation, for when the waiting is over.

As Dr. King used to say,
“Soar, but if you can’t soar, run.
And if you can’t run, walk.
And if you can’t walk, crawl.
But No matter what it takes, keep moving.”

Now waiting and trusting and hoping and moving are the processes we undergo as we wait. And as we wait, we change.

I have been thinking a lot about the beatitudes lately, and I am beginning to understand, I think, that the beatitudes don’t just describe attitudes, rather, they describe the type of people we are called to be as followers of Jesus. And I am beginning to believe that becoming those types of people happens in the process of waiting.

In waiting, we learn our utter need for God.

In waiting, we learn to experience that which breaks the heart of God.

In waiting, we learn humility and control.

In waiting, we learn to actively seek the will and way of God,

In waiting, we learn mercy.

In waiting, we discover purity of heart.

In waiting, we learn to yearn for peace and wholeness.

In waiting, we learn the patience that is needed to face the harshest struggles of life.

Beatitudinal people are people who have learned to wait.

We wait, believing and trusting and moving and hoping that on the other side there is a new day where God is fully present and where we are privileged to become who we are meant for be- refreshed, renewed, and soaring on eagles’ wings.