Union University Church
Reverend Laurie DeMott
November 6, 2016
I am here to tell you this morning that all good things in life take time. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t say “all” — there are indeed spontaneous events that bring us great joy and there are even wonderful ideas that can come to fruition with hasty last minute efforts — so I wouldn’t want to carve it as a rule in stone but I do believe that in general, good things in life take time.
Have you ever stood transfixed in a cave crowded with stalagmites growing from the floor in fairyland splendor, stone pillars that formed drip by drip over hundreds of years? Good things in life take time.
Or have you peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon at the chasm carved by the Colorado river below, a river that eons ago coursed across a flat plain? Good things in life take time.
And you don’t need to travel far from home to recognize the truth of that statement: every May my front yard blooms in a glorious array of daffodils because every fall for the last 25 years I have planted a bag of 40 bulbs, each year adding just a few more flowers to that display of yellow in the spring. Good things in life take time.
Just think back to a memorable meal that you shared with family or friends. Is that favorite meal that you are picturing a Swanson TV dinner that was ready to eat in ten minutes, or is it a holiday dinner that enticed you all day with the smell of turkey sizzling in the oven, pies cooling on the counter top, the odors of the kitchen tugging at your appetite with their succulent temptations? No one has ever felt that way about a ten minute TV dinner.
Because good things take time.
Even the most mundane parts of life can remind us of this: drinking your morning coffee from a hand-thrown mug that fits nicely in the cradle of your palm, a fine bottle of wine aged in an oaken cask, a slice of cheese matured to the perfect flavor, a guitar riff that took the musician months to perfect. Most of the things that we value in life are the results of long hours of effort, thought, care, and time. I don’t think I’m being particularly profound when I tell you this morning that good things take time because the evidence is all around us and should be as obvious as the nose on your face.
So it is no surprise to hear the Psalmist say, “O guard my life, [Lord] and deliver me…. I wait for you… I wait for you all the day long.’” With confidence and patience, the Psalmist waits for God’s salvation, waits for God’s presence, waits for a feeling of certainty, waits for a comforting spirit to steal over his heart. In spite of the adversity surrounding him, the Psalmist proclaims that he is willing to wait for God’s word, because the Psalmist knows that good things in life take time.
It is as obvious as the noses on our faces, and yet in spite of our mind’s ability to understand that good things in life take time, our emotional selves resist that truth. The kind of patience demonstrated by the Psalmist is a very scare commodity in today’s society. Heck, I suspect it’s a scarce commodity in these pews; I know it’s a scare commodity in this pulpit!
A few years ago, when I was on a service trip with our youth, we joined another youth group for devotions, and the program of the day asked us to talk about our strengths and weaknesses. As we went around the circle, six out of the ten kids said that patience was their weakest trait. Anyone who has ever dealt with teenagers wouldn’t be surprised by that confession, but what was surprising was that all 3 adults in the group also listed patience as their weakest character trait. Apparently, it doesn’t get any better as we get older. We may know intellectually that good things take time but emotionally, we just don’t want to wait.
Making our impatience even more difficult to conquer is the fact that we live in a society that glorifies speed. We live in the information age where no question should be pondered for longer than it takes to google it. We binge on Netflix watching an entire season of a TV show in a few nights. Remember when we had to wait an entire year to find out who shot JR? Well, now we just load the next episode and keep going. And of course, let’s not even talk about food: our kids think “learning to cook,” means learning how to operate the microwave. Our McCulture bombards us constantly with the message that good things should come even to those who are unwilling to wait.
So when you combine our natural impatience with society’s sped up lifestyle, our ability to wait is sorely tested, and the consequent impact on our faith life has been devastating.
Think for a minute about some of the words we use to describe what is important in the Christian life: forgiveness, salvation, healing, love, wisdom. What happens to our understanding of these words when you apply our culture’s need for speed to these qualities of the Christian life?
Let’s look at forgiveness, for example. Forgiveness is a tough concept to begin with, but it is only made worse when we impose our culture’s need for speed on the command to forgive. We assume that forgiveness must be like Bounty, the paper towel that is the Quicker Picker Upper. Someone hurts us, and we know that Christ tells us to forgive them, so we try to wipe our hearts clean of bitterness with one quick motion, sop up all that hurt and toss it away. The next morning when we wake up still angry, still hurt, we cry out, “What is wrong with me? I must be a terrible Christian because I can’t forgive this wrong.” Is it that you are unforgiving, or is it that forgiveness has not come to you instantaneously? In our impatient culture the two are one and the same, but in the Bible, good things take time.
Or consider the issue of salvation: we are led to believe by today’s McFaith that with a declaration of faith in Christ we will instantly become new people, and yet in guilty silence we wonder why if that is the case, we too often feel still like not much has changed. We still have temptations, we still give in to selfishness, we still mess up. Is it really that your faith is flawed or is it that change didn’t come to you instantaneously? In our impatient culture the two are one and the same, but in the Bible, good things take time.
On All Saint’s Day, we light candles to remember loved ones gone and when we do, we are actually engaging in a counter-cultural act because even grief has become a victim of our ‘need for speed’ culture. Society doesn’t have time to wait for people whose pain refuses to go away on schedule and so for those whose grief may remain for years, even decades after a loss, they have to bear their pain privately, feeling as if there is something wrong with them because their hearts refuse to heal. In our service of remembrance on All Saint’s Day, however, we declare that we will light candles year after year after year for the people whose parting has left you with an ache that may never fully disappear. We will say those names that you miss hearing on people’s lips year after year. We will recognize the way that our loved ones continue to shape our lives even after they have died, and we will honor the slow walk of healing with quiet and candlelight.
“I will wait for you, God,” the Psalmist says knowing that faith and healing and wisdom and peace take time.
All Saint’s Day is the day when we remind ourselves that a life of faith is not built up instantaneously in a moment of confession but is built up over a lifetime. The church is a counter cultural institution because it refuses society’s insistence that if something cannot happen this minute, if something cannot be obtained this second, if something cannot be accomplished right now, then it is not worth waiting for and working for. Forgiveness, salvation, loving relationships, spiritual maturity, justice, peace — these are the things in our lives that make our lives and communities whole, but they all take time. Faith is getting up every morning determined to claim one more inch of your heart for Christ, or one more corner of society for his peace, and hoping that if you can claim that inch, tomorrow you can claim another inch for his kingdom of love. And if you fail in your attempt, faith is having the patience to re-group and try again tomorrow. The kingdom isn’t won overnight — whether it is establishing Christ’s peace and love in our society, or winning ever the stubborn places of our own hearts, the kingdom will take time because all good things take time.
It took the Chicago Cubs 108 years, seven games, and even an extra inning and a rain delay to become World Series champions, but there is not a person in Chicago who will tell you that it wasn’t worth the wait. Good things in life take time, and so we, as people of faith, will light our candles year after year. We will pray our prayers week after week. We will cultivate patience and in faith, commit ourselves to the slow work of regeneration in Christ trusting in God’s promise that there will be joy, wholeness, peace awaiting at the end.
“O guard my life, [Lord] and deliver me…. I wait for you… and I will wait for you all the day long.”