Waiting and hoping

We arrive here today at a time of darkness
The shortest day and longest night are near
The darkness of inhumanity also casts a shadow over our lives
We kindle a flame against the darkness
May this light bring visions of sunlight to our eyes
And the bright gleam of hope to our hearts


Readings

Can You Imagine? By Mary Oliver

For example, what the trees do
not only in lightning storms
or the watery dark of a summer's night
or under the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now - whenever
we're not looking. Surely you can't imagine
they don't dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade - surely you can't imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in its own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can't imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

Die Slowly by Martha Medeiros

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones "It's" rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let's try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

Turn! Turn! Turn! - The Byrds

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.
A time to plant, a time to reap.
A time to kill, a time to heal.
A time to laugh, a time to weep.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to build up, a time to break down.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
A time to cast away stones.
A time to gather stones together.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time of love, a time of hate.
A time of war, a time of peace.
A time you may embrace.
A time to refrain from embracing.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to gain, a time to lose.
A time to rend, a time to sew.
A time for love, a time for hate.
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.


Message, by Andy Pakula

Here, one week away from Christmas, you may find yourself waiting.

There are plenty of things to be waiting for.

Waiting to get some time off from work
Waiting to see family and friends
Waiting for parties and festivities
Waiting to watch your favourite Christmas films
Waiting to see whether you get the present you’ve been hoping for
Waiting to see the pleasure on the face of someone you got a present for
Waiting to sing Christmas carols by candlelight
Waiting for mince pies and mulled wine
Waiting to see if a bit more kindness and charity emerge as you hope

For Christians, this is a special time of waiting. It is the last week of a time of waiting called Advent. And you probably know this whether or not you’ve had a Christian background. The current view of Advent is not quite what church leaders had in mind though. It's a time to buy special calendars, You can get Advent calendar now with a cute picture for each day, a chocolate for each day, or a different dram of gin or whiskey for each day. Not holy wine, mind you… the hard stuff.

And, lest they be left out, there are advent calendars for dogs and for cats. I think my dog is leaning toward the ‘Good Boy Real Meaty Treats Advent Calendar’ but there are plenty to choose from.

Advent comes from a latin word meaning coming, and for Christians, Advent is about waiting for the coming of their messiah - their saviour - Jesus Christ.

Advent is about the waiting for his first coming in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago and for the second coming that Christianity anticipates for the future.

Advent is meant to be a time of deep and patient waiting - a kind of hopeful, faithful waiting.
But the word ‘waiting’ does not usually have any kind of spiritual or even positive connotation for most of us. 

My late colleague Suzanne Meyer wrote ‘I am waiting’. It's a bit outdated, but I think it still works.

I am waiting for the voice of cynicism
to quit passing itself off as the voice of reason
I am waiting for optimism to become chic again
I am waiting for sophistry to quit calling itself wisdom
and for good manners to make a big comeback

I am waiting for a Madonna who keeps her clothes on
I am waiting for a President who keeps his promises
I am waiting for a cure for what ails us
I am waiting for the friend I haven’t met yet
and for the good times that are just around the corner 

I am waiting for my ship to come in
I am waiting for Scotty to beam me up… 
I am waiting for Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed
and Kali and Ishtar and Elijah
to all come back at once and explain
what they really meant to say the first time 

This waiting is more like the kind of waiting that I’m used to. It’s waiting with a foot or fingernails tapping. It’s waiting with fidgeting with a pen or coins or keys. It’s waiting with smartphone: texting, checking Facebook, or glued to Candy Crush, Fruit Ninja, or Plants vs. Zombies.

It’s waiting without patience - waiting whilst doing anything we can do keep from just being alone too long with our longing.

There’s no reason we shouldn’t feel longing and impatience. For cynicism to stop being seen as rational - I’m impatient. For optimism to be chic - for good manners to make a comeback - I’m impatient.

Mary Oliver extolls patience though as she looks to trees and imagines how they find happiness and contentment amid their lives of tedium and despite the insults of birds and exposure to winds and lightning.

There is contentment to be found in patience. It is the opposite of the anxious unsettled feeling we get when we’re forced to wait. My mother used to use a Yiddish word for it when my sister and I were a bit manic - Schpilkes. Schpilkes is that can’t sit still feeling that drives you to find a distraction - any distraction.

But patience. 

The wise Winnie the Pooh advises it: “"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." 

A more lofty thinker - Ralph Waldo Emerson - said much the same thing: "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." 

There is a relief and a calmness in patience. There is peace in the slowing down and the letting things be. There is growth and depth to be found in staying with our yearnings rather than pushing them away or jumping into action.

And some will say that slow and easy wins the day. It worked for the tortoise in its storied race against the hare. It works for water that can slowly wear channels in solid stone.
But the tortoise had an easy go of it. It wasn’t the case that slow beat fast - the rabbit was simply undisciplined!

And slow water is nice, but water under pressure can penetrate stone in minutes instead of millenia.

Should we be patient and calm in the face of racism? In the face of homophobia? In the face of sexism? In the face of elected officials who incite violence? As those suffering mental illness go untreated? As the poor get poorer and the rich get much richer? 

With the changes going on around us now, it hardly seems a good time for patience.

The wise Maya Angelou offers us a solution to the tension between patience and very justified impatience. “Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls.”

Our passion and our patience must go hand in hand. When we act solely out of passion, we leap before looking. We act without sufficient reflection and care. We are driven to do something -anything. And, most importantly, our agitation and anxiety can lessen our effectiveness. 

This is one of the strongest reasons for acting within the context of a community when doing social justice work. Our passion needs to be tempered in relationship and immersed in values.
We can’t leave our commitment to love and compassion and interconnection behind as we go forth to counter the oppressions of our times.

Martha Medeiros described a ‘burning patience.’ 

We have burning patience when our quest for equality is focused on raising everyone up rather than pushing anyone down.

We have burning patience when we are strategic in our actions rather than simply shouting our anger at anyone who within range of our voices.

We have burning patience when we listen openly and thoughtfully to those who oppose us - slowly building an understanding that can undermine hate.

We have burning patience when we remember and act upon the truth that hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.

Let us be passionate about the change we want to see in the world.

Let us know patient and deep waiting.

Let us be people who act for justice whilst holding love for all.

Let us be people of a burning patience.