A series of old sermons continues. This particular sermon marked the first Sunday of my official time on staff at St. Paul’s San Rafael, a local Episcopal church. Sift through the first couple paragraphs of introduction, then you’ll hit the good stuff. Enjoy!
Well, good morning, friends! It is good to be with you again today, especially knowing that we’ll get to see each other on a regular basis.
As Christopher said, my name is Cara Meredith. If I were to give you a short bio, at least of my professional life, I’d tell you that once upon a time I was a high school English and leadership teacher. Then I was in outreach ministry for nearly a decade. Then I had a baby, and then another, and that which had been a good fit for a really long time, wasn’t necessarily a good fit any more. So, I finished up a Masters of Theology degree and decided to pursue the dream I’d not-so-secretly held in my back pocket for a number of years, which was to write and speak full-time. So, I did. I wrote articles and I published a book. I spoke up and down the West Coast and throughout the South. I did did did did did, because that’s just part of the game.
And now, I find myself here with you on the second Sunday of every month – a little bit ragged, a little bit worn for the wear, a little bit wondering what it means to lean into a season of intentional rest when all I’ve been used to doing for so long is not resting.
Because when Christopher and I spoke earlier this week, and we talked about today’s homily, he said, “Well, introduce yourself. And if it fits to talk about our burgeoning theme of Claiming Sabbath, do so!”
Where is there room for Claiming Sabbath, though, when all I’m doing is doing, when all I’m doing is chasing after the dream and running myself ragged and reading off the list of accomplishments, when all I’m doing is the exact opposite and not-resting?
But when I read through the lectionary passages this week, a different kind of invitation perked up …and it was an invitation to rest. An invitation to wait. An invitation to enter in and be.
In particular, we see this in Psalm 130. The psalm is one of seven psalms grouped as a penitential psalm, meaning the “author acknowledges or confesses his trespass before the Lord and recognizes his need for favor and forgiveness.” It’s not a psalm of lament, even though there’s an air of sadness and sorrow to it, but it’s a psalm that begs forgiveness for what the individual has gotten wrong.
It’s a psalm that declares the grace and mercy of God, “But there is forgives with you, so that you may be revered.” And it’s a psalm that begs the reader stop and pause and watch and wait, especially when the author (who was most likely David) sings, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.”
In two verses alone, the word “wait” is repeated three times and the word “watch” is repeated twice. And might that be part of the invitation for us?
Wait, my beloved child, when all you want to do – when all you’re used to doing and all you know how to do – is fill the space with more and more doing.
Wait, my dear, when you forget the beauty and power of quiet, because you’re so used to picking up your device whenever you get a spare moment and filling up your ears and eyes and all that extra brain space with the noise of social media.
Wait, my son, my daughter, because sometimes waiting is all you can do: when news hasn’t come in from the doctor, when the answer hasn’t been revealed, when it’s not time yet, and there’s nothing you can do but just sit and be and practice the art of learning how to respond instead of how to react.
Wait, my beloved.
Watch, my beloved.
And maybe, along the way, begin to reclaim sabbath for yourself, your family and your community, because this matters …and because, perhaps, our survival as individuals and as the collective body of Christ desperately depends on it.
What stories of waiting are you living in in the midst of today? What stories of waiting have changed you in the past?
Just over nine years ago, I sat in the living room of our 1100-square foot walk-up in San Francisco, really, really pregnant, and really, really ready to meet the baby boy who’d been growing in my belly for 40, 41, 42 weeks by that point. I’d tried long, waddling walks around the block. I’d tried castor oil. I’d tried the “pregnancy pizza” from Skipolini’s, that was loaded with fresh vegetables, six types of meat and weighed over four pounds. I’d tried a pedicure, much to the chagrin of the nail technicians who didn’t want to be held accountable for massaging my feet and sending me into labor, when all I wanted them to do was massage my feel and send me into labor.
But in that moment, all I could do was wait (and eventually go to the hospital for a little help along the way).
So again, I ask: has it ever been the same for you, perhaps not of pregnancy, per say, but of waiting? When have you had to wait, even when it was the last thing you wanted to do? What invitation into the holy act of waiting and watching might God be leading you into today?
After all, the invitation is not merely to stop the hamster-cycle of doing and running around and not-waiting, but the invitation is to stop the hamster-cycle of thinking that it’s all on us and to instead to be still and wait for God.
To be still and wait for the One who’s been there all along – who is present there now, even if our behaviors and our actions, even if the noise we so easily get caught up in, sometimes prevents us from realizing the presence of holiness and beauty and stillness that is right here, right now.
Might we take seriously the need to rest, the imperative to claim sabbath, the directive to wait. And might we realize, in the midst of learning to wait, the one who’s been with us in the past, who’s with us now in the present, and who will continue to go before us in the future.
Might we see God in this waiting place.
Your turn! How are you seeing God in this waiting place?