June 2, 2019
The Day of Ascension
Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53
RUMC, Pastor SeokCheol Shin
Waiting for the Holy Spirit
Difficult to Wait
I have never been good at waiting. When I go to attend a meeting, I always take along a book or a magazine. When I come to McDonald’s to buy a cup of coffee and see there is a long line to stand, I move on to Dunkin Donuts or any other convenient store. When I drive my car and stop at a red light, do you know what I do? I pick up my cell phone and check my emails or Facebook messages. Honestly speaking, I am not good at waiting. Waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting in the post office, and even waiting for water to boil, all of these raise my blood pressure! Unfortunately, our life journey is all about waiting, waiting for birth, waiting for graduation, waiting for marriage, waiting for having children, waiting even for death…
The world makes us wait, but God also says “wait.” When we pray to God, God answers us sometimes with an immediate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on his will and wisdom of what is best for us. However, I believe more often God answers us with his third response, “wait.” We pray hard but we are still broken-hearted because God says “wait” and we are not good at waiting.
Commandment to Wait
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus called his disciples and commanded them to go out to the world and preach the Gospel to all nations. But just a few seconds later, he told them “to stay in the city of [Jerusalem] until they receive the power from on high” (v. 49). And then in Acts chapter 1, Jesus was suddenly carried up into heaven (v. 9), which we now call “the ascension of the Lord.” Jesus commanded “Go out but stay!” How can we understand this contradiction of Jesus’ commandment?
While meditating on this Scripture, I imagined myself as one of the disciples in the upper room. So after the Lord has disappeared, I see myself shrugging my shoulders, saying “What?” I might look around to see the other guys there, and complain, “He just gave us a job to do, and we are all ready to do it. Then why doesn’t he just let us go and do it? What are we supposed to do in our waiting time?”
More anxiously, Jesus didn’t say how long they should wait. So I am wondering to myself why didn’t he just come right out and say, “I want you to wait ten days until the Feast of Pentecost.” If my Lord said the time period to me, perhaps I would have asked “why 10 days, Lord?” And Jesus would probably answer, “That is just part of my plans, you don’t need to know but just trust and wait.” Well, I might be disappointed and still wondering, but at least I would have known what the time limit was, and so I could wait for 10 days. But the problem is that Jesus didn’t let them know how long they had to wait. That just drives me nuts.
I am not good at waiting, and in this case I don’t even know how long I should wait. So after waiting several days, I would probably do a slow burn about my waiting. I would even think that I am only wasting my time doing nothing. But it is clear that Jesus Christ demanded his disciples to wait, and I’m glad it was them and not me.
The Lord knows I am not good at waiting, and as far as I know the world around me isn’t good at waiting either. In fact, all of us live in a world that teaches us constantly not to wait for anything; “hurry and get it now, otherwise you will lose it.” We don’t like waiting because waiting means denying ourselves and admitting we are not in control.
As a servant of God, I follow the strength God imparted to my heart to do good work for the sake of God’s glory so it may be a win-win for both of us. But it seems that God often directs me to wait, and I have to remain powerless with my anxious heart.
Yet, I believe when God says, “wait,” God doesn’t want us just to remain idle and get lazy. There will be something we need to do to prepare for God’s work. When God says “wait,” our question must be not “Why do we wait or how long do we have to wait,” but “What can we do while waiting on God?”
Waiting in God’s Discipline
Maybe, there is something we need to do during our waiting period: In today’s Scriptures, Jesus Christ calls his disciples to go out and preach the Gospel of God’s forgiveness of sins in his name: “The Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (v. 46-48). In other words, Christ gives us authority to forgive sins and set people free from the bondage of their sinful life. What a powerful authority Jesus’ disciples have!
Yet, even though we are called by God to forgive others in Jesus’ name, we know we are not special people; we are not better than anyone else in the world; we are also foolish people before the Lord. Thus, we know we don’t deserve the privilege to forgive any others living around us?
The Lord also knows that we are not perfect enough to forgive and bless others. That’s why he commands us to wait until God touches and purifies our hearts. Before we go out in the name of Jesus, we need to stay and wait until God comes and transforms us first, so that we can go out to help others and lead them to the way of God’s forgiveness and salvation.
For Christian, waiting in the name of Jesus doesn’t mean that we just sit and waste our time doing nothing. To Jesus’ disciples, waiting means daily disciplines. When God says wait or when we feel left alone, it is a time for us to look into our own hearts. We must recognize that we are poor and weak, kneel down before the Lord, and submit all of our powers to him. Confess God is the Lord and I am his mouth, hands, and feet to serve his people. In our waiting, we may deny ourselves, give up our own powers, and completely rely on God’s power and grace, so that we may stand as “witnesses of those things” that Jesus Christ our Lord entrusts to his disciples.
Waiting in Hope
As God’s children we don’t have any doubt in our faith that God is our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is our Savior. Nevertheless, we still happen to experience the time of wonder, the time of thirst, and the time of anxiety. We feel like we have been only waiting and waiting and waiting, but God’s grace is still far away.
Why? Why do we have to wait, and how long do we have to wait? Maybe God wants us to wait more until we completely submit ourselves to God only. During our waiting time, we may be more desperate for God, more dependent on his power, and more humble and faithful in our relationship with God. Thus, even if we feel left alone as we wait, it can be a time for us to get closer to God; it can be a time for us to experience God’s power and grace.
Waiting is not easy at all, but let us continue to wait in our prayer and hope because the Lord has promised us that he will send upon us the Holy Spirit when we trust and wait in our faith for his promise. Amen.