Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wait for it... Wait for it...

Over the weekend the family and I went to see I Love You, Man. The reviews were good and there was a bit of buzz, so we went. I laughed hard in places. I was more than a little uncomfortable in other places. Some of the discussions were spot-on, and some were just, well, just talk. The obverting of the "formula" for buddy pictures, with the resultant tensions and jealousies, was interesting, more or less.

And for someone who is as unskilled at "guy friendships" as real estate salesman and hopeful developer Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), it was more than a little embarrassing for me to watch.

One of the funnier scenes involves the open house where Peter first meets Sydney (Jason Segel), the successful yet emotionally-arrested financial adviser who will become Peter's "friend interest" in the movie. Lou Ferigno has listed his Hollywood mansion with Peter; Sydney has dropped in for the hors d'oeuvres and finger food he knows these kinds of shindigs feature. As they talk, Sydney coaches Peter, helps him recognize a "poser" who is there only to impress his new or would-be girlfriend (at the last the guy says, "The house is nice, but too small." Yeah, right). In the middle of Sydney's tutorial he tells Peter to "wait for it...wait for it..." I will not, for propriety's sake, identify what he wants Peter to wait for... but sure enough, soon enough, it happens.

The phrase is crucial: "Wait for it... wait for it...", and indeed there are many things for which we have to wait. But what I am thinking about today is how hard it is for any of us to do that. And even or perhaps especially for us Christians. It could be that we have been taught that, since we live in the in-between times, in the middle between promise and fulfillment, we ought always be looking ahead. But as Yoda fussed at Luke for never attending to where he was at the moment, for always looking to the future, I think Jesus and Paul would scold us similarly.

"Aspire to live quietly, (and) mind your own affairs...," Paul counsels, and many other places and times the biblical writers instruct us to stay in the present. We are children of the past, to be sure, and our commonwealth is in heaven...but in the meantime, in this mean time, we are to keep our heads and our hearts down, I think. And wait for it.

The phrase has special meaning for me in Lent. I just came from a service where the first hymn we sang was "He Lives," and I am not crazy about the hymn anyway. You ask me how I know he lives? He lives in the Word, in the liturgy of the Table, in the service we render to others, in the fellowship and prayers of the gathered. "In my heart," is the very least of it. Still, why sing that in Lent?

Well, because we already know the End of the Story, I guess. Yeah, well. And because we are "Easter people," as it were. Okay, sure. And because every Sunday is a "little Easter". Maybe not--it could be that Easter is just a Big Sunday, but that is for another essay. I am just saying, it would be nice if we could stay in the present for the present, if we could Wait for It a few more weeks, it meaning Easter. It would be nice, as well as liturgically significant, if we could make ourselves stay put in the season of suffering, not jump ahead of ourselves and instead learn what Lent wants to teach us.

Last year, and you will think I am making this up but I am not--I went to a Good Friday service where we sang, you guessed it, "He Lives." At that same church on EASTER Sunday we sang "The Old Rugged Cross." Our proclamation had been nailed to the chiasm!

Wait for it. Wait for it.

The Day will come, but it is not that Day yet. Till then, Wait. That is the message of Lent.


Rich said...

Good message for Lent. Reminds me of Christmas when on the first Sunday of Advent everyone wants to sing Christmas Carols but nobody wants to sing O Come O Come Emmanuel. Waiting is harder than most think.

Tom Steagald said...

Yeah. Whether it is for Easter (when we are still in Lent but the world is bursting with color) or for the appointments (when the general anxiety is clawing at our chest), it is very hard to wait.

Waiting, calm, serenity--those are powerful testimonials in these days.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Rachelle said...

Tom, you never fail to make me think, and make me smile, with your posts. Waiting is hard, I think, no matter what we're waiting for, whether it's good or scary.

But singing He Lives on Good Friday... I'm sorry, that seems just plain wrong.

John Roberts said...

Nancy Guthrie recently came out with another of her little "compendiums" of seasonal inspiration from current and classic authors and preachers. This new one is called "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross," and I highly recommend it. The subtitle is fascinating: "Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter." I say fascinating, because the title asserts much the same thing you're saying here, Tom: that Easter unpreceded by a healthy and thorough contemplation of the cross is far too fluffy to be biblical. In her preface, Guthrie writes as follows:
"I've often found myself in churches that made more of Mother’s Day than Palm Sunday, with little focus given to entering into the passion of Jesus in an intentional and meaningful way as Easter approached. Too many years I’ve found that I have rushed from Palm Sunday into Easter morning, from palm branches to the empty tomb, without giving my mind and my heart over to thoughtful contemplation of the cross. If you can relate to my lament, then I hope you will join me as we turn our gaze toward the cross through the pages of this book.
"Oh, what we miss out on when we rush past the cross of Christ. Oh, the richness and reward when we stop to linger before it, when
we take the time to 'consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself'(Heb. 12:3). In a culture where crosses have become commonplace as architecture and jewelry, how we need to truly gaze upon the cross of Christ in all of its ugliness and beauty, in its death and in its healing, in the painful price paid there, and in its free gift of grace. Jesus, keep us near the cross."
I remember a Good Friday service sponsored by our Ministerial Alliance several years ago in which about 8 or 9 local pastors participated, and -- as usual -- the new kid on the block got to preach (his second "trial sermon"?). At 7:30 on Good Friday evening, this guy preached on the verifiable evidence of the empty tomb! All of "his" folks that were there were amening him loudly, while some of us felt otherwise. Not that WHAT he said was wrong, just WHEN he said it; it was his timing that betrayed a complete lack of a working doctrine of the cross.
Your blog entry is one more word of God to me, saying again that until we embrace the cross, the empty tomb won't mean very much.
God bless you, my brother!