Each year, as the summer approaches, I find myself slowing down.
After a year full of joys and sorrows, of ups and downs, of pastoral conversations, of gathering for worship, of study groups and council meetings, the summer still marks a time of re-creation.
The flowers pop up in the church garden, and the vegetables begin to grow at home.
As spring turns to summer, as the earth warms and the buds blossom, my attention turns to the miracle of new life. We glimpse this at Easter to be sure, but the summer is when I really start to take notice. Perhaps I’m still a bit slow to pick up on the miracle of what God’s been up to all along. You might call me a Thomas of the garden, the kind of person who needs more than a few daffodils to believe that the miracle of resurrection is upon us.
In the garden, we have work to do. With God’s help, we till and prepare the soil. As the days go by, we tend and weed and prune. And yet what I’m coming to understand more and more with each passing year is that so much of what happens in the garden is not up to us. It is the miracle of God’s creation. It is the miracle of new life. It is the miracle of soil and sun and water and nutrients working together—imperceptibly—to nourish seeds with the fruits of their labours.
The miracle of new life doesn’t come because of what I’m doing. It comes while I wait.
Some days after our Diocesan Synod, words from the prophet Isaiah came to me as I was sitting in my chair, listening to the wind in the trees, overhearing the cries of the baby next door through open windows.
…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
We who wait on the Lord shall renew our strength. We shall be fed and nourished, receiving energy to navigate the open skies. We shall taste and see that the Lord is good. We shall taste and see, and we shall rejoice, for our trust is in the One who always is, who always loves, who always finds a way—even when there seems to be no way.
There are days I find it tempting in the face of all our church is navigating, to do more, and to do it faster.
And yet, so many of us are exhausted, aren’t we? We’re tired from the pandemic, we’re tired from holding ourselves and our communities together. We’re just flat-out tired. The conventional wisdom tells us that the only solution comes through doing more. More programming. More advertising. More volunteers. More money. More energy. More, more, more.
But what if our primary task is not to do, but to “Be”? What if the church’s primary task in this moment is to vulnerably open ourselves to God and one another, sharing our hopes and fears as we wait on the one who renews our strength? What if our primary task in this moment is to gather and to pray, to care for one another, to search the scriptures and our hearts for a word from the Lord. Such waiting is not passive, of course. It demands that we pay close attention. And yet it is not ultimately we, but God, who transforms us and our communities into Christ’s likeness. And so, it must be to God, and the renewing wind of the Holy Spirit that we turn ourselves in wholehearted worship.
In my last article, I wrote of the need to release our white-knuckled grip on control. I wrote of the need to believe and live as though God will continue to fill us up with springs of living water, filling from behind, like water in a well.
Looking back, I realise that I could have been more explicit in saying this kind of filling asks that we wait on God in deeply searching, honest, yearning prayer. This is more than a reminder to say grace before a meal. It isn’t a note about making sure prayer shows up as an agenda item for our next church meeting. Rather, as individuals and as communities of faith, it’s an invitation to renew our commitment to wait actively and expectantly on the Lord in whom we live and move and have our being.
As I’ve been sitting with these words from the prophet, I sense an invitation: To watch. To wait. To pray.
This may just be a word for me. But I wonder if this is a call you’re sensing too. As we go forward into this summer, how might we listen as individuals, as parishes, and as a diocesan community of communities for the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit?
How might we listen deeply? How might we wait in joyful expectation upon all that God is doing, preparing our hearts, preparing our communities, preparing this diocese for the strength that comes even as we wait.