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From the Pastor's Pen


May 10, 2018

The other day my son says to me out of the blue, “Dad, do you remember when you promised to take us to a Brewers baseball game? Why haven’t you taken us yet? You promised we would go.”

“Yes son. I know I promised. But that was in January. When I told you we would go, I really meant it, but then a bunch of stuff came up and then the season arrived and we never made it. But we’ll get there…”

You know, most of us, at one time or another in our lives, have hung on the edge of a promise delayed. We have waited and waited and waited some more for the fulfillment of something that has been promised to us. And you know as well as I do that the longer the delay in the fulfillment of the promises, the more we begin to consider that the promises won’t be kept at all. Because, as soon as a promise is made, there is created within us an expectation of fulfillment. And I suspect that emotionally, deep in the deepest recesses of our souls, there’s no difference in feeling between a promise long delayed and a promise betrayed. It’s painful to wait for what’s been promised but not fulfilled.

And, so, when a promise deeply hoped for is delayed, it’s easy to lose faith in the one who made the promise. It’s easy to lose confidence in that person, easy to lose trust in that person’s word. It’s easy to become disheartened. And promises made but long delayed can strain or adversely influence or interrupt intimacy between people.

But, what if the one who made the promise, the promise that’s been long delayed, is God? What if someone begins to lose faith in God? What happens when our confidence in God is called into question or when someone begins to lose trust in God’s Word? What if someone becomes disheartened toward God? What if intimacy with God is interrupted?

That’s the very situation Luke’s gospel addresses. Luke is writing to his church in the last third of the first century, a couple generations removed from the life and death of Jesus. And from the earliest times that Jesus’ followers tried to make sense of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, they had hung on the amazing promise that he would return. And they expected his return at any moment. And the longer they waited for his return, all the while seeking to be faithful to what he had taught them, the more they experienced despair at the delay of his promised return.

And so the promise of Jesus’ return was a continuous part of their lives. The promise that Jesus would return was the encompassing hope in which they found their peace and rest.

And it is as if they began to say as a people, “How long will you make us wait, Lord? When will we see your face?” As the Psalmist says, “Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Wake up! Do not cast us off forever.” (Psalm 44:23).

You can only ask people to hang in there for just so long. But after awhile, a promise delayed feels just like a promise betrayed.

And so, Luke means to say to his church, in danger of becoming disheartened in the face of the delayed promise of Jesus’ return, “Don’t lose heart. Trust in God. Be confident in God. God is faithful. God will deliver. God will keep God’s promise. God is trustworthy. Wait for the Lord. And as you wait, wait trusting, not despairing.”

And if the parable addresses itself to prayer, this is where it does so. The parable teaches us that prayer is work, because our prayers for the things we most deeply need are often met with long periods of silence from God. Prayer is hard work because the human experience is often an experience of waiting in the face of delay.

Don’t give in to the despair of unanswered prayer. There are parched times in our lives today and there are answers we want that have not been given. There are promises God has made to us that have yet to be fulfilled. But don’t give up. Keep your hearts open in the face of delay.

Pray boldly and without ceasing. And above all else, pray in trust and confidence and hope in God. Don’t pray in despair. Don’t lose heart. God’s answer will come. With the greatest of hope!


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