“Waiting For Hope”

Jul 24, 2022

The Scripture

Isaiah 40:12-23

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
    and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure,
    and weighed the mountains in scales
    and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lord,
    or as his counsellor has instructed him?
14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,
    and who taught him the path of justice?
Who taught him knowledge,
    and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
    and are accounted as dust on the scales;
    see, he takes up the isles like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not provide fuel enough,
    nor are its animals enough for a burnt-offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him;
    they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

18 To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol? —A workman casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold,
    and casts for it silver chains.
20 As a gift one chooses mulberry wood
    —wood that will not rot—
then seeks out a skilled artisan
    to set up an image that will not topple.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.




The Sermon

Waiting for Hope. We continue looking at Kate Bowler’s book, Good Enough and she takes us this morning to the chapter titled: 2:00 am/2:00 pm. Interesting title, isn’t it? Now I don’t know about you but when I see 2:00 am certain images immediately come to mind. How many of you have your own image that comes to mind when you see 2 am? I’ll share my experience and then you can add your own. I wake up and am wide awake. I mean I know from the moment I wake up that sleep will not come back to me for quite a while, maybe an hour or two. I certainly am a different person than I was at 2 pm. Things that I haven’t thought about for days or months slip into my mind. There is both clarity and worry, my mind floats between dreams and reality. It is a subliminal space I find myself in. How about you? What is your experience of 2 am? Kate Bowler takes us to the prophet Isaiah and his wise words about God’s presence in this world and especially as it applies to God’s presence during those 2 am times.

Isaiah’s words give perspective to our nightly fears, worries and concerns that rattle through our brains our 2 am or 3 am or whatever time one lays awake at night. This prophet from long ago connects the day and night together into one creation story marked with God’s providential presence; a presence that is beyond our understanding. Yet we humans have such a limited perspective of our small world…our small world that seems so overwhelming at times, especially at 2 am or whatever time. Why 2 am? Why is 2 am so different than 2 pm? Kate Bowler, from her own life experiences, understands the natural divide that life brings to us. She observes that the person we are in the day and in the night can at times seem like two entirely different people. She’s got a point here. During the light of day our lives are filled with schedules, activities, movement and at night we are often alone, observing the stillness of the night, and our minds are free to wonder. Kate notes that “at 2 o’clock there is no small talk at a party. If you’re on the phone, you can hear yourself saying things you would never say in the light of day.” Conversations are never simple and light in the middle of the night. They are more introspective, more serious. She is not alone in observing this difference in being surrounded by a night sky or shading one’s eyes from the bright sun.

Barbara Brown Taylor speaks to this same divide from night and day from a theological level. I’ve never thought about this before but listen to what she says and see if seems true to you. “The biblical language divides every day in two, pitting the light part against the dark part. It tucks all the sinister stuff into the dark part, identifying God with the sunny part and leaving you to deal with the rest on your own time…worse of all, it offers people of faith a giant closet in which they can store everything that threatens or frightens them without thinking too much about those things.”

Do you think that is true for you? Is your faith mostly about seeing God in the sunny part? Stuffing the bad stuff away?

I believe Kate Bowler helps us to normalize the 2 am side of ourselves. She shares her experience of traveling for chemotherapy to another city every Wednesday that took her to the airport in the middle of the night. Once she became more aware of her surroundings, she realized that she was not alone in this 2 am journey to the airport. I can relate to her story in my hospital work, many people arrive at the hospital, in the trauma bay, in the emergency room…all at a place they would rather not be in the middle of the night. I agree with Kate when she writes the world is full of 2 am people, many people struggling, many people suffering. “Once we know pain, it is like the dark side of the moon. Hidden from view, but every bit as real.”

Perhaps there is a blessing of this 2 am time, have you ever thought of that? There is a blessing, for the darkness allows us to open the giant closet and see what we have stored in there and see what things we can bring out and look at and maybe even decide what things we can let go of and not stuff back into the closet. Barbara Brown Taylor loves the darkness of night, she reminds us of what darkness brings. “During the day it is hard to remember that all the stars in the sky are out there all the time, even when I am too blinded by the sun to see them…It is always night somewhere, giving people the darkness, they need to see, feel and think things that hide during the day.”

 The darkness of 2 am slows us down enough for us to see how much we need God to help us with everything that we have stuffed into that closet. We need God in our lives, not only in the day when we are busy and frantic with our scheduled lives, in control of everything, but we need God in our lives in the quiet darkness of the early morning when we are open and vulnerable. In those minutes we wait with hope for answers to come, for peace to return. In the silence we can be real with ourselves, and real with God. Isaiah reminds us that God is everlasting, that God does not grow weary, 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. Amen