Waiting

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Daily Office readings for Sunday, February 17:

Psalm 63:1-8(9-11), 98; (Morning)

Psalm 103 (Evening)

Deut. 8:1-10

1 Cor. 1:17-31

Mark 2:18-22

Mark 2:18-22 NRSV: Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

I still remember the time my dad and my grandpa first tried to make a batch of “home brew.” Like a lot of first-time home brewers, they were a little too anxious to sample their wares, and although, if one watched it long enough, the little carburetor atop the carboy still burped a bubble up now and then, they were convinced it was “done enough” and ended up bottling it a little on the green side.

A few days later, I was downstairs by myself playing pool and noticed I was hearing a noise every now and then..”Ping, ping, ping…” and after a while I started noticing the basement was smelling a little…well…yeasty. Sure enough, their neatly bottled batch of home brew was launching the bottle caps off the bottle and beer was spewing all over that corner of the basement, like little miniature Old Faithfuls.

They had fallen victim to what happens to a lot of first time home brew makers, I suppose. Their honest desire to be rewarded for their effort kept them from acknowledging that those little tiny yeastie-beasties had not completed their task.

Our Gospel reading today illustrates that this is not a new problem. Waiting for things beyond our control to be completed has probably been a part of the human condition since the dawn of time. Not waiting often not only prevents us from seeing our dreams come true, but often also creates a mess that needs cleaning up. Not completing a course of antibiotics opens the door to the possibility of re-infection with a worse form of infection and taking a longer course of antibiotics. Taking our loved one out of rehab “because they look so much better” might actually trigger another relapse at a time we don’t expect. Thinking grieving people “ought to be over it” after a year, because that seems to be the “norm” might actually spiral them into worse grief. We always have “our” ideas on how long things ought to take. Many times, actually, we’re right about that–but when we’re not, is it worth the potential for harm?

It is precisely in our liturgical seasons of “waiting”–Lent and Advent–that we are given the opportunity to sit and observe, without judgment, and without intervention from us. Sometimes, I think, we get so wrapped up in the Gospel of action–being the hands and feet of God–that we get too concerned about our doing something to the point we don’t think about what has to evolve independently of us. With the people we love, that is a hard task, because sometimes it means letting them get to a point that we know they are suffering, and waiting for them to ask for our intervention rather than always offering it at the first opportunity.

When is a time in your life you realize you jumped in too quickly? What can you learn in this Lenten season about the value of “reading the signs around you” before responding?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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