If I were to say that this year has been “different” you would probably accuse me of understating things. But it most certainly has been different. I mean just in church life alone things are, well, quite different. In our setting, we were online only for eleven weeks. That isn’t as much as some others, I know, but still one of those Sundays included Easter Sunday. Could you ever dream up a scenario when the Church would not be able to gather in person on Easter Sunday? I couldn’t. We have been forced to redevelop our online presence, a task that thankfully I was able to easily integrate. But now as we near the end of the year, are we looking for something else that is different? I have plans in 2021, don’t you? The idea of being in a crowd again, a concert, a restaurant without this strange vibe in the air. I look forward to that. I refuse to call this the new normal; this is different.
Now it feels like we have been in this holding pattern for a while now. I know that I have offered some of the same prayers to God without any dramatic conclusion reached. I mean don’t you just long for those moments when you say amen and things just change. I believe He can do it. I believe God is in control of what we would call normal life, or when things change. But still isn’t it nice to feel like there is progress? Isn’t it fun to look at the results and admire His work?
This last week I was in the book of Luke chapter 1 in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were servants of God, serving in the temple, and blameless. They were leading people closer to God and doing a great job of it. Yet, they had this strange vibe hanging in the air over them– Elizabeth was barren. That was not just a personal tragedy, but it was a public disgrace. In these days it was disgraceful for you not to be able to have children. And it is obvious that they had prayed for this for a long time, but now when we meet them they are old. (or well along in years, as Zechariah wisely chooses to be a little gentler with his description about his wife) When all human possibility is exhausted, God sends an angel to interact with Zechariah. And what did he say? He said “God has heard your prayer.” And he goes on to tell him that he will have a son, John, who will play a key part in the story of the coming of Jesus Christ.
God has heard your prayer! I was so encouraged by that because this year has gone on for a long time. I mean I saw one of those advertisements for an ornament and it was a dumpster fire. Different is no longer fun. I want something that feels different from this — let’s call it normal even. And prayers, after a while, lose a little bit of their passion because, let’s be honest, we start to accept where we are. Zechariah had. I mean that ship had sailed. He wasn’t going to have kids now, he was old. Who wants to have kids when they are old? Well, God has different plans than we do and they are much better than we could ever dream.
This is an encouragement for all of us fed up with the different. Hang on. God has heard your prayer. And while they might not get answered in the time or manner you would have them, it doesn’t mean God is distant. I don’t know how long this whole pandemic thing goes. But God does. And even if I don’t get to do the things I plan on, it doesn’t mean God isn’t loving. The story in Luke tells us that God had a perfect plan for a specific moment in history. Trust him for your story.
For a sermon on this passage, go to battlelake.org/sermons