Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
The Generational Study at the last Ale House Church convicted me yet again. As a millennial I desire instant results. I came of age in the age of processing. While we were not yet in a Wikipedia world, when I wrote term papers in college encyclopedias gave way to Yahoo. Search engines put answers at our fingertips, and made results seem just moments away.
I still desire results. I long to see the fruit of my labor. Freshly mowed lawns and newly painted walls are among my favorite things. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t had a moment without a significant home project in nearly a decade.
Here’s the problem. This summer I encountered a project that did not produce the immediate results I hope for when I planted 140 trees. Carol and I planted them for the shade, for the privacy, and, perhaps most important, for their natural beauty. Only here’s the thing: I still get sunburned every time I sit outside! What gives? I suppose the Chinese proverb is true: the best time to plant a tree really is 20 years ago.
I must acknowledge, while a certain degree of my affinity for results comes from my age, I’m certain that’s not the only place. The other reason I love to see results is because so many things in life—trees included—make us wait. So much our work and our longing require patience from us. When we hit our knees and pray at night, only rarely is the response to our prayer waiting bedside in the morning. More often, God responds in God’s time and in God’s way. More often what we long for requires time and work, and from my experience while the waiting is difficult, it is always worth it. Children… jobs… love… healing… God always seems to deliver exactly when God means to, and we are rarely prepared with the season of anticipation.
But that does not mean the waiting and, perhaps, the work are not difficult. In fact, waiting is almost always accompanied by some challenges. And while Millennials started loathing waiting in 1981, we all must admit a certain frustration with waiting has existed long before. Even Paul, who wrote to the church in Rome in the first century, lifted up the importance of perseverance in prayer and waiting. He acknowledged, “In hope we are saved… but if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25).
We wait for the hope we cannot yet see with patience.
The second half of the Chinese proverb above is, “the second-best time to plant is today.” It’s a reminder that long-awaited results are not the reason to give up on something, but the reason to start. And it is faith and hope that set us free to do so.
I’m waiting on trees. Some days it feels like I may never see the shade I hope for. Other days I’m reminded that the eternity it feels like it will take these trees to grow will feel like a moment in another couple of years. But no matter how I feel, I wait. And trees are actually at the bottom of things I hope for. I hope for peace. I hope for healthy and happy children who grow into confident and caring adults. I hope for our church and the church universal. I hope for you; that you grow deeper in your love for God as God’s love becomes made known ever more in your life, in your words, and in your deeds.
Reinhold Niebuhr once said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime, therefore we must be saved by hope.” We may long for instant results, but often life calls upon us to plant and wait trading our strong desire for satisfaction for hope. But here’s the good news: earlier in Romans Paul reminds us, “hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 5:5).
Hope will not disappoint us. Live presently, act urgently, and wait patiently. Hope abides.
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