Winnie the Pooh was more ‘chilled’ than most of us – getting there someday isn’t usually fast enough. Lots of us carry around devices which, among other things, help us to navigate a route A to B. They are always set, by default, to do so in the shortest possible time. How many of us don’t ‘fast forward’ through the adverts to get to the end of the drama on ITV?
Yet before God moves, there always seems to be a period of waiting. It can’t be that God has a lackadaisical approach towards us. Any idea that He responds to our fervent prayers with a shrug of the shoulders and “Domani’ just won’t do. It is not consistent with what we know of Him. So there must be something else on offer in the waiting.
Today is Ascension Day and the start of our part in the Thy Kingdom Come prayer project which churches across the nation will join in – in fact churches across the world. When Luke starts his second volume (Acts of the Apostles) he revisits and recounts the ascension of Jesus as if something in the encounter was pivotal to our understanding of what had gone before and what was to follow.
The friends of Jesus are impatient to know if this the moment when God will make everything right. When we meet later tonight to worship, we will be carrying with us some of the grief and anxiety of Mancunians everywhere who might be asking a similar question. How long before all of this stuff ends? Jesus asks them (and perhaps us) to wait on God.
‘Waiting on God’ is like no other kind of waiting. Some waiting seems to be passive – that kind of waiting is the wishful thinking we experience when the bus, just in sight at Rochdale Road, will carry the number 18 when it eventually draws close.
‘Waiting on God’ is waiting with expectation. God has been faithful in the past, continues to be faithful and will be faithful in the future. We are alert to the many and varied ways he is making his presence known and felt in the world. On Monday evening we witnessed God’s image bearers in countless acts of love and service around a scene of terror.
So, we learn too that ‘waiting on God’ is sensing that we have a purpose and a task. When the apostles were told to wait they were waiting for the gift of God’s Spirit at Pentecost. When we reach the end of our period of prayer we will celebrate the gift of God’s presence in our world, our lives, our church and our community.
This active and expectant waiting on God, which marks out a disciple of Jesus, changes us every bit as much as it unleashes divine intervention into those situations we pray for. Perhaps this is the one answer to prayer that you can easily predict. Luke, when recording Jesus’ teaching on prayer, gave us that passage about knocking and doors being opened and those who seek will find and it all just seems far too easy. Too easy to be disappointed. At the end of that passage in Luke 11 Jesus gives us a promise of an answer to prayer that we can bank on when he says about our petitions, “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him”
Ascension Day is the day that we celebrate the Kingship of Jesus. His rule and reign on earth and the part he has called us play as we ‘wait on God’.
Maybe, Luke revisits the Ascension at the beginning of his second volume because he has realised that the story he is about to tell is actually the story of how the reign Jesus begins to take a hold in the life and ministry of the apostles as they, empowered by His presence, make the new creation a reality.
Winnie the Pooh is right, there may be no hurry….we shall get there someday. But for those who really incline their heart to waiting on God that someday is now as we watch and wait expectantly we see evidence of the rule and reign of Jesus in us and those around us.