A time of waiting and servitude this holiday season
I am writing this piece at the beginning of the Advent season, a time when Christians reflect on waiting, waiting for God to show up, waiting for justice, waiting for peace, waiting for the beauty and goodness of God’s reign.
The children’s book, “Waiting Is Not Easy” by Mo Willems captures the angst of waiting. Two friends, Gerald and Piggie, wait for a surprise. Piggie is patient, Gerald is not and says as much. “I am tired of waiting!” Piggie keeps telling Gerald that the wait will be worth it. “GROANNNN!” exclaims Gerald, “I am tired of waiting!” The book closes with the two friends sharing the beauty and wonder of the surprise knowing it was worth the wait. Read the book, you can find it on YouTube.
It is essential that we have friends who know there is a reality worth waiting for and who encourage us to be patient and steadfast as we wait for the beauty of justice, peace and goodness to emerge. Communities that do good together offer good companionship and friendship as we play the waiting game.
The Advent season is also about celebrating that sometimes God does show up and moves us to wonder. The good news and tidings of great joy move us toward a greater vision and help us to see justice, peace, goodness and love at work in tangible ways, ways that inspire us to join God at work.
While we wait with patience and steadfast faith, we reach out with helping hands and open hearts to create a better world where the difficulty of the human journey is eased. We know there is more to do and we cannot do it all, so we do what we can.
The refugee family finds shelter. Poor shepherds hear good news. The rich share their wealth. As we do good together we create a new reality and we become the embodiment of the world we are waiting for. God is with us and working through us.
I am a Mennonite pastor. Mennonites are a strange breed of Christians who emerged in Europe during the Protestant Reformation out of the Anabaptist (not anti-baptist) movement, the radical wing of a multilayered protest movement. The generally agreed upon birth year of this movement is 1525 when several adult Christians rebaptized each other.
I became part of the Mennonite Church in the 1980s attracted to the vision of peace, service and community centered in Jesus. As a disillusioned Vietnam veteran, the Mennonite vision resonated with my spirit and offered a healing path and community for me to regain my humanity and spiritual center.
Mennonites are pacifists who do not participate in the taking of human life. We wait (sometimes patiently) for the dawning of the age of peace when swords are beaten into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. We encourage nonviolence and the peaceful resolution of conflict. During times of war we choose alternative, non-military service. I wish I had been aware of that option earlier in life.
Mennonites are activists when it comes to responding to human need. We help communities rebuild after a disaster. We encourage service to each other and to others. We see the life of Jesus as example and model for a serving way of life.
I have found good friends and companions here in the Austin community who have helped me be patient and active on the journey toward the good community. I especially appreciate the rich diversity of the interfaith community who enlarge and lift my vision. I am glad for the opportunity and privilege to do good together with you. Peace to all.
The. Rev. Lee Lever is pastor of the Austin Mennonite Church and a member of Veterans for Peace. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.