We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Selections from Advent 1 Sermon, 2020

I hate to wait. But yet again, the Church, in its wisdom, provides a whole season of waiting, just for me.

The Advent red light.

And not only are we waiting, but Jesus is clear that no one knows , not even Jesus, about how long the wait will be until the Son of Man returns with great power and glory and sets things right at last and turns a creation that had grown old into a new creation, one in which God dwells here with us.

No more crying there, no more sighing there, goes the old spiritual—we are going to see the King, Alleluia, alleluia, we are going to see the King.

“And all will be well, and all manner of things will be well,” as Julian of Norwich, who was a saint, of course, said.

But who knows when?

Alleluia indeed.

I’m sure many of you are better at waiting than I am. You know how to fill the times of waiting so that you don’t end up like that old faded leaf that shrivels up and blows away that Isaiah compares us to in today’s Old Testament reading.

But you’re welcome to listen in anyway, as I preach to myself about why I’m still learning to wait, and still learning how to wait with patience instead of with resentment and griping, for what I want, NOW.

See, there I go again!

To help people like me, Isaiah says that as we wait on God, we need to be like clay in the potter’s hands.

The hymn, “Have thine own way, Lord,” doesn’t seem like much of an Advent hymn, but we heard Helmut and Susan sing it a few minutes ago.

And it turns out that the person who wrote this hymn, Adelaide Pollard, seems to have struggled with waiting as much as I do.

Adelaide was born in Iowa. As a young adult, she moved to Chicago and taught in girls’ schools there. She was known as a powerful Bible study teacher, and later she worked with two evangelists, one who had a healing ministry, and one who preached about the imminent return of Christ –I bet he was an impatient sort!

Now Adelaide had a deep desire to be a missionary to Africa. She worked hard to raise funds for this trip, but she was unsuccessful. Adelaide was terribly upset that her desire to serve the Lord in Africa was not being realized.

One night at a prayer meeting during this time of distressed waiting, Adelaide listened as an old woman prayed these simple words.

“It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord. Just have your way with our lives.”

After the prayer meeting, Adelaide went home and wrote the hymn, “Have thine own way, Lord,” a personal reflection on the will of God for her life. We know the words, “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way, thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, and here’s the hard part, “Yielded and still.”

So, thank you, Prophet Isaiah and Adelaide Pollard, for reminding me that in the times of waiting– a time as long as a pandemic, as structured as a church season, or as fleeting as a minute at a stoplight– I need to remember to pray, not for what I want, but for God’s will for my life, to yield to that will, and to be still and let God do God’s work with my life.

To wait on the Lord. To renew my strength, so that I can run and not be weary and walk and not be faint, as Isaiah says elsewhere.

To remember that in the most awful time of waiting that Jesus endured in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, “Not my will, but yours, Father.”

Jesus was waiting for God to work out the horrors ahead of him instead of taking things into his own hands. Jesus just waited.

Jesus waited through the cross, waited through the grave, and then came the resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead and we all got new life.

But like Jesus, who had to wait for his resurrection, our resurrection lives aren’t the minute we want them. God’s kingdom on this earth won’t show up on my time schedule no matter how often I pray “Thy kingdom come,” or how hard I work to make it so.

Because God’s kingdom coming on earth is God’s work and God’s timing. Part of waiting for me is to remember that I’m not the one in charge, God is. I’m not the one determining the times. God is keeping the time.

My job is to wait. To let God shape me, to mold me like clay in the potter’s hands so that I can be useful in this time of now and not yet, as we wait for God’s kingdom to come on earth through God’s will and in God’s time.

Jesus told the story of the master going on a journey, and everyone back home was left waiting. Jesus said that the job of those left was that each should do their work, and the doorkeeper would be on the watch.

And unlike those in the show, Downton Abbey, who get plenty of warning and have time to prepare the house when the 7th Earl of Grantham and his family are returning home, the servants in Jesus’ story have no idea when the master will be back.

Their job is simply to wait and to keep everything ready for the master’s return.

“So I say to you all,” says Jesus, “Keep awake.”

And this preparation and keeping awake is a joint effort on all our parts. So if you’ve taken a break from listening to me ramble on about waiting and being like clay, tune back in now.

This work of preparation is not just individual work, me getting right with the Lord, getting myself straight.

Like the servants in the parable Jesus told, we are all in this together. We all have work to do to keep the house ready for the master’s return. As Andrea says, “We’re a team!”

Aside here—the Corinthians had forgotten the joint effort part of being a community of believers preparing for the Lord’s return. They were constantly arguing with each other, competing with one another, and neglecting the work that God had given each of them to do for the good of all. If the Lord had returned, they wouldn’t have recognized that he was in their midst, being too busy fussing with one another, and finding fault with one another.

So we have to remember that the first thing about waiting on the Lord is to do the waiting together, each of us doing our part and helping each other along in the process.

Henri Nouwen says that “the whole meaning of the Christian community (and that’s us) lies in offering a space in which we wait for that which we have ALREADY seen. Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously, so that it can grow and become stronger in us.”

He goes on to say that “we can live together with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment, that is the meaning of the Christian life.”

Nouwen says that we need to wait together to keep each other at home spiritually, so that when the word comes, it can become flesh in us.

So in this season of Advent, wait with me. Help me to be patient, to be moldable clay, help me to do the work the master has left me to do until his return.

I’ll help you too.

We’ll help one another. We’ll help each other keep the flame of hope alive, so that when the light turns green, when Jesus is born, and when Jesus returns at the end of time as we know it, we’ll be awake and ready together for all of the new life that God has in store for all of us.


In what ways have we nurtured each other in community as we wait?

In what ways could we do a better job of helping one another along as we wait for the master to return?