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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Galvan

I Think It's Very, Very, Very Hard to Wait

This is our sermon for March 17, 2024 (Lent 5)


Psalm 130

A pilgrimage song.

I cry out to you from the depths, Lord—

2 my Lord, listen to my voice!

Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!

3 If you kept track of sins, Lord—

my Lord, who would stand a chance?

4 But forgiveness is with you—

that’s why you are honored.

5 I hope, Lord.

My whole being hopes,

and I wait for God’s promise.

6 My whole being waits for my Lord—

more than the night watch waits for morning;

yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

7 Israel, wait for the Lord!

Because faithful love is with the Lord;

because great redemption is with our God!

8 He is the one who will redeem Israel

from all its sin.


I look for you, my soul looks for you wildly, I wait for your word of response. My soul longs for you more than the watchman at the gate longs for morning, more than the tired watchman at the gate longs for the first flicker of dawn. —Pamela Greenberg, The Complete Psalms (Caldwell, Elizabeth F. Pause: Spending Lent with the Psalms (p. 73). Presbyterian Publishing. Kindle Edition.)


Mr. Rogers on Waiting

March 20th marks a special celebration in the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Rogers, a well-known creator, showrunner, and host of the preschool television show "Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood," was an ordained minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church, and someone whose work around peace and reconciliation is admired and remembered on that day. The church has decided to highlight his work so that we can continue learning from his lessons about life.


So when I read that the theme for Psalm 130 was waiting, I decided to search for what Mr. Rogers would say about that, and found a conversation between Daniel the Tiger and Handyman Negri. In it, Daniel asks Handyman Negri if he has a hard time waiting for someone to help him or for things, and what he does when he must wait. Daniel wonders about what we do, as his neighbors. Do we drink orange or apple juice? Do you think about exercises to do? Or come up with songs?


Daniel comes up with a song. It goes like this:




A Psalm about Waiting

a. It is very, very, very hard to wait, especially when you are waiting for something that you are looking forward to.


This Psalm that we read today is said to be the eleventh of the fifteen Songs of Ascents in Book Five of the Psalter (Psalms 120-134). These were psalms that were most likely songs that ancient Israelite pilgrims sang as they made their way to Jerusalem to celebrate annual religious festivals. Jerusalem is on a hill. People must go up to get to Jerusalem. One commentator invites us to imagine:

"Imagine traveling from your village home, meeting up with others, joyously anticipating the festive time that you would celebrate together in the city of God. And you, the travelers, would perhaps sing as you went along: well-loved, well-known traditional songs. And as one group met another, they mingled their voices and sang together.”

Lib Caldwell states that when you read the Psalm, you notice that the psalmist is expressing a lament: In verses 1 and 2, the psalmist addresses God, asking God to hear and be attentive. In verses 3 to 4, the psalmist expresses confidence that God will indeed hear because God does not “mark iniquities” and offers “forgiveness.” Verses 5-6 are a statement of hopeful expectation. Then, in verses 7-8, the psalmist turns his attention to “Israel.” This lead singer has renewed confidence in God and calls on those traveling alongside to have “hope.”


Lament and hope once again travel together up a hill, intertwined and dependent on God’s grace and forgiveness. And even if it is very hard to wait, the psalm calls us to wait for the Lord!


The theme of waiting calls our attention to three words. Notice how the words “wait” and “watch” occur repeatedly. A commentator tells us that “Wait” is from the root qavah and conveys a sense of almost tense expectation, like pulling on two ends of a rope and waiting for it to snap. This, to her, communicates that the psalmist is waiting with more intense expectation “than those who watch for the morning.”


The psalm uses sentinels as an example, but to me, this image always takes me back to the morning after a hurricane. Your lights go out and the light of the phone or the candles is not enough to explain the sound of the wind and of things falling all around you. You want morning to come because the sun will always give you a sense of relief and revelation. You will see what has happened and will start to find help if needed and to rebuild.


Morning comes, and you feel a sense of hope, the other word that the psalmist uses. The commentator states that the Hebrew word here is yahal, which means “to wait expectantly.” In English, it is harder than in Spanish to relate waiting with hope. But waiting is part of the word hope in Spanish. You could say something like “No hay esperanza sin espera” (There is no hoping without waiting).


The author of the book invites us to look at several translations and paraphrases of a verse of the Psalm in each chapter. These are verses 5-6:

I hope, Lord.
My whole being hopes,
and I wait for God’s promise.
My whole being waits for my Lord—
more than the night watch waits for morning;
yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

Which one expresses better that sense of "waiting expectantly" or waiting with an "expectant anticipation"? The author shares that the verses describe waiting in different ways: waiting for God’s response; waiting for God’s promise; waiting to see what God will say and do and waiting in God’s word. But still, "each indicates a faithful and expectant kind of waiting in the assurance that God will respond."


We wait for forgiveness. We wait for guidance. We wait for an answer. We wait, and waiting is extremely hard to do. But we wait because there’s an expectation... and that expectation is the assurance of God’s love, care, and mercy. We wait with the assurance that, as another song states, "the sun will come out tomorrow."


Especially When Waiting for Something Very Nice

I think it’s very, very, very hard to wait. Lib Caldwell tells us in these words:

"Waiting is hard. It’s not a prized value in our culture. But as this psalm writer reminds us, waiting is an act of hope, a way of being present with expectant anticipation of God’s redemptive and imminent life, always with us and waiting to emerge again and again."

Or, as Mr. Rogers always did, in a simpler and sometimes sneaky way... it is hard to wait, "Especially when you are waiting for something very nice." Are you waiting for something very nice? I believe that, in this particular case, we are waiting, with the psalmist, for the Lord’s faithful love and redemption. And there’s hope in the waiting... because "no hay esperanza sin espera, y no hay espera sin esperanza."

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