The Work of Waiting

The Work of Waiting


A reflection by the Rev. Jonathan Chapman.

Scripture: Exodus 24:12-18 (NRSV)

The Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.' So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, 'Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.'
 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.


Ever since I saw the musical smash Wicked, I've imagined the Transfiguration of Jesus to be his big Act One finale. I envision him, in a moment of moving crescendo finally realizing the full extent of who he is and what he is called to do. Light focusing on his face as he sings his heart out. Admittedly, that's not what happened, but one can dream, no?
This year, the phrase that caught my attention most from the Transfiguration readings wasn't actually about Jesus' transfiguration. Instead, it was in the story about Moses ascending the mountain to receive the commandments. Exodus 24:12a says, "The Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to me on the mountain and wait there.'"
So much of our faith is about waiting. The women waited outside Jesus' tomb. The disciples waited (and slept!) in the garden. Even Jesus waited days before finally deciding to go see what was going on with Lazarus.
Waiting is hard. It's hard to wait when waiting feels like doing nothing. A friend recently posted on social media that people should "wait and see" how things turn out with recent changes in our political climate. "Wait and see" is fine when you don't have anything at stake. But when your hopes, your values, your very personhood is at stake, waiting is an option.
But here's the thing, waiting on God is different that killing time in a doctor's office. Waiting on God isn't a passive action. When Mary and Martha waited for Jesus after their brother Lazarus died, they didn't sit twiddling their thumbs. They took action—they wept, they mourned. The women waiting outside Jesus' tomb didn't read magazines. They kept watch.
While we are waiting for God to be revealed in the midst of new, messy realities, we must still take action. We must still stand up for the oppressed, advocate for disenfranchised, and comfort the mourning. There's work to do, even while we wait.


Holy God, I'm waiting for you. Inspire me to action. And quickly come.  Amen.
The Rev. Jonathan Chapman is pastor of Westfield Congregational Church in Danielson, CT.

Jon M. Chapman

The Reverend Dr. Jonathan Chapman is pastor of Westfield Church in Killingly, CT 

February 22, 2017
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