I sat with him and waited. His family had said good-bye. They had gone home. Chaplain, they asked, could you wait with James, until he passes over, they wondered. Yes, I nodded. And so, I sat with him and waited. All of the machines had been turned off. All of the medical professionals had taken leave. And so, I sat with him and waited.
Tonight, we wait with Jesus. We, who like the disciples, some of us have followed; some of us have deserted; some of us denied; some of us are still wondering. We tonight, wait with Jesus. Waiting is hard for those of us who are eager to read to the end of the book. For those of us who no longer read books because they are too long and now prefer articles, short tidbits or tweets. We want to know how something will work out before it even already begins.
So, to leave this story we know well unfinished is hard for us. To pause in the middle of the Easter story and wait. We are ready to fast forward to resurrection and rolled away stones. But that is not where we are tonight. And often in our lives, we do not know that far out. When your husband is our life support, you can not imagine how you might find signs of resurrection, you someone else to sit and wait with you.
After Jesus died, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and Salome, and the other women did not know that this was going to be the central narrative of a life transformational faith. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did not know they were sneaking around to be the right side of the most incredible story in history. Their waiting was fraught with fear and trembling. As the body was wrapped in the cloth, laid in the tomb, closed with stone, they waited not knowing what they were waiting for.
There is no need to pretty up the story. The reality is you and I wait like that, too. In the silence that comes after heartache and struggle, that comes after diagnosis and pain, we may find ourselves pausing and waiting. In the pause after our own griefs, we wait wondering how we will response. We wait to see what our own heart will hold. What resiliency will look like in this season? There is no need to rush through waiting. One can not anyone. You can not rush death, any sooner than you can rush resurrection.
So, I sat with James until he died and then prayed that God would receive into God’s boundless love and care. The mortuary was already prepared for the call. I helped the nurses wash his body with care. I felt his family had entrusted me with nothing less. As we leave tonight, we too are being trusted with holy waiting. Not an absence of God, but rather the incredible expectation of what God will yet do.
This is the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.