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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Waiting


Talk about a crazy job assignment.


In 1835, a pair of pharmacists from the English town of Worcester were asked to recreate a fish sauce that a local dignitary said he had enjoyed on a visit to India.


Lord Marcus Sandys entrusted the list of ingredients to John Lea and William Perrins. Their task didn’t look particularly promising. Somehow they needed to conjure up a tasty concoction composed of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, sugar, onion, salt, and garlic.  


The result was an unpalatable, foul-smelling brew that the two chemists promptly sealed in a barrel and relegated to a corner of their cellar. 


Two years later, hoping to free up some storage space, they finally got around to hauling away the offending barrel. But first they decided to taste it--a decision that seems to have arisen from equal parts courage and madness. 


It tasted…delicious. The sauce had fermented.


Before the year was over, the pharmacists had begun to produce Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce on an industrial scale. Americans soon discovered that it added zing to beef, fish, chili, eggs and just about everything else. 


The recipe, which hasn’t changed for 187 years, has achieved a global cult following. When one of Britain’s food channels conducted a survey in 2008-– “What is England’s greatest contribution to world cuisine?” –-Worcestershire Sauce came in first, topping even Yorkshire pudding and cheddar cheese. 


Lea and Perrins had no idea they had created a culinary sensation. They just had to wait a while. 


It’s amazing how many things in life require waiting. 


Demographers have added up the hours that the average American, over the course of a lifetime, will be compelled to wait in lines, sit in traffic, thumb through magazines in physician waiting rooms, wait for public transportation, stay on the phone while holding for customer service, await the return of restaurant servers, and stand by as a loved one finishes getting ready to be seen in public. The total exceeds seven years.


Those who regularly visit Disney theme parks can probably add another year or two to their Wait List.    


There are other kinds of waiting that are more subtle.


We wait to hear news from our most recent job interview. From the radiologist who promised to get back to us before the holiday weekend. From the new acquaintance we hope will want to go out on a second date. From the estranged family member who no longer responds to our texts.   


We wait to hear from God. Will he answer our prayers? Will he provide guidance for our next step? Does God even care what we’re facing right now? 


We wait for something to happen. For someone’s heart to melt. For someone’s mind to change. For something to give us a sign that everything’s going to be OK. 


It's amazing how often we find ourselves waiting.


Then there’s that special kind of waiting that can last a lifetime. We wait and we wonder if our lives have actually made a difference – if there’s ever going to be a return on the investments we’re making in our work, our relationships, our love, and our service. 


The apostle Paul urges a group of young Christians not to lose heart: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).


Then to another group of readers he writes, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58).


It can be tempting to conclude that we’re wasting our time or spinning our wheels – that we’ve spent years planting seeds, doing our best, flailing away at something we believe in, yet with so little evidence of progress or change or success. 


But God assures us that our “labor in the Lord” is not in vain.  There’s no such thing as a dead-end spiritual project.  Bible scholar N.T. Wright writes, “What you do in the present – by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself – will last into God’s future.”


Even though this world is broken, we are not “oiling the wheels of a machine that is about to roll over a cliff.” By caring for the earth, we are not “restoring a great painting that is about to be thrown on the fire.” Instead we are accomplishing things that will ultimately become part of God’s new creation. Every moment counts, and counts forever. 


The time that we invest in teaching a physically or mentally challenged child to walk or to read; the hours that we sit with a family member who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s; every act of kindness and expression of gratitude that honors the name of Jesus is not in vain. 


Maybe it’s hard to see that today. In truth, we won’t know the whole story until we have the chance to look back from the next world.


Which means that today…we wait.


We wait in the confidence that when we see how our stories finally conclude, what we will find will have been eternally worth waiting for.


Even the inventors of Worcestershire Sauce would have to acknowledge that that perspective is A1.

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