18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
For nine months I waited to meet my daughter. I watched my belly grow and felt her hiccup and move in my womb. I waited until she was ready. The day came on May 11th. Fortunately, I received an epidural shortly after arriving at the hospital, so my labor pains were not unbearable. The labor pains Paul speaks of were long before epidurals were available. Labor is painful. Your body changes: organs shift, ligaments loosen, muscles contract to bring forth life into the world. The good news is labor is temporary. It is a time of transition.
Paul speaks of creation waiting with eager longing, like a pregnant mother eager to meet her child. Creation, like a mother, also experiences labor pains as she prepares to birth new life when Christ returns. This labor is temporary, but it is also long, much longer than a few hours, longer than even Paul expected. And so we wait for Jesus to come again. We wait with hope.
We are well-practiced at waiting. This has been a long season of waiting. Waiting for a vaccination. Waiting for restrictions to ease. Waiting to see grandchildren and waiting for school to re-open. We have grown weary of waiting. And yet, when I read Paul’s encouragement to wait for the coming glory of the Lord, I am uncomfortable. There is a dis-ease that is deeper than mere impatience rising in me, in our community, and in our country. I read Paul’s words alongside the book that was chosen for this month’s African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA) Liberation Theology book club Pastor Ron is hosting at Redeemer, Why We Can’t Wait, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When Paul says wait, I hear Dr. King saying “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights.” In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. King challenges his white colleagues who critiqued the timing of the civil rights movement. Wait, they told him. But somethings cannot wait. We can and must wait for Jesus to return, but civil rights and racial justice cannot wait.
The difference, as I see it, is one waiting in labor pains, the other waiting is indefinite. As we wait for Jesus to come again, creation and God’s children together are changing to make room to bring new life into the world. This type of waiting is temporary. It will pass. Jesus will come again. Whereas if we wait for justice to just happen, it will never happen. We cannot wait for justice.
As we wait for the pandemic to end, we can strive for justice. We can read Why We Can’t Wait and the other books in the ADLA Liberation Theology book club, we can strengthen relationships with people who are racially different, we can support organizations that fight injustice. What else can you do to work for justice as you wait with creation for Jesus to return? As we work together, perhaps we will begin to see what we hoped for.