For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for
what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
On Tuesday, many of you signed up for FUMC’s Election Day Prayer Vigil, taking responsibility to pray for our nation’s election. For the twelve hours when polls were open in Texas, we continued in prayer from our homes and the FUMC Sanctuary, lifting up voters and candidates, poll workers and counters, praying for peace in the midst of such an anxious time.
And here we are, a day later. As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, we are still waiting. I suspect that even as more votes are tallied and winners declared, there will be challenges to the results, recounts, and more requiring us to wait even longer.
On Monday afternoon, I was surprised to find a local news crew outside our building, searching for information about the prayer vigil. It became clear in our conversation that they were hoping to cover a different kind of vigil—an event more like a protest, with people filling the streets, holding candles. The reporter asked me, “So, then, what IS a vigil?”
I answered the best I could, but her question set me to reflecting on what a vigil actually is. A vigil is actually all about waiting. It’s about holding space for and with God as the next thing slowly unfolds.
Here’s the thing: in the church, a vigil is about waiting and anticipating the next thing that God will do. One of the greatest services of the Christian year is the Great Vigil of Easter, which takes place on Saturday night, the night before Easter. The congregation gathers around a fire outside and begins a time of waiting for the announcement that Jesus is risen from the dead. For hours they cycle between reading, singing, and reflecting on the stories in scripture that come together to tell God’s story—all of the many stories that lead to this climactic resurrection moment. And then, at some point, the reading and singing stop, and the congregation sits in the dark sanctuary, in silence, just waiting….waiting for the next thing God will do.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to directly compare the outcome of this election to the resurrection (yikes!). Instead I want to reframe our waiting. I want to invite us to set down the anxious waiting—as much as we can, fully aware of just how high the stakes are in this election—and hold the space together, waiting and wondering what God might do next, confident that God will do something, no matter what the outcome. We hold that space, that vigil, because no matter what happens in the meantime, we are confident that God is not finished with us yet.
Most of us have never experienced the fragility of our country as much as we feel it now. In this waiting space, this vigil time, let’s be reminded that we are held within the whole of God’s story, which will continue tomorrow, and the next day. God will be at work, and there will be work for God’s people to do. God grieves with us over the continued pain, injustice, and brokenness in this country; this will be a reality we will have to continue facing, no matter who is President on January 20, 2021. But God will not be hindered. Come what may, we live in confidence that God will continue to bring resurrection-style surprises, inviting, enlivening, and empowering us again and again to do what we did not think ourselves capable to do, all for the sake of the world God loves.
As we hold this space together—praying with Jesus “thy kingdom come” and longing for the new creation God brings—know that I am holding you in prayer, dear church. I know these are truly difficult days. May you breathe deeply and feel the surrounding peace of God’s spirit in the days to come. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you are struggling.