Modes of Waiting

WaitingReflection for Advent 2  by Ian Sowton

Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2,8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

WASTEFUL WAITING.  [i] “What are you waiting for?—a funeral?” is what my partner Fran asks me when my frugality twitches threaten to get out of hand.  There’s an element of wasteful waiting in my frugalities, but let’s move on to more substantial wastages.  [ii] There is the third steward, for example, in the parable of the assignment of talents. Unlike his colleagues he fails to redeem the time between the departure and the return of his boss.  He wastes his time of waiting.  [iii] Then there are the misers.  They wait simply for the accumu- lation of monetary resources.  They invest the meaning of their lives in that accumulation for its own sake; it’s doing no good to anybody, including themselves: an archetypal example of wasteful waiting.

CARPE DIEM WAITING.  The meaning invested in this “seize the day” waiting is to fill the time remaining to you as pleasantly, or as idly, or as what you take to be self-fulfillingly as possible, maybe throwing some money every now and then at one’s favourite charities.  This seize-the-day waiting for the end is all very well for those with the resources to indulge it, even in a modest occasional way, like myself for instance—but what about the poor caught in a grinding cycle of deprivation, having to choose every month between feeding and clothing their children adequately and paying the rent?  Or the margina-

lized handicapped living with questions of what happens when their parental caregivers die or themselves become incapacitated?  Or those alienated First Nations people who feel like exiles and refugees in their own country?  There seems to be a lot of wasteful carpe diem waiting going on.

SKEWED WAITING.  [A]  One kind of skewed waiting has basically to do with the problem of how to keep a revolution going—in our case the Jesus-revolution—going  How do you keep it from devouring its own children, as so many revolutions have done?   When “Peter”  [quotation marks as a reminder that of course this author is not the apostle Peter] was writing his letters Jesus-followers

were beginning to realize that the second coming—apocalyptic convulsions and all—was not just round the corner; they needed help adjusting to a situation that included an element of waiting if not indefinite postponement.

Some were, understandably, impatient for the Day of the Lord to arrive.  Many

such folks, with various motives, are with us still: think of the continuous parade of prognostications of THE END, of the obsessive ransacking the book of Revelation trying to decode its apocalyptic puzzles.  Jesus, remember, is portrayed in the gospel narrative as rebuking his companions quite sharply for wishing to be let in on when the end-time was due.

Peter is concerned lest prolonged waiting should tempt folk into such new fangled interpretations of the gospel as he (and Paul, whom he cites) understand it, and which new-fangled skewings Paul castigates pretty fiercely in Galations.  Peter’s prescribed solution is patience.  He reminds his readers

that “with the Lord a thousand years are but a day”—which raises the possibility of a very long postponement indeed.  But however long, it should be taken, Peter writes, as a sign of God’s generosity in wishing to allow as much time as possible for everyone, including your selves, to be saved.  Also, since the apocalyptic Day of the Lord shall take place—whenever—it behoves

the faithful to live exemplary unskewed lives thus avoiding an adverse verdict on an after life Judgement Day.  As to an after life, like a lot of contemporary Christians I do not hold with the literal hell of Peter (and of many of our co-

religionists) in any scheme of after-life punishments and rewards.  The only notion that makes any sense to me at all is from Milton’s Paradise Lost, courtesy of Satan himself.  In one of the few moments when he’s not busy  nursing his outraged sense of injured merit Satan says, “which way I look is hell, I myself am hell.”   Be all that as it may, in our Epistle for today Peter is

posing and tackling head on what he, along with Paul before him, takes to be  mortally serious matters of skewed waiting.

[B]  Another version of skewed waiting might be sub-titled “waiting-in-

certainty”.   There are variations of this and to my mind each variation has an increasingly strong sense of having God in one’s pocket, of being confident that one knows the divine what’s what.  Variation 1 is relatively innocuous complacent immunity from doubt.  Variation 2 is creedal affirmations which of course have the effect of defining who’s in and who’s out.  Variation 3 is bigotry that has manifested itself not only in some of the truly bizarre pronouncements by the likes of Pat Buchanan and other TV/radio evangelist-fulminators but also, in more than one historical time and place, as a violence capable of rising to and sanctioning even genocide.  Of course they have God in their pockets—they have fashioned him in their own image: a lethally vindictive old twirp thundering denunciations when he’s not too busy separating their version of sheep from their version of goats.

FAITH/FULL MEANWHILE WAITING.  A major characteristic of faith/full in the meantime waiting is living in a state of negative capability.  That term was by the early 19th century poet John Keats in one of his numerous letters to his brother Tom and George.  Negative capability, says Keats, ”is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts & reason.”  I’m sure there many devout Muslims and Jews whose pilgrimages are characterized by negative capability.  To help enquire what it is in our faith tradition that makes it more  possible to wait in negative capability I recall Jennifer Henry’s very helpful picture in last Sunday’s reflec-tion of living somewhere along the spectrum between Hope to Despair and somewhere along the spectrum between Now and Not Yet.  Imagine yourself living in the vicinity of the intersection of a let’s say vertical axis Hope/ Despair, and a let’s say horizontal axis Now/Not Yet. I say “in the vicinity” because Jennifer made it clear that one’s position at any given time in this Illustrative scheme is moveable—sometimes nearer despair than hope for instance.  So moveable not fixed, which might well be an early warning symptom of coming down with waiting-in-certainty.  Our hope arises out of Jesus’ fundamental insight: the Realm of God is within you.  The Now and the Not Yet aren’t an either/or but a both/and.  While living with uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts we can take heart from such benchmark visions of a restored Peaceable Kingdom of reconciliation as we’ve just listened to in Isaiah 40, Psalm 85, and 2 Peter 3:13 with it’s wonderful image of justice being right at home.  With texts like these we can wait proactively in a faith/full meantime—working for that realm of God that is already within us now and

still to come.  Being a literary bloke I think again of Milton: his sonnet lamenting his blindness ends with the famous line “They also serve who only stand and wait”.  He’s mourning the fact that the loss of his sight has banished him to the sidelines, away from the busy political hurly burly of being a parliamentary secretary at the centre of national policy making.  At the same time he sets about dictating Paradise Lost, the most famous and influential epic poem in the English language.  Now that is proactive standing and waiting to say the least.  He is an inspiring example of faith/full meantime waiting.  I’m sure you think of your own inspiring examples.  Do not be intimidated by matters of scale: we can do work for the Realm of God both on a small below-the-radar scale and/or invest time, skill, and energy to larger scale efforts, such as KAIROS, for real systemic change where justice is right at home.

I conclude with one of my poems called (ironically enough) “Do Not Wait” that in its own fashion has some relevance to considerations of modes of waiting:


Matthew 25:31-46

Do not wait for the Last Judgement

It takes place every day. 

Albert Camus

The Rapture remains, friends,

in its postponement mode

Do not wait, burn those calories

of anticipation in studying

to pass charity’s unscheduled exams,

her snap quizzes


is beside the point—that point

of seraph-charged mundanity

which serves, any moment, peremptory

summons to its everyday assizes:

next session of this here

this right now

judgement unplanned, irreversible.

Leave those storied sheep and goats,

ambered in their parable, to heaven.

Leave out-of-this-world punishments,

leave ecstasies of the end rumbling and

flickering below apocalyptic horizons.

Attend to the middle of our narrative:

A cup of water given irrigates

whole acres of the scalding sands of hell

A right-hand slice of pizza not knowing

what its left-hand cup of coffee’s up to

will sing among Christ’s loaves and fishes

Give a coat and sweater, hear

Satan’s molars break for gnashing

Charity—we are talking love-in-action—

can be calculated, customary

but in good faith,

can be as regular

as seasons but true

can be impulsive—

even to stepping on some toes

of self-esteem—but genuine

Spare some compassion

But no sympathy or credence

for that cheap exsanguinated sneer

bleeding heart

just a bleeding heart


a heart that remembers how to bleed

is a heart still living, beating

apocalypse is now, yes now, yes now


Ian Sowton

(p.168-9, Affordable Wonders, 2011)


Pilgrimage looks at Anglican responses to homelessness

The pilgrimage began early in the morning at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, where churchwarden Michael Shapcott, who has been involved in housing advocacy in Toronto for many years, provided some historical context for the drastic decrease in social housing since the mid-1980s.

Bonnie Briggs, founder of the Toronto Homeless Memorial, then shared some of her own experiences as a homeless person on the streets of Toronto. “I first became homeless in 1987,” she said. “The landlord of the place we were living at sold the house. We were told that the new owner wanted the whole house for himself. Three months later we were on the street.”

Read story at Anglican Journal

tangled art + disability presents surving huronia

Surviving Huronia Art Show December 2, 2014

new123Surviving Huronia: An art show about the Huronia Regional Centre by survivors and their allies on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 6:30-9:00PM

Marie Slark and Patricia Seth will deliver words of welcome and opening remarks at 7 PM. The will speak to their experience of surviving the Huronia Regional Centre, reflect on the class action settlement, and speak to the question, ‘how can art help to bring justice for survivors of Huronia?’

Surviving Huronia is an event that tells the story of the experience of Huronia through first-hand accounts by some of the people who survived it. Continue reading

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Building One Another Up

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18   Psalm 90   1 Thessalonians 5:1-11  Matthew 25:14-29  (Homily for November 16th)

Building One Another Up

The Parable of the Talents (or Bags of Gold in the translation used today–to convey that a talent was a very large sum of money) is a parable that appears only in the Gospel of Matthew, so we encounter it only once every three years in our cycle of liturgical readings. But it’s a well-known Bible passage, so is there a way of approaching it that isn’t cliché? Then I came across what was for me a fresh insight in the analysis of one interpreter. Because of the condemnation heaped on the third servant, I had never considered the point Bernard Brandon Scott makes: that it’s most likely that Jesus’ original audience would have initially identified most strongly with the third servant. The average peasant did not look kindly on wealthy people who multiplied their wealth ‘without sowing,’ i.e., without honest labor. The prudent and just thing to do with one’s wealth was precisely to bury it. Jesus’ audience would have favored the actions of the third servant. [Bernard Brandon Scott, Hear then the Parable, pp. 219ff] They didn’t need an Occupy Wall Street movement to tell them that money under that mattress or buried in the back yard might have an advantage.

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Come & See Pilgrimage

On November 22, we will be visiting together 5 local places that are responding to homelessness/housing needs in their neighbourhoods. Thiscomeandsee2014 could be good for parishes looking for inspiration/direction regarding outreach initiatives, for individuals wanting to get involved in local outreach, or for people just interested in learning more about housing and homelessness in Toronto. We will have mutliple leaders from each congregation present (people with lived experience, priests, coordinators, etc.) and will journey by bus through the city, from 8am-3:30pm that day.

The costs are all covered by the Anglican National Church office, lunch and transit are included. But registration is needed!

Come and See – NOV 22 Poster


Homily for November 9th (Areeta Bridgemohan)

Good morning! My name is Areeta and I am a student from Trinity College, doing a placement here at Holy Trinity for the fall semester. It has been a great privilege to worship with you and to participate in the life of this community.

When I read over the passages for today –I groaned internally. Harsh prophecy voicing God’s dissatisfaction, Paul’s concrete description of the Second Coming – topped off with a judgment parable! Each individual piece evokes discomfort – and together they amplify that discomfort.

From what I know of this community, I imagine that I am not alone in these sentiments.
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Solidarity – Fallen Angles Nov 23

Once a month our worship service is led by our local band Fallen Angles in a pop vein. The service is always thematic and uses contemporary music, both popular and liturgical. We strive for an integrated experience that affects everyone who comes.

This month our theme is Solidarity. We’ll be singing songs and hearing words of hope and protest. Join us and be moved to action.

Fallen Angles, Sep 2014

Chris Lind Memorial

Photo_Dr_Christopher_LindThe memorial service in Toronto for Chris Lind will take place at Holy Trinity on Saturday, November 8th at 2:00 PM. It will be a bit different from the usual Holy Trinity memorial service, in that there have already been three celebrations of his life: at Christ Cathedral in Vancouver, interment at the Sorrento Centre, and a memorial service in Saskatoon.
There are plans underway to hold the Christopher Lind Moral Economy Symposium at Holy Trinity next year.

loving justice in the heart of the city