Even in July, the traffic had not been bad before that, but it was backed up as I drove towards the parking lot. I pulled in, grabbed my bag, and headed in the same direction as all the other tourists seemed to be going. When I got close, though, it appeared the geyser had just erupted and wasn’t due to do so again for another hour or so. I thought about passing on the experience, but it was early enough that I could still get out of the park before dark, so I walked back and found myself an early supper. When I walked back to the viewing area for Old Faithful, it was already packed with others like me. I was half an hour early and all the seating was taken. So I stood between some benches and with the crowd found myself staring at a hole in the ground.
We were there together all in that place for nearly an hour before the geyser fully erupted. It came about twenty minutes later than the clock in the nearby shop had indicated. Still, just as it has for hundreds of years or more, it keeps more of a schedule than any other geyser in the park — perhaps anywhere in the world. And just as millions before had done so, together we witnessed something remarkable.
The images Jesus offers now speak to us of the kind of expectation which I observed in myself and in others that afternoon gathered around a geyser the week before last. Like those slaves waiting for their master to return, we were hyper alert with cameras of all sorts at the ready. Mostly we believed it would come — relying as we were on the witness of millions who had gone before. I don’t know that many of us would have been willing to wait all night to witness this wonder of nature as those slaves would have as they awaited the bridegroom so long ago, but we were willing to wait a while.
Many things in life are not this predictable. In this season of weddings I find myself thinking back to a young couple I worked with a few years back. As with many, there was much conversation about when to start a family and how many children they would have. Soon after the wedding they found themselves expecting triplets. Yesterday I officiated at the wedding of a wonderful young couple. The bride’s father was killed in a car accident in February. The beauty of the day was unexpectedly shadowed by their devastating loss. Joy and tragedy. Grief and healing — they all come on their own schedules, it seems. Unlike that geyser in Yellowstone, we can’t set the clock by them. We can only be assured that they will be.
And so I find myself thinking of those slaves waiting for the bridegroom — not knowing precisely when he would leave the feast to return home. I can’t imagine they would have simply sat still and watched the door — although perhaps they would have taken turns doing so. No, I imagine they would have been busy about other tasks: all pointed to the service and care for the one they are waiting for, to be sure. No, I don’t really believe their time was marked by idle waiting. At the same time, all ears and eyes would have been leaning towards the door and his return. For he, in that time, was the source of their life, their meaning, their identity.
It is the same for us, of course. We work and watch and wait for Jesus to come again, knowing that he also is the source of our lives, our meaning, our varied identities. We don’t do so as a group of tourists do, watching the clock with their cameras aloft. Rather, we do so as those slaves would have done so long ago, busy about our tasks, but never losing sight of who we are here to serve. Never forgetting to lean a little towards the door as we await the return of the bridegroom, who, upon entering, always serves us, too.
- What do you think it means ‘to make purses for yoursleves which don’t wear out?’ How do we learn to do that?
- Is our ‘alertness’ to be idle waiting? Why or why not? How do you think those slaves would have used that waiting time in the image Jesus offers now? W hat does that mean for all of us?