“Trust in God as We Wait” by Peter Bankson

The 2nd Sunday in Lent

March 13, 2022

As we journey through a chaotic season of Lent this year, Celebration Circle has invited us to contemplate what it means to trust in God as we wait.

The Word I bring this morning grows out of one I offered in 2004 on this second Sunday in Lent. Eighteen years ago, as we waited for our move to Carroll Street, the wider world was engulfed in the war in Iraq. It was a time of chaotic violence that felt in some ways like our world today … without the painful complications of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today we are called to wait in in the face of many challenges – the pandemic, a war in Ukraine, civil unrest over government health mandates, gun violence, and loss of hope. How can we make it through these trying times? How can we trust in God as we wait?   

An important reason I have been drawn to offer the Word on this second Sunday in Lent is the psalm included in the lessons for the week. The 27th Psalm became part of my Scripture foundation a long time ago.  In 1966, I was living in Duc Pho, Viet Nam, serving as an advisor to the Vietnamese district government as they worked to build refugee housing, keep the orphanage and health clinic open, and support community life while surrounded by the North Vietnamese Army. In those trying times I was often comforted by Psalm 27. Here are the opening lines:

Adonai, you are my light, my salvation –

            whom will I fear?

You are the fortress of my life –

            of whom shall I be afraid?

When my enemies attack me,

            spreading vicious lies about me wherever they go,

they, my adversaries and foes, will stumble and fall.

Though an army mounts a siege against me,

my heart will not fear,

though war break out against me,

I’ll still be confident.

Psalm 27:1-3, The Inclusive Hebrew scriptures, Priests for Equality, Bentwood MD

Fifty-plus years ago in Duc Pho, with a war going on all around me, I needed some sense of assurance that the lives of the four of us on my advisory team were important to God. It was a comfort to remind myself that trusting in God while we wait has been part of our faith journey for a long, long time. In those turbulent times, the prayer of petition that ends the psalm spoke for me:

Teach me your way, Adonai,

and lead me on a straight path because of my enemies.

Don’t surrender me to the will of my enemies,

for defamers rise up against me breathing violence.

Even so I have confidence

            that I’ll see the goodness of our God

 in the land of the living!

Wait for God – stand tall

and let your heart take courage!

Yes, wait for Our God!

Psalm 27:11-14

Psalm 27 didn’t explain why fear didn’t make any sense to the psalmist. But having those words available helped bring me a sense of calm as we waited through those dark nights.  I didn’t understand what was going on inside me, but I’d had a strong mystical  insight before I went – that I would return with my body intact – and I was willing to let this comfort simply “be” there for me while I did what was before me, to help the people I was there to serve, and wait to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. That was a persistent hint that God is far bigger than I will ever understand, and I need to “Wait for God, to stand tall and let my heart take courage!


Waiting has never been a strong suite for me.  As you well know, I’ve been much more comfortable when I’m “busy,” working on something, particularly something that I think someone else needs. 

When I came to Seekers Church, and began to put down some roots in the Church of the Saviour, one thing I had to deal with was all the waiting, the silence and stillness that marks the inner journey: a daily time for silence and reflection … meditation … journaling …  prayer.  I started going on silent retreat and found that if I worked at it I could let myself be still – on the outside.  Most of the time, though, this silence was marked by shifting gears but not shutting off the engine.  I could walk around Dayspring and marvel at the complexity of God’s Creation; I could gather bunches of dried grass to make an organic setting for the altar table … or write a poem.  But I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing.  It was as though the short time of a silent retreat was too precious to waste by simply waiting!

But sometimes, we simply have to wait.  Can we take heart from the closing words of a fresh translation of Psalm 27?

“I know I will see how good God is while I am still alive. 

Trust in the Lord.  Be strong.  Be brave.  Trust in the Lord.”

What might we discover right now, early in Lent 2022, as we wait for the Covid virus to find a tolerable place to coexist, like polio … as we wait for deeper compassion to restore peace in Ukraine … as we live with protests over rules intended to help keep us healthy …as the debate flares over who should lead the government in the years to come?  What does it mean, for you, for me, for us, to “trust in the Lord; be strong; and be brave?”  How might we sharpen our practice in the art of waiting, and learn to trust in God? What are we waiting for? And what do we need to hear?


In the old sermon that started this one, I was reminded of a passage from Elizabeth O’Connor’s Call to Commitment, the story of the early days of Church of the Saviour.  In a chapter entitled “Marks of Love,” she reviews Gordon Cosby’s guidelines for servant leadership, a wonderful discussion of what lay at the core of mission groups as they took shape.

This time, as I re-read Gordon’s guidelines, I heard something bit different. They seemed to fit this place where I find myself – this place where we find ourselves – this Lenten season, waiting to hear God’s guidance as we explore the unknown path to our unfolding future.  It is a fresh call to shared leadership in a new time, and a focused lesson on trusting God as we wait.

I had an interesting nudge from the Holy Spirit about this last Sunday morning. As I came into the sanctuary, I noticed a stack of small cards on the altar table, titled “A PRACTICE FOR LENT.” It was a list of the six guidelines I want to consider this morning. I recognized them as cards we had used when I brought the root for this sermon 18 years ago. I asked Deborah about them, and she said she had found them in the Celebration Circle bench up front near the lectern. I had forgotten about the cards, and Deborah didn’t know the focus of my sermon, but there they were, ready for you to take one if we had been in the sanctuary. I’ve inserted an image of he cad at the end of this document, which will be available soon on our website.

Sometimes those little serendipities give me a deep sense that the Holy Spirit is with us, helping us trust in God as we wait.


Here’s the list:

  • Learn to know that the real issue is within.
  • Develop the capacity to take hostility.
  • Learn to accept the other as s/he is.
  • Practice sorting little issues from big ones.
  • Be willing to fail … and let others fail.
  • Care for people … all people.

1. Learn to know that the real issue is within.

When the road gets rocky, we all have a tendency to look outside to fix blame on others.  It happens now as we deal with the frustrations of staying together while “socially distanced,” not being able to live our community life in our own building; or working through the mysteries of “shared leadership.” When we feel the anger rise over having our schedule interrupted, or something going wrong in a mission group, or there aren’t enough people who can gather for a meeting, there is a strong tendency to see where things went wrong “out there,” and call for someone else to change, to make things right.  But the path to understanding often passes through the valley of the shadow of self-recognition.  Even if I don’t see my role in the tension, I can keep my eyes open. 

When you find yourself in time of trouble, ask: “What in me is blocking the arrival of the Holy Spirit?” Trust in God while you wait.

2. Develop the capacity to take hostility.

Elizabeth O’Connor observed that “(I)n a Christian pilgrimage we can expect hostility.  It need not take us by surprise. … The mission group does not produce hostility in its members.  We bring it with us into the group and there, for many reasons, it is uncovered. … Any situation where there is hostility has the potential of being a step in a person’s spiritual trek if that person has the capacity to receive anger without lashing back.”  We are getting some ideas about how to deal with this in the review of our structure for shared leadership, and our return to hybrid worship.

I felt some hostility rise up in me as I watched the “Peace Convoy” clog the Beltway last week. I know I need to treat this as an opportunity to listen more deeply from the heart, even when it feels tough, but I want to blame “THEM” for being disruptive.

It’s work, but we need to develop the capacity to take hostility.

Wait for God – stand tall and let your heart take courage!

3. Learn to accept the other as s/he is.

Call to Commitment reminded me that there is often a bit of the manipulator in each of us.  That’s something uncomfortable I’ve resisted learning about myself for a long time.  My strong “helper” instincts work most efficiently when there are others around who need me.  Part of my own growth is to try to recognize when I’m putting you in a role that I need to have filled rather than accepting you for who you are – one of God’s beloved.  It’s not easy, because my world would work much more efficiently if everyone else thought and acted exactly according to plan – MY plan.  But I really don’t think efficiency is at the heart of God’s plan.  Otherwise, why would we have the marvelous complexity of Creation – with every plant and star, every tree and cat, every snowflake and human a unique individual?  God must love diversity!  And part of my growth is to learn to love diversity as well, to welcome you as you are.

The path to growth leads through learning to accept each other as we are. I need to wait for God and stand tall to let that sink in. And the loving presence of others helps escort me to that more loving place. Trust in God while you wait.

4. Practice sorting little issues from big ones.

As I read Elizabeth O’Conner’s comments about the leadership perspective that enables us to sort the little issues from the big ones, I was reminded of many conversations about returning to our space here on Carroll Street. Elizabeth reminds us that often little issues hide something deeper, and it is a gift of leadership to be able to listen to opposing views, accept others for who they are, and still help sort the big issues from the little ones.  Sometimes here it’s easier to give than to receive, but practice helps. 

One challenge for me here is that what looks like a BIG issue to me may not really be all that important to the community or to the Universe.  I feel that way about all the anger over mask mandates, but then, I’ve lived with public health mandates my whole life. I’m not carrying much conscious anger or frustration about being told what I need to do or how to do it. So it angers me when others make a big deal out of some little thing. Of course, it’s a challenge to admit when we see “big” and “little” differently, and when we do, the healing work of truth and reconciliation has just begun.

But staying focused on my anger about other’s anger about mask mandates might be helping me overlook deeper concerns about egotism and greed. Part of standing tall as I wait is the practice of sorting little issues from big ones.

5. Be willing to fail … and let others fail.

Call to Commitment reminds us that the history of Church of the Saviour is festooned with failed initiatives.  Every one of them yielded important lessons, fresh ways to be part of God’s Good News. This is different from the lesson that was so much a part of my early “truth” about avoiding failure.  When I started out as a young boy, I was so afraid of failure that if I ever heard a critical word about my performance my automatic response was: “I’ll never do THAT again!”  And by that I meant I’d never do anything LIKE that again.  There’s a big difference between learning from experience and keeping my self-image polished. Fred Taylor, the co-founder of Seekers Church, used to say frequently: “If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve been getting, and that’s not good enough.”  

Seekers Church has always been a bit different, stressing shared leadership that works hard at erasing the distinction between laity and clergy, a commitment to support ministry in daily life, a call to changing systems as well as helping individuals.  Over the years we’ve offered each other so many opportunities to be involved that a descriptive phrase found its place in our vocabulary: “All Seekers – all the time!”   As we work to return to a life together with new initiatives like the racial justice vigil and active working group, and our new partnership with CreatureKind, we’re looking at the opportunities for new wineskins – a new partner to share our office space during the week, some different times for classes in our School for Christian Growth… Some of these new initiatives may fail, but we will have the opportunity to learn from every one.  As we work to trust God as we wait, accepting our failures and learning to see ourselves as BOTH imperfect and beloved, we begin to savor how good God really is. Being wiling to fail, and let others fail is an important part of growth. Trust in God while we wait.

6. Care for people … all people.

Call to Commitment reminds us that this last practice sounds deceptively simple, but is the most difficult to do: to care deeply for all people – not just those who feel important to us.  Our mission is to get to the point where we can say to everyone, and to every single one: “I love you, and I always will.” 

The challenge for me here is how tempting it is for me to disengage from those I find harder to love – those whose ideas or actions I find uncomfortable or threatening, those who demand more than I want to give, those who want to argue over things I KNOW are right … I want my world to be a safe and gentle place, so for me it’s a stretch to practice this kind of caring and listen more deeply. That’s part of what makes listening with an open heart an interesting Lenten practice for me at this time in my life. 

Try caring for people … all people, and see what you learn about yourself, and about how God loves you.

Although these six ideas came from the experience of Church of the Saviour 60 years ago, I think they still have something important to say to all of us. 


This Lenten season we are waiting in a time of chaos.  We’re working to return to worship together in our space while still including those who are away. We are living in a time of war when many of our core values seem to be under siege.  We are struggling to find a path to health that is beyond the pandemic. It is a time of deep unknowing.  We’ve gathered to acknowledge that we want to learn how trusting God as we wait allows us to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. 

I hold up for you these six practices for this season, drawn from our own tradition, offered to help us all learn how to trust in the Lord:

  1. Learn to know that the real issue is within.
  2. Develop the capacity to take hostility.
  3. Learn to accept the other as s/he is.
  4. Practice sorting little issues from big ones.
  5. Be willing to fail … and let others fail.
  6. Care for people … all people.

Gordon Cosby first offered them as essential marks of leadership in mission groups.  Since we are committed to shared leadership in a turbulent time, I offer them to all of us as a guide to help us learn to listen more deeply, and trust in God as we wait. 

The Psalmist says:

Even so, I have confidence that I’ll see the goodness of our God in the land of the living! Wait for God – stand tall and let your heart take courage! Yes, wait for Our God! And I say: “Amen.” May it be so.

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