Every Sunday for three years Walter opened the doors to Epworth church and worshipped… alone. Why? Why not face the inevitable and allow Epworth to die? Well, God had a divine purpose for Walter and the church he loved. So for now, Walter must be patient, be faithful and wait. Simeon and Anna from chapter two of Luke anticipated seeing the Messiah foretold by prophets for hundreds of years. Meanwhile, day after day and year after year they both waited.
Not me! I would move on. So would most of you. Yet, in our impatience and lack of faith, we would have missed God’s miracle!
Would it help to understand what is meant by the word, wait? My tendency is to think of waiting as idle time doing nothing such as waiting for a movie to start. Actually, waiting is more like receiving word that an honored guest will soon be visiting. You busily clean and decorate your house, prepare special foods, take a shower and search through the closet for just the right outfit. In other words…. waiting on God is essentially an eventful time of preparation and anticipation.
U “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me and he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1) Waiting is learning to trust in God’s leadership and competence.
U “But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.” (Isaiah 40:31) Waiting renews your strength.
U “This time he (Christ) will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28) Waiting is a sign of faith and faith in Christ is the source of our salvation.
Simeon waited, filled with the Holy Spirit, expecting an honored guest, the Messiah, to appear at any time. Anna waited by staying busy in the Temple day and night, worshipping God with fasting and prayer. Walter waited by faithfully preparing his beloved Epworth church for worship each and every Sunday morning. God responded to Simeon, Anna and Walter with a miracle.
One afternoon a young couple named Joseph and Mary came to the temple to offer their eight-day-old baby for dedication to God. “Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations…’” (Luke 2:28-32) Anna came along, “just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph and she began praising God. She talked about Jesus to everyone who had been waiting for the promised King…” (2:38)
Simeon and Anna were among the first to witness the Christ child and proclaim Him as the Messiah. Every year they are remembered and celebrated as a part of Christmas.
One Sunday morning a young family, new to the area visited Epworth and after meeting Walter joined him in worship. They found something unique about this little church nestled among the trees and the old man who faithfully opened her doors. On the following Sunday they came back and within a few weeks the children were bringing friends. At years end a minister was hired.
Today, Epworth is a small family church situated between several farms and hidden among the trees. Every summer they offer Vacation Bible School for the neighborhood and each Christmas is celebrated with a pageant performed by the children. Many of the original family have died and some of the children have moved away but the miracle of Epworth has never been forgotten.
On the first Sunday of August people come from across the U.S. to visit the church of their youth and relive the miracle of the old man who refused to let his beloved church die. The worship service is followed by a picnic on the church grounds. While the children are playing and the adults are eating you may notice a family wandering over to the nearby cemetery. If you listen carefully you’ll hear a parent telling her child, “Let me tell you a story about Walter…”
As you celebrate the beginning of a new year remember the example of Simeon, Anna and Walter and express your faith in God by… waiting! For me, “easier said than done!” Pray for me… please?!