WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Radical Expectations

By Robin Tanner

“Proceed as the way opens.”
—a Quaker saying

A conceptual photograph showing the silhouette of a person pulling back a curtain of darkness to reveal a new, better world.

I was holding my breath. The firefighter must have noticed.

"You can go outside, you know. You don’t have to wait for the alarm to go off.”

I exhaled. Oh, right. I had been waiting for the fire department to initiate the alarm for our fire drill at our congregation, because every time we have overnight guests we have to do a test. Youth lock-ins, social justice fastings, retreats, and impromptu requests all mean a call to the Fire Department. I had come to hate those three minutes of waiting.

And then there it was: I could go outside.

As I waited outside I considered all the times I had simply accepted the terms of engagement—the rules of waiting. How many times have I been compliant because of a lack of power; because I play by the rules; because I’ve been trained to do so?

Sometimes waiting is not faithful. Sometimes waiting is the worst thing we can do. Sometimes waiting is just a game that keeps the status quo running on time.

I don’t believe that Advent is a season of waiting passively. Instead, this time in the Christian story is about expectation—radical expectations that undo the status quo—and anticipation: a skillful search for the places where liberation rises from the ashes.

Imagine living into that kind of waiting: the mysterious wonder of what can be born from a deep, abiding yes that’s rooted in relationship, human need, and authenticity.

But first we have to claim the right to go outside the rules, and to expect more of the world and ourselves.

Beloved One in all, help me move beyond what is given and spoken into the world as it is, and as it yet could be. No more waiting for the right time, for the right words, for the right ways. May we believe now is the time, and we are the answer. Amen.

About the Author

Robin Tanner

Robin Tanner is a Unitarian Universalist minister, poet, and activist who serves as the Minister of Worship and Outreach at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, New Jersey.


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