Hoping and Waiting in a VUCA World – Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018

holy-spirit-come-beverly-guilliams (2)

Holy Spirit Come by Beverly Guilliams – Fine Art America

Scripture: Romans 8:22-27

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”


Our world can be described as volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous or VUCA. VUCA is an acronym used to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of an extreme condition or situation. The term derives from military vocabulary resulting from the end of the Cold War in the early 1990’s. The dictionary defines the words for the abbreviated letters as follows:

  • Volatile: liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse. Likely to become dangerous or out of control.
  • Uncertain: Not exactly known or decided. Not definite or sure. Having some doubt about situations or outcomes.
  • Complex: Not easily explained or understood. Not simple.
  • Ambiguous: Having more than one possible meaning. Not expressed or understood clearly even when all the information is present.

VUCA is disruptive. Organizations assess VUCA conditions or situations to gain insight and foresight when strategizing approaches to mitigate and manage their next steps for their organization or business to ensure the greatest possibility of success.

The Christian community the apostle Paul writes to lives in a crazy death-ridden first-century Roman VUCA world. Their vision of a new creation where life would flourish was dimmed by the ever-present and overwhelming power of death and chaos in their lives. Their response was to withdraw, insulate, and isolate themselves from the crazy world because of their fears.

Paul writes to encourage and counsel the faith community in Rome to hold on to the hope that God is at work in the midst of their struggles and longings, creating, redeeming, and transforming the crazy VUCA world they live in.  God was now the center of their lives through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. No longer condemned and held in bondage by sin and or the fear of death, they were free to really live life to the fullest despite their circumstance.

The Roman Christians already had the power of God to remain in the struggles with courage and freedom undergirded by faith in God and hope for tomorrow. Their struggle is not meaningless. With God and for God, their struggle for a new creation has meaning and purpose.

Paul Tillich (Shaking the Foundations) describes waiting in hope for the new creation that we already possess as children of God this way: “But, although waiting is not having, it is also having. The fact that we wait for something shows that in some way we already possess it. Waiting anticipates that which is not yet real. If we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. He who waits in an ultimate sense is not far from that for which he waits. He who waits in absolute seriousness is already grasped by that for which he waits.”

What the new creation will look like is unknown. But we can actively wait for the emergent new creation in hope. Like the first-century Christians living in a VUCA world, we too can trust in the power of God that is at work in the world through known and unknown ways. In the meantime, there is pain and troubles – birth pangs – but those pains and troubles are outweighed and overcome by the hope of a new creation that lies before us and which we already possess. The Holy Spirit enables us to imagine a different world, a new creation moving in the direction of ultimate redemption and healing. As such, we can look with hope beyond our own VUCA world and freely live life with a conviction and courage in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the knowledge that nothing, not even a crazy death-ridden VUCA world, could ever separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:31-39).

God is wise and good, making provision for the moments when we would experience weakness of courage, faith, or hope. God sent the Holy Spirit into the world to keep us connected with God through prayer, the conduit of God’s grace in our time of need (Phil. 4:4-6). May we seek, find, and experience the interceding presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, renewing us at those times when we groan and begin to lose hope in the new creation amid the temporality of our VUCA world.

Prayer for the Presence of the Holy Spirit

Come, for you continue always unmoved,
yet at every instant you are wholly in movement;
you draw near to us who lie in hell,
yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our heart with longing
and is ever on our lips;
yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone;
Come, for you, yourself are the desire that is in me.
Come, my breath and my life.

(Simeon the New Theologian, in K. Ware, “The Holy Spirit in the Personal Life of the Christian,” in Unity in the Spirit [Geneva: WCC, 1979], pp. 139–69)


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