SERMON 12/12/10 Advent 3A
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
With holiday parties, concerts, and kid’s holiday programs these days, our time seems to be stretched beyond limits. Impatience and anxiety looms during the holidays because of the time demands, coupled by the fact that many of us really like to be early for these gatherings and meticulously plan. We determinine our departure time, we consider grooming and dressing time, travel time, and then we add 10 minutes. We don’t like to be late. Even so, there may be other folks in the home, who don’t have the same time-sensitive anxiety as we do. They leisurely prepare for the event and usually try on multiple outfits, manage to become distracted, or just don’t do anything. As this scenario plays out, we may hear questions like “does this tie go with these pants?” “Does this dress make me look fat?” “These shoes don’t match this belt do they?” As this plays out, we time watchers lose patience, we stare at the face of our watch, we tap our feet and make the mistake of proclaiming, “We’re going to be late.” Grumbling soon ensues, and well, we know what happens next.
It’s not easy to wait on someone else. Some folks like to be in control of their time and patience is a virtue that is hard to come by sometimes. We forget that we are not always in control of time. Advent is a season that helps us recognize that fact because; Advent is about patient anticipation; waiting for the coming of the Lord. Coming to an acceptance that Christ will come again, demands patience. That world-changing event happens in God’s time and not ours. In God’s time and in God’s way, peace, joy, righteousness, and justice will prevail.
It is hard to imagine in an impatient world where unsettling relationships and power struggles are all around us, that there will be a time when peace will reign. At an intersection a week ago, a truck in the other lane had a bumper sticker on it that proclaimed, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, peace will reign.” In today’s epistle, James was addressing a church that had dealt with conflicts based on power and love. That church knew that the world in which they lived, would someday change, but they were not willing to wait. Anxiety started to infiltrate the community, people began to tap their feet, stare at watches, and anger flew, conflict ensued, and peace disappeared. James encouraged that community to recognize the conflicts that they had endured, to recognize that healing takes time and patience. He encouraged them to seek God’s peace and to go forward together, by discerning God’s timing with patience and longsuffering. They were encouraged to live in dependence on, and trust in God’ power to bring about healing, reconciliation and restoration. Living into God’s time and not our time, requires patience and waiting, and sometimes it takes courage and risk-taking. Patience requires waiting for God to bring about the kingdom in God’s time, and not in our own. Lack of patience, sometimes causes us to move too fast, thereby failing to consider prayerfully all options, and causing us to lose the focus of our mission. Patience can sometimes be masked as failure to act out of fear. Fear sometimes causes us not to move at all, and cause us to miss the opportunities God has in store. God calls us to take risks and trust in God’s grace. Sometimes we are called to move in a new direction, a new ministry, a new way of being, because God is always making things new. There is a balance between patience and courage, and the key seems to be that in all things, we should prayerfully consider to what God is calling us as individuals, and as a community to be. Our prayers, our conversations with God, our listening for God, our worship, are symbols of patience, trust and courage in action. Prayer clarifies courage and patience.
Patience, grounded in trust in God, keeps us ready and confident as we face all that life holds for us. God will bring about peace, justice, and right relationships and that is the hope in which we can with confidence, trust. God will make all things right. Will that happen today, right now, tomorrow? No one knows the hour or day, but it will happen. Patient trust in God, draws us out of the need to be self-reliant, that attitude of “I alone can make it happen,” and into the peace of knowing that God “will strengthen us to make it happen together.” Patient trust reduces our watch watching, foot tapping, and finger pointing anxiety. God calls us into a blessed peace where the power of love can overcome the love of power. In love we recognize that God is the source of all power, all authority, and all time. Take courage and be patient with yourself, take courage and be patient with each other, take courage and be patient with God, and without a doubt, we will experience a peace, a restoration and a reconciling love that passes all understanding.