It was a dreary fall day. The kindergarten teacher was worn out as the kids didn't get to go outside for recess and they had a bit of cabin fever. Finally, the end of the day came. This was a few years ago and so rather than tennis shoes on a rainy day, each of her 32 students had galoshes. And they needed help to put them on. So 32 kids, one at a time, got her help. The last one was finally done and the little girl looked up at the teacher and said, “You know what teacher? These aren't my galoshes.”
Wearily she removed the galoshes and the little girl said, “They are my sister's. She let me wear them.” The teacher quietly put them back on her student. That is patience.
I want to talk about patience today in light of our readings. Both talk about a future time, a time where we get both good news to anticipate and not such good news that gives us pause.
The Old Testament reading is a bit more positive. Darlene shared with us the promises God gave Isaiah to share with us. The promise of Isaiah 65 is that God is doing a new thing. There is the promise of a new creation; a new heaven and a new earth. In this new dispensation things are going to change big time. “for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands... The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox... be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating ....” This is a promised time where it will no longer be a dog eat dog world; no longer race against race, nation against nation.
That sounds great, but as we consider it, I can't help but remember the age-old question the Israelites asked, “How long, O Lord, how long?” We see the suffering in this present world, the lack of justice for the poor, the lack of food for the starving, the lack of safe housing for so many. How long, O Lord, until you fulfill those promises? “No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; they shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD...no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress” But we know that weeping is still heard, even in our churches. The cry of distress is heard too often in our city streets. Children across the world are dying much too young. These words were written some 2700 years ago and yet we still wonder, how long, O Lord, how long until these promises are fulfilled?
On the other hand, Pastor Jin S. Kim of the Church of All Nations in Minneapolis wrote of these prophecies, “For those of us who follow Christ, this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. He will not wage war to bring peace. He will not use violence to end violence. In Jesus Christ the wolf and the lamb, the lion and the ox, will break bread together. In Jesus Christ 'we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.' Our impulses of impatience, vengeance and violence will be changed.. by the eschatological pull of God’s kingdom on all creation, old and new... In the risen Christ, the people of God are the peace and justice that the world has been waiting for.” So we're not there yet, but it has begun and it is up to us to be the peace and justice to the people around us.
I start work on these sermons usually midweek. On Tuesday night our daughter-in-law shared the video The Chosen on the life of Jesus. A common trait I saw in the people of Jesus's day was impatience. “When is the Messiah going to come? Why is God delaying? When can we escape the yoke of the Romans?” They expressed their impatience for God to act the way they we wanted God. That is a common sentiment through all the eras of God's people. In Egypt as slaves for 400 years. In the desert before the promised land. In Babylon at the time of Isaiah's writings. In Israel under the rule of the Romans. The dark ages with it disease and misinformation. The Holocaust with 6 million slain by the Nazis. Today as we witness evil seeming to have the upper hand in our world. Impatience is understandable. Yet, if we believe God's promises, we need patience to endure and to keep hope alive. “God's word often refers to the Christian experience as a walk, seldom as a run and never as a mad dash.” (Steven J. Cole)
Jesus told us about the timing of the end times, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” So what is our proper attitude as we anticipate the coming of the end times? We want to live in anticipation and not be impatient. Anticipation and impatience have much in common. But anticipation is living and acting with the understanding that God will act in God's good time. It is trusting in God's timing and judgment. But if we become impatient, we want to wrestle control of time and destiny from God's hands. Impatience judges God as being too slow to act, or worse as uncaring. God's time is not our time. We all know that at some level of faith. But we also see things that we want changed, and we want God to act the way we think God should act, and we want that now. But that is not how God works. The new covenant is in place, the death and resurrection of Jesus initiated this new understanding of law and grace, of adoption and sanctification. Our trust is in the redeeming work of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation is our promised reward, our responsibility is to show the love and mercy and grace of Jesus in our lives here in Litchfield, here and now. We live with the promise of redemption, but we live in a world that still has sin and evil in it. We anticipate the new heaven and the new earth but we work to create the best world we can right now.
I titled today's sermon “Patience is a Virtue”. That is a line we said often to our kids growing up and we now say to our grandkids. It is a reminder that we often get too anxious for the next thing and don't rest in the moments God gives us on earth. Gladys and Rhonda walked along the sidewalk after church. The were on the way home, thinking about meals planned for later that afternoon and casually discussing the morning service. “That was a great sermon on patience,” remarked Rhonda. Gladys replied, “Yes, but he went five minutes long.”
Does it sometimes seem that God is 5 minutes too late, or 5 hours or five days or five centuries? But we can wait patiently with the assurance that God's timing is always right.
The last line of our gospel has a challenge and a reassurance from Jesus, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” When I read that word endurance I think of our challenge to wait patiently. We cannot endure long without the gift of patience. And so we endure. We anticipate. We love and serve one another in the name of Jesus. We trust God's promises. In our call to worship this morning, we shared these words, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.” That came from Isaiah as did this about the new heaven and the new earth, “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind... be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.” Look around and rejoice that God gives us the strength to endure and to triumph. God has given us a Savior, a beautiful world, and this fellowship we can enjoy. Let's live out our faith in this world and anticipate with thanksgiving the world prepared for us eternally Amen.
Hymn: Let All Things Now Living pg 246