Northfield

United Methodist Parish

Sunday, May 24, 2020 – Prepare to Be Patient

Sunday, May 24, 2020 –  Prepare to Be Patient

…he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. (Acts 1.4)

Read Acts 1:1-14 and Luke 24:44-53

“Prepare to Be Patient” – this is the headline of an article in a magazine that was left open on the kitchen table. Prepare to be patient? That caught my attention. Had I left one of my “church” magazines open and missed that title? An article about patience would belong in something I’d be reading.

A closer look revealed that it was in a finance magazine! So this was not a spiritual discipline but one that would have economic benefits–be patient before you rush to refinance — rates are dropping now and will drop some more.

The title continued to intrigue me though. Prepare to be patient. We’ve heard countless times, “be patient!” Perhaps you’ve heard the joke, “Lord, give me patience… and let me have it now!” But, how do you prepare to be patient?

After reading the short article, its title could have been written, plan or expect or brace yourself to be patient; however, the notion of preparing oneself in anticipation of needing patience seems like a wonderful concept to me.

Several months ago, it would have been helpful to attend a workshop on how to prepare to be patient. “There will be a pandemic in a couple months, so let’s all learn these strategies now in order to be prepared to be patient while we wait for the curve to flatten.”

Unfortunately no such workshops existed, and even the most patient of people has struggled with waiting. Each of us has our own litany of things we can’t wait to be able to do again. Right now we are consoling ourselves with “at least the weather has warmed up and we can be outside! My patience was wearing thin waiting for spring.” And on this Memorial Day Weekend, the news is full of images of impatient people who are tired of waiting and are on the go, impatient to get back to normal.

We really are not good at being patient for extended periods.  We act out or do something before it is time.

Gardeners know the outcome of impatience – “helping” a bud to open before it is fully ready damages a flower, picking a fruit or vegetable before it is ripe yields it inedible, planting a garden too soon risks exposing it to late frosts. If you plan to be a gardener, prepare to be patient.

Prepare to be patient.

Today’s scripture includes the story of the Ascension of Jesus. As he prepares his disciples for his departure, he tells them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for God’s promise. The disciples do just that. They weren’t given a specific date of when their waiting would be over, so there was uncertainty in their waiting.

Did they get anxious about having to stay in Jerusalem? How large was that upper room where so many men and women were staying – it seems like patience would wear very thin in such a tight space. How long would they be cooped up in there? Had they been prepared to be patient?

Luke describes them spending their time constantly devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14) and continually in the temple blessing God (Luke 24:53). Wow! We could learn a lot from their example.

This was a changed group from just a few weeks before when they were hiding after Jesus’ crucifixion. No longer afraid or anxious, bewildered or doubtful, their attention was totally fixed on God. This was a transformed group focused on prayer and worshipping God, full of “great joy.”

I wonder if the difference was not only their experience of the living Christ among them but also the hope for and faith in the promise that Jesus spoke of. Our hopes of a return to normalcy or a reduced mortgage rate are ridiculous in comparison, false hopes leading to worn patience.

The promise of the Holy Spirit– the promise of power and the promise of a companion, the promise of Jesus to abide with us to be one with us–is a source of great hope. Jesus had “put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14 MSG), he made his home with us and then with the Ascension returned to God but with a promise of not leaving us alone.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we would be able to abide with him just as he abides with God. The mysterious 2 men in white robes who appeared to the disciples at the ascension also said that Jesus would appear again in the same way as he disappeared.

As confusing and mysterious as all of this was and is, these experiences gave hope and new life to the disciples. I think it prepared them for the patience needed to wait.

We also have this Holy Spirit abiding with and in us. The same power promised to the disciples is also promised and given to us. Sometimes we are cognizant of it but most of the time we are oblivious. We forget that we live and move and have our being in God, and that this is possible is through the Holy Spirit present with us.

The more comfortable we get with spiritual practices that bring us closer to God, the more we are able to live in the awareness of how God holds us and everything together in deep abiding love. This doesn’t mean that you have to retreat to a closet to read your Bible and pray.

We can find God’s presence through paying attention outside, watching, listening, taking in the amazing creation surrounding us, in our gardens, on a lake, through our open windows.

We find God’s presence when we make phone calls, send cards, and find ways to help neighbors in need even while being physically distant.

We find God’s presence through music and creative arts, when our hands are busy and our minds settle down and our hearts slowly open.

The promise is ours to claim and that should fill us with great joy.

Rueben P. Job wrote: “We claim the power of the Holy Spirit today to strengthen us for living fully, faithfully, and joyfully. We claim the companionship of Jesus Christ to guide instruct, and sustain us day by day. Sometimes we wait for that power to become active or for that kind of companionship to blossom in our relationship with God in Christ. As we learn to earnestly seek and patiently wait — in God’s perfect timing–the gifts are given. Then we know it was worth the wait.”  

p. 212 A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Upper Room Books © 2006.

We may not be able to worship in our temple (or sanctuary) but we can devote ourselves to prayer and praise. We are being prepared to be patient for something much greater than we know.

Let’s use this week between Ascension and Pentecost to reflect and prepare patiently for the fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. Amen.

Evie Doyon, May 2020