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Across the Pastor’s Desk: Patience is something we need

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Matthew Lehman

Matthew Lehman

 

Patience. Got some? We all wrestle with it.

Patience is one of the fruit of the spirit. The fruit of spirit is singular, yet a cluster nine distinctive qualities according to Saint Paul (Galatians 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The fruit of the spirit: what happens to you and within you and from you to others when the Holy Spirit is at work in and through God’s people.

Ask those who know you best, and they might tell you; that you are or not a patient person. It is never easy to admit, but I am sure you wish to be patient most of the time.

You may have tried to master all the tricks of the trade: count to 10, walk away, bite your tongue, think positive thoughts.

You might have prayed, “God, give me patience, and give it to me right now!”

Ironically, it is almost always the little things in life that try your patience — driving your car, waiting indefinitely for almost anything or anyone, trying to do everything alone or miss that short putt — you get the picture.

All of this is pretty trite. Patience, or the lack thereof, becomes more serious when it is directed at another person — between spouses, children, parents, friends, co-workers and your neighbors. And when it results in angry words, or worse. So much wasted energy, so much misspent time, so much rudeness and arrogance.

The heart of this column, thank God, is not based on our impatience, but rather on the patience of gracious God. For if any single factor could lead you and me to exercise greater patience, especially with other people, it is to recall and be renewed by the patience that God has toward me and you.

In the Gospel, Mark 12:1-12, a parable from Jesus, the owner (the Lord) of the vineyard spent time and energy and money to make the vineyard one day profitable. He had made a great investment, not only in his vineyard but also in the people he had appointed to tend to the vineyard. But when he sent his servants and then more servants to receive what was rightfully his, the wicked tenants in their insatiable greed brutalized all of them. Finally, the owner sent his beloved son (Jesus), in which they killed. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what the owner did when he returned.

Beyond description, God waits for us, and on us. With his word and through the sacraments, he feeds and nurtures us. He cares for us, protects us, perseveres with us. So, it might take years or more of a lifetime to bear fruit of the spirit.

“I will wait,” God declares. Amazingly, he forgives us over and over for the sake of his only son, Jesus Christ. Patiently, he listens and answers our prayers.

Patiently, he receives our oft-broken promises to love him and serve him. Our God is not one that expects instant gratification from us. Though, he loves our thanks and praise for the blessings he provides. He is never deluded into thinking that we shall fall into line in perfect obedience to his will. He knows us better than that! Nevertheless, he perseveres.

There is a parallel between this and parenting. Parenting takes a vast amount of patience, perseverance and long-suffering. (I do not mean to imply that there are not great occasions for feeling joy and gratitude and accomplishments; there are.) But it is true. We do not parent for a year or two, and then throw in the towel. We are in it for the long haul. And never, ever may we or would we give up on our children. We have promised to them our unconditional love for as long as we live on this earth; they know it, and we know it, if sometimes one or both of us do not necessarily show it.

That is the way it is with our heavenly father, for us, his children. He will persevere with us, be patient with us, for as long as we live on this earth. Why? Because he has promised to us his love, unconditionally. His patience is for a purpose; namely, to give us as much time and space as we need to draw us closer to him, to bring us to repentance for our sinful desires with earthly things, and to grow in faith and obedience to his will.

On that last day, when the Lord returns, his patience will end in judgment of all and for the faithful he shall welcome into eternal glory in heaven; the disobedient to eternal condemnation in hell.

That is why these are precious and purposeful days and times, for celebrating and sanctifying our covenant with the almighty Lord, for saying and praying, “Thank you, heavenly father, for your love and forgiveness; thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, our savior; thank you for your patience! We sincerely ask you to give us patience, as we live and reflect your amazing love. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Matthew Lehman is a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.