Extra-Ordinary Patience

December 15, 2013                                    James 5:7-11

I feel like I owe this congregation a big “Thank You”.

I mean, there’s a lot about you to be thankful for as a pastor, but this Thank You in particular is because after my sermon two weeks ago, so many of you suggested Amazon.com as a Christmas shopping solution, that the following Monday, we logged in, looked around, and within 10 minutes and a couple of clicks, almost all of the gifts we’re giving this season were on their way to our door. 🙂

That doesn’t really have anything to do with today’s sermon, I just thought you should know! 🙂

This is kind of a hectic time of year, isn’t it?  

There’s too much to do, and too little time.

There’s decorating to do, there are parties to attend, cookies to make, there are traditions to continue, families to visit,

not to mention the regular business of life…nothing really lets up, does it? you still have to clean the house, cook meals, wash dishes…

and actually, in some jobs, and even in some church positions, there’s even more work simply because one year is coming to an end and another one is beginning! (here’s looking at you, commission chairs! You remembered that annual reports are due on Wednesday, right?)

There’s a lot going on.

And even with all the time and hassle you can save by doing your shopping at Amazon.com,  there still just doesn’t feel like there’s quite…enough…time…right?

I joke some years that all I really want for Christmas is an extra day.

Anyone else?

Well, it’s not Christmas yet. We’re still in the season of Advent.

And that means we’re still left with the question of how to handle the time that we’ve got.

Because we’re not getting any more of it.

Time gets away, doesn’t it?

Once this morning is gone, it’s gone for good. We can’t get it back.

So how do we make the most of the time that we have?

Well, if we listen to James, I think the key to making the most of our time…is patience!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

That’s easier said than done.

After all, patience is for people who have time…and who in the world has time in December?

See, and this is the point where if you have ears to hear it, this sermon goes from being simply about prioritizing your holiday schedule, making room for all the things…and it becomes more about the apocalypse.

The fulfillment of time.

And if I’ve done this right, I hope you’re wondering what in the world all this holiday craziness has in common with the apocalypse, or the fulfillment of all time, or the fullness of God’s reign…whatever you want to call it, it’s infinitely more glorious, more important, and more spectacular than simply attending parties and decorating our homes, right?

After all, we live ordinary lives, and the fullness of God’s Kingdom, that will be truly extraordinary, right? The reality of God’s reign…we certainly hope it’s different than all the holiday hooplah, right?

The two realities couldn’t be more different.   

And that’s where I’d like to challenge you this morning.

James says in the passage we’re looking at this morning, he says “Be patient”.

And he doesn’t just say it once. He uses the word “patience” 4 times in three verses.

Be patient.

And if you’re like me, you get kind of tired of hearing about patience, or waiting, especially in church, especially at this time of year.

It’s easy to come to church and hear this passage from James, and it might be easy to sort of skim over the patience part, because it’s one of those words that P. Graham Dunn might cut out of wood for people to spend too much money on and hang it on a wall (really, I mean no offense to those of you who have words hanging on your walls…I actually prefer words to some other types of kitsch), I’m just trying to make a point.

And that point is that there are certain words that have lost some meaning over time, because we use them so much in church.

Faith is one, Love is another, Family is another…and I sometimes think when we hang these words on our wall, it’s kind of like when you shoot a big deer and hang its head on your wall…it’s kind of cool, but its obvious there’s no life in it.

If there was, it wouldn’t be on your wall, right?

Anyways, I digress.

Patience is one of those words…but when James uses it, it’s still got life.

It’s kicking and thrashing … yes, even a word like Patience can thrash about and make us uncomfortable, if we let it.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the chapter, James chapter 5, just to get our bearings.

“Come now, you rich people”, he says, “weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you.”

“Your riches have rotted and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you…it will eat your flesh like fire.”

This isn’t exactly warm, fuzzy imagery that he’s using, right?

“Them’s fightin’ words”, as they say.

This is the kind of stuff preachers love, because it preaches itself. 🙂

James doesn’t beat around the bush.

He’s downright accusatory here in chapter 5… “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”

And if that’s not offensive enough to our 21st century, middle class, North American ears, he lays this at our feet in verse 6 “You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.”

Way to go, James. Thanks for that reminder.

See what I mean?

In the next breath, after laying out all of these offensive accusations against his readers, that’s the point where he starts talking about Patience.

He kind of tills the ground early in the chapter…he gets us to the point where we should be feeling penitent. Our consciences have been pricked, and we are feeling the need for change.

We’re feeling the need to repent.

And that’s the point where he begins talking about patience.

It’s a prophetic word he’s giving, with the life and the blood still in it.

This is the kind of patience that saw Nelson Mandela through 27 years of prison, only to emerge as one of the most influential people our world has ever seen.

Weep and wail, you rich people, for the prisons you have built only serve to work against you.

Biblical patience will overcome them…Biblical patience will transform even these prisons into outposts of God’s Kingdom.

Biblical Patience takes everyday, ordinary moments, and turns them into the axis upon which the New World begins to turn!

I came across a term in some reading I did this week…”leaning in”. (credit Brene Brown)

The author was using it to describe how some people are able to lean fully in to their lives, like you’re leaning into the wind, right?

She was describing people who aren’t afraid to fully feel the force of life coming at them…people who can embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly, people with the courage to ‘lean in’, which is kind of the base work that needs to be done for any real change to happen.

You know what she found? The one and only difference between people who “lean in” and people who “Stand Back”?

It’s a matter of belief.

Those who live patiently; those who lean in to their lives, those who live as if they are already worthy, valuable people who deserve love and respect without earning it…they are the people who believe they are worthy, that they are enough, that they have nothing to earn or prove.

This belief is the only things that separates “whole-hearted” people from those who are impatientlyconstantly striving to prove that they are enough. That they matter.

Beloved Children of God…You. are. enough.

It’s time to step off the performance treadmill. It’s time to repent of trying to force God’s seeds to grow.

For Christ has already redeemed you, and there is nothing you can do to add or subtract value from your life in the eyes of God.

Do you believe it?

If you do, then what’s holding you back?

Lean in.

If you don’t believe it…what’s holding you back?

What work do you need to do in order to get to that point?

Is there someone you need to forgive? Someone who needs to forgive you?

God’s Kingdom is about transformation. If you’re still the same person you were 10 years ago, hanging onto the same grudges, hating the same people…that’s a sign you have some work to do.

The Kingdom is patient in its coming.

But it is coming. Let’s lean in together.

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