A friend of mine told me how he almost quit his first pastorate. He found it hard to endure the seemingly petty complaints from his congregants. Members in the congregation threatened to leave if they didn’t get their way. Some were overtly racist; others were opposed to women holding any roles of leadership in the church. He found it difficult to be patient, especially when people had their feelings hurt.
One evening, after a particularly contentious congregational business meeting, he felt he had reached the end of his rope and was seriously considering resigning as pastor. Discouraged and alone, he stood changing the lettering on the church bulletin board that announced the next Sunday’s sermon title when a strange, disheveled, bearded, old man wearing a worn-out overcoat walked up to him and said, “You’re the pastor here, aren’t you?” “Yes, I am,” my friend answered. “Well,” the man said, “I stopped by to tell you not to be discouraged and to be patient. You’re doing a good job! Things will get better. Just wait and see.”
When my friend asked this stranger who he was, the man answered, “I’m Jesus.”
My friend went home amazed by this surreal encounter. He told his wife about the weird man who had claimed to be Jesus and who had told him that he was doing a good job and to be patient.
His wife responded carefully, “Well? How do you know that he wasn’t Jesus?”
In Galatians 6:9, Paul writes, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (kjv). In other words, “Hang in there!”
Jesus, thank you for being patient with us, and by your grace make us patient with others. Teach each of us to be more understanding of those who seem to establish barriers to our best laid plans and to treat them as you would. Amen.
Isaiah anticipates a future time of total restoration. The desert will bloom, the blind will see, the lame will walk, and the people will return to Jerusalem with joy. Since ancient times, some have understood this as a description of the age of the Messiah. Luke records the song of Mary. After Elizabeth blesses her and her unborn child, Mary praises God for God’s strength, mercy, and generosity. In the epistle, James encourages his audience to be patient as they await the second coming of the Lord. In the same way, we wait for the birth of the Messiah during Advent. An uncertain John the Baptist sends a message to Jesus to ask if he is the promised Messiah. Jesus responds by affirming that he fulfills the messianic expectations in the prophets.
Read Isaiah 35:1-10. When has scripture strengthened you through personal or societal crises?
Read Luke 1:47-55. Those with power interpret scripture differently than those who are oppressed. How can you make room for perspectives other than your own as you interpret scripture?
Read James 5:7-10. When have you had to endure frustration with patience? How have you been strengthened by these experiences?
Read Matthew 11:2-11. What does it mean to you to be greater than John the Baptist?
Respond by posting a prayer.