Exhortation to Patience and TrustPsalms 37:1-9 (NRSV)
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
The Promise of the Holy SpiritActs 1:1-14 (NRSV)
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The Ascension of Jesus
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
Time is relative, isn’t it? Sometimes a minute can seem like a lifetime, and other times it’s over in a second. When I was a kid, I remember the day that my parents got our first microwave oven. We had the first one in the neighborhood, and I remember my Dad would call people in off the street to show them how amazing it was. It could cook a small baked potato in eight minutes! Let me tell you, we cooked so many baked potatoes that week, and we stood there waiting for eight minutes with each person thinking that it was only a millisecond! Everyone was absolutely amazed at this magical machine. After all, a baked potato would take at least an hour in the oven! An hour cut down to eight minutes, it was a miracle!
But then I also remember driving to Florida as a family when I was a kid. My brother and I didn’t each have personal TV screens and headphones like the kids have today. We didn’t have handheld video games or cell phones. It was just us, our parents, and the open road. Sure, there were car games to keep us occupied like the license plate game–you know, when you look for license plates from as many states as you can. Or the alphabet game–”A” my name is Alice, and my husband’s name is Al. We come from Arizona, and we sell apples–and then you go through the whole alphabet. There were snack breaks and songs to sing, but no matter how many games we played or songs we sang, we would eventually ask, “When are we going to get there? Are we almost there? How much longer? How about now? How about now? How about NOW?”
Friends, it’s not always easy to wait, is it? Whether we are young or old or somewhere in between, it’s definitely not always easy to be patient! But the truth is our faith never encourages us to rush or to jump into things. On the contrary, over and over again, in Scripture and in the church calendar, we are reminded to take a deep breath, to slow down, and to wait for the right time to come.
The season of Advent–which is the four weeks before Christmas–is a time when we in the church are reminded to wait expectantly for the birth of Jesus, while also remembering that Jesus said that he would come again. So it’s a time to slow down and to prepare ourselves and our homes for the coming of Christ. It’s not always easy to wait and to be patient during Advent, but we usually find that Christmas is worth waiting for.
Then, a few months later, we celebrate Lent–another time of waiting and preparation when we, like Jesus, are called to spend time in the wilderness searching within ourselves and reconnecting with God as we prepare our hearts for Holy Week. Again, it’s not easy to wait and be patient during Lent, but shouting “Alleluia!” on Easter morning is worth waiting for.
Folks, we are constantly encouraged in scripture to wait and be patient. Today’s reading from the book of psalms said: “Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land.”
From the book of Isaiah 40:31, we hear “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
And from the Book of James 5:7-8 we hear “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Well, today’s story about the ascension is no different. Forty days after Jesus rose on Easter, he ascended into heaven. But before he did, he told the disciples exactly what to do. Scripture says: “While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.” Like many human beings, followers of Jesus, and children in cars often do, the disciples started to ask, “Is this the time? How about now? What about now, is now the time? How about now? How about now?” To which Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
Friends, we are always in a rush to do everything. We are hurried, harried modern disciples and we want everything yesterday. What’s even worse is that when we get what we want, we still aren’t happy because then we have our eyes set on the next thing. Not only does Scripture tell us to slow down and the church calendar encourage us to be patient, but Jesus modeled the same behavior. Jesus’ ministry all happened within a small area. He shared stories as he walked along the road, going from place to place. He shared meals in people’s homes, and Jesus was never in a hurry to get places. Even in difficult times and places, Jesus took his time. He experienced every moment and waited for the time to be right, to move on. Now I know that we all feel unsettled right now. Everyone wants to get back to some semblance of normalcy, but friends, let’s stand firm in our faith for a little bit longer. Let’s not follow our earthly need to rush and get what we want, but rather let’s be patient and wait until the time is right for everyone.
I know it’s not easy to wait and be patient right now, but making sure that when we gather for in-person worship we have all of our church family with us? I think that’s worth waiting for. Friends, this week we join with the disciples in having to wait yet again. Can you imagine? Jesus has just ascended into heaven, the disciples are unsure of exactly what is happening next and when it will happen. But this time, they don’t complain. They stop asking “How about now? Is it now? How about now?” They don’t push the limits or think of what they personally want. Instead, they put their faith and trust in Jesus. They go back to the upper room, and in their small family group, they pray and sing and worship as they wait for the right time to come.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s look to the disciples for patience, being patient with ourselves and those around us. Let’s wait until the time is right, continuing to practice our faith where we are, worshiping, singing, praying, and safely reaching out to those in need. Not rushing into anything but continuing to be the church as we keep our faith and trust in Jesus.
My Friends may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen.