There’s a story about a young minister who was not long into his first pastorate when he was visited by his bishop. The two of them talked over the affairs of the church. Then, the bishop asked the novice pastor if there was anything that he, the bishop, should pray about for this frustrated pastor and his church. The young preacher answered, “Pray that God would give me patience.” He explained that as he began this position just out of seminary, he had been anxious to implement a host of new programs that seminary professors had inspired him to start. “I have plans and ideas,” this young clergyman continued, “but the people in this church seem to want to hold me back. No matter what I suggest, I can expect someone to say, ‘I’m not sure our people are ready for what you are suggesting,’ or ‘Give us some time to think over your suggestion, and we’ll talk about it at the next church business meeting.’”
The two of them went up to the altar and knelt down. Then the bishop prayed, “Lord, bring troubles into this preacher’s life. May his tribulations increase.”
“Wait!” the young minister shouted. “Why would you pray for me to have troubles and difficulties? I asked you to pray for me to have patience!”
The bishop reminded the young minister of what Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4: “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (kjv). There is more to patience than what we usually mean by that word. More recent translations of the passage the bishop quoted reveal the depth of what Paul means: endurance. When frustrations immobilize us, we can ask what we might gain by enduring them. God may be trying to slow us down, and God has given us the prophets as our example.
God, help us to learn to endure frustrations with patience as we wait for the coming of the Lord. 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?
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