Third in a Series of Sermons on Waiting for Jesus
James 5: 8 – You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Isaiah 35:10- And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last weekend we started out with two words – fire and brimstone. Today we start out on a bit more of a positive note with the two words, (Patience) and (Joy). Last week we fixed our attention on the preaching of repentance, today on the fruits of repentance. Last week, we saw that there will be days where we will be forgiving others in the Name of Jesus even though nobody seems to be caring that we forgave them at all. Today, we see that wherever the forgiveness of sins takes ahold in our hearts, there will be new life and a growing faith. Even in days of illness and suffering, in fact, especially in days of illness and suffering, the promise of our God is to be growing us up into Christ Jesus, and whenever we are growing up in Christian faith, there will be a distinctively Christian patience and joy, as opposed to just a generic kind of patience and joy as we wait for Jesus to come back one more time. Two parts to our sermon today, the first on the subject of patience and the second on joy. The first part is based mainly on James chapter 5 and the second part on Old Testament and Gospel lessons appointed for today.
Days of growing into a patience that overwhelms our habit of (groaning against each other). The kingdom of God is like a man who buys new strings of Christmas lights every year instead of trying to untangle the old ones. He has plenty of time to untangle the old ones, but not the patience. When asked about it, he answers, “When God was handing out patience, he left me out!”
I don’t know if I have ever heard somebody say that they were blessed by God with patience. I know plenty of folks who are patient, but nobody who suggests they are that way by nature. In his book “The Love Dare”, the author suggests that Christian love is built on two pillars that best define what it is – those two pillars are patience and kindness. He has this to say about patience, “Love will inspire you to become a patient person, When you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation. You are slow to anger. You choose to have a long first instead of a quick temper. Rather than being restless and demanding, love helps you settle down and begin extending mercy to those around you. Patience brings an internal calm during an external storm…..more than clapping a hand over your mouth, patience is a deep breath. It clears the air. It stops foolishness from whipping its scorpion tail all over the room…few of us do patience very well, and none of us do it naturally. But wise men and women will pursue it as an essential ingredient to their relationships….”
In today’s Epistle lesson, James was writing to encourage Christians who were being persecuted for their faith, he wanted them to see life as a journey not so much as from cradle to grave, but rather as a journey from baptism to the parousia / second coming. The culture’s philosophy would be that bad stuff happens to you and then you die, but the church’s teaching is that the really good days are yet to come. The world around us has a habit of grumbling and groaning against all that is right in life, James would have us learn from farmers, he would have us learn from the prophets, and he would us learn from Job himself habits of patience.
The patience of a farmer who knows without a doubt there will be a (harvest). By definition, farmers believe in the process planting, growing, and harvesting. They know that planting, cultivating, and harvesting are part of their job description, and growing is in God’s. Most farmers have learned from their dads and grandpas do their work in a timely fashion and trust that God will provide. Patience is to be practiced, it is to be learned over the course of time by trial and error, it is something we have some days more than others. The really good news about distinctively Christian patience is that is worked on the inside of us by the Spirit of God as we experience God’s patience with us over the course of a lifetime. And the more patience is growing up on the inside of us, the less room there is in our hearts for groaning about this, moaning about that, grumbling against one another.
The patience of prophets who knew they were suffering for a (cause above all causes). James writes, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Prophets and pastors and teachers in all generations know that when they speak, they speak with the very authority of the one true God. They know the Word of God has the very ability to save souls for time and for eternity. We received word from Liberian Children’s Ministry this week that enrollment in our 13 Lutheran schools is at 4500 this year, an increase of 1000 over last year. Even more amazing than that is that 75% of these additional children come from non church families. Even more amazing than that is at the very school we are building in Zleh Town, 38 children and adults were baptized during a single worship service about a month ago. The cause of Jesus Christ is the cause above all causes, His Name is above all names, isn’t it true that the more and more we taste how good is our God, the less and less room there is in our hearts for groaning about this, moaning about that, grumbling against each other.
The patience of Job who believed that when all the dust settled, His Redeemer would be (living) The readers of James’ Epistle had heard about Job. James wanted them to recall Job’s brave perseverance under the severest of afflictions. He wanted them to remember both the agenda of Satan and that of God. Satan’s agenda was for Job to curse God and die, God’s was for the example of Job to bless generations to come. Satan’s agenda was for Job to fall away from the one true God, God’s agenda was to draw him closer and closer. Listen to what James wrote in chapter 1, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Can you see how it is that we are all under construction, that our God’s great desire is not only to forgive our sins, it is for the Spirit of God to be in control, it is for us not only to survive our days of trouble, but for our days of trouble to produce inside of us both patience and joy that are distinctively Christian and absolutely contagious. Which brings us to a second and final part of our sermon.
Days of growing into a joy that keeps on chasing away (sorrow and sighing) The kingdom of God is like a woman whose health is failing, she can’t live in her own home anymore, she spends her days needing to be helped by the very folks she used to take care of. Her days are filled with all kinds of aches and pains, she more and more feels like a burden to others, and in the midst of her idleness, the devil is doing a number on her. More and more she is discouraged, she is empty, and she wonders why she should still be living. In the middle of all of that, her pastor visits, he offers and she receives her Lord’s Supper. As she uses her ears to hear and her lips to taste, in those very moments, an old and familiar gladness rises up on the inside of her. Sorrow and sighing are fleeing away, even running for their lives.
Dear Christian friends, two truths we would learn again today about what it means to have Christian joy growing up inside of us. Advent joy, Christmas joy, Good Friday joy, Easter joy, it is. Distinctively Christ-centered and Spirit given joy,and not just a little bit of it once in awhile, but to have it regularly, to have it abundantly, and to have it in a way that is contagious.
Both Isaiah and Jesus would teach us today that it is first of all The joy of walking along the “highway of safety” (already here and now). For people of Isaiah’s day, certain roads leading to the temple were only available to those who were ceremonially pure, the unclean were not at all welcome. Isaiah was inviting them to look forward to that day when the people of God return out of captivity to their beloved homeland, even beyond that they looked forward to the days of the Messiah when their sins would be paid for once and for all, days when all prophecies would be fulfilled without exception, days when salvation would be not just for the Jews but for the Gentiles as well.
Dear Friends in Christ, already here and now, there is a highway of safety on which all of the believing and baptized are able to travel. Already here and now there is a way for weak hands to be strengthened and feeble knees made firm, already now there is a voice telling anxious hearts to fear not, our God has already come with His strong arm of salvation, already now we live knowing that there is a light at the end of every one of our tunnels, there is a safety net underneath every one of our falls, there is a guardian angel for every one of our children. Already now, we live one day at a time by the grace of God as the precious, protected, and provided for people of God.
And more than that, we have the the joy of looking forward to a glorious day (coming soon). We look forward not with just a little bit of cautious optimism, but exuberant joy to day when the eyes of every blind will be opened, the ears of all the deaf will be unstopped, the legs of every lame man will be leaping like a deer, and the tongue of every mute will be singing for joy. We look forward not just with a little bit of cautious optimism to a day when burning sand deserts turn into pools and thirst grounds into springs of water, to a day when protesters will no longer be protesting and complainers will no longer be complaining and grumblers will have no reason to grumble. Looking forward with a joy that is for certain and for real, and more than that looking forward with a joy that is contagious in the words that we speak and in the deeds that we do and in the attitudes that we carry around.
The kingdom of God is like a former vicar of ours, a man in his 40’s with a wonderful wife and three boys, ages 9, 7,and 5, who in recent days has learned that he has a chronic cancer to be dealt with the rest of his life. In coming weeks, he tells us he will undergo surgery in which his lung will be pasted to his chest to stop the fluid from filling the space. Secondly, they will use a robot to surgically remove his kidney. Following that, he speculates there will be twists and turns, all kinds of bumps and bruises along the road his family will be traveling. But on this one matter, there is no speculation. That they will be walking along a highway of safety. A highway where Jesus Christ has already gone on before them, He will be walking alongside of them, and He will be picking up the pieces behind them. And even more than that, the Spirit of the living God will be growing inside of them 1) a distinctively Christ-centered patience that will time and time again overwhelm any temptation to grumble, and 2) an everlasting kind of a gladness from which sorrow and sighing will have no choice but to flee away. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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