Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Patient perseverance is one of the most needed virtues of our time. What doesn’t help is that we are programmed to have everything instantly. I even get annoyed when my computer doesn’t respond instantly.
As Christians we live in a tension between what we are called to be by God, and what appears to be our actual situation. The two are not the same thing and if we don’t have patience one of two things happen.
- We are frustrated on an ongoing basis
- We get cynical and our faith winds down.
This really is nothing new. Jacob is on his way to Haran. He is a skilled man and in his famous dream of the stairway to heaven he is given an amazing promise.
13And the Lord stood beside him* and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed* in you and in your offspring. 15Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’
But what faces Jacob? We know that in the next 14 plus years he is cheated and put to hard labour by his father-in-law. At that point it looked anything but like all the families of the earth shall be blessed* in you.
He needed to keep believing in patience.
Paul says to the Roman church, 18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
Here we have it again! A glorious future promised by God, but what is experienced, is suffering.
He speaks about obtaining the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
He then says the reality however is this:
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
We’re groaning, says Paul, like a woman in labour. There is pain and we are waiting.
So how does Paul suggest the Roman Christians live?
24For in* hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes* for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
The church in Rome needs to keep believing in patience.
In the Gospel reading we come across the parable of the Wheat and the Tares as it used to be called. In other words, the Wheat and the Weeds.
Again we have a situation where Jesus tells them to be patient, not to get rid of the weeds. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
In other words, you will need to keep believing in patience until the harvest time – until the end of the age.
All 3 of our readings present a similar problem: things are tough now. However, keep believing and be patient.
What about us here in 2017?
Has the sun set on your hopes and dreams? Do you sometimes read the Scriptures and think, “This all sound s very grand but it’s so far removed from my experience as to be daft.”
Sometimes we need to stop, and rest.
Jacob did just that. He was on the run from his brother and decided to head off to his Uncle’s home in Haran.
11He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set.
One of the best things we can do when the sun seems to be setting on our aspirations, when life seems to be getting the better of us, is to rest.
Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.
There is something wonderfully healing about not rushing here and there to look for solutions.
I was on the church website the other day and I read Fay and Penny’s bios. Fay was baptised at St Peter’s and here she is serving God as the People’s Warden. Penny was baptised, confirmed and married at St Peter’s and here she is serving God as the Vicar’s Warden.
Jacob, after stopping, took one of the stones of the place, not a box of tricks from somewhere more illustrious. He came to a certain place it says. It’s not even significant enough to name, and stayed there for the night.
I have known people who have hopped from one place to another looking for a solution to their problems. It doesn’t work.
Here’s a true story. When I was at University I attended a poor little church that met in the St John’s Ambulance Hall. It consisted of about 30 uni students, two families who worked for the equivalent of DOC and a large and needy family. That was in 1974. In 1983 I found myself leading worship in front of over 600 people. Today that church is one of the largest in South Africa and is led by a man who was a 12yr old in the home group that I and another man jointly ran.
This is not going to happen to everyone, but we had a young man with great potential who joined us – a man who ran his own business. A new interdenominational church came to town. It was all the rage. It preached a trendy message and was filled with trendy people. This man left us because we were dull and lacking in faith – apparently. That trendy church no longer exists and that man ended up broke and in jail. He didn’t have patience and he didn’t know how to settle.
When we have stopped to rest we can settle down and be in a place where we are receptive to god.
BE RECEPTIVE TO GOD’S PROMISES
When Jacob put his head down on the rock to sleep he was receptive because when God gave him a dream, he remembered it. He didn’t rub the sleepy seeds from his eyes and wonder why he’d eaten so much cheese the night before with the vague notion that he’d had weird dreams. No, he recalled God’s words to him that
all the families of the earth shall be blessed* in you and in your offspring. 15Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’
RESPOND IN FAITH
How do we respond to God’s promises?
16Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 17And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
Jacob responded in faith! He didn’t know it before but now he says, Surely the Lord is in this place.
Discerning God at work is a matter of faith.
LIVE WITH PATIENT OPTIMISM
This is not in our reading but we know that Jacob met young Rachel and she was a stunner. They fell in love and Laban, her father, said Jacob could have her as his wife, but he had to work 7 years for him to earn her hand in marriage. Jacob did so and then Laban refused to give Rachel to Jacob. Instead he was given her sister Leah as a wife.
But Jacob was patient, he negotiated with Laban who agreed to give him Rachel if he worked another 7 years. Jacob did so and more, even though Laban cheated him again and again in their joint farming enterprise. Jacob eventually returned home to the land of Canaan and reunited with his brother Esau. He was blessed with large herds and a large family, after whom the 12 tribes of Israel were named.
Did Jacob go through troubles? Of course he did.
Did he go through pain? Of course he did.
Did things look hopeless at times? Of course they did. But Jacob hung in there with patience and trust in God’s promises.
You may be pure wheat but be bothered by weeds. Don’t uproot and move to better pasture. Hang in there and God will gather the weeds eventually.
I’d like to end with a verse from Jeremiah: take it to heart and hold onto it and keep believing in patience. In the midst of Judah’s darkest days (i.e. the Exile to Babylon) Jeremiah writes these words, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29: 11)
Patient perseverance in faith.
God bless you all
- Genesis 28: 10 – 19a
- Romans 8: 12 – 25
- Matthew 13: 24 – 30, 36 – 43