Sunday, February 03, 2013

Patience, Patience

Today we celebrated The Presentation of Jesus, and our sermon focused on the patience of Simeon and the prophet Hanna as told in Luke 2:22-40.
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

There was also a prophet, Anna (Hanna) the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child (him) to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Sometimes I think that the loud minority of "fixers" could use a dose or two of the patience of Simeon and Hanna. Patience is one of those old virtues that doesn't have a prayer of surviving in today's mad rush to get the latest new gadget, new app, or new issue on the table.

Ten years have gone by since the election of the Episcopal church's first openly gay, non-celibate, divorced male bishop. That was the issue that had to be rushed to the table at the time. The "fixers" were demanding "Justice!", and they were quick to push forward whatever votes or resolutions were needed while the fire was hot. Many of my friends left the church at that point. After much prayer, I felt called to stay and to be patient. Patience in difficult circumstances is not something that I would have asked for, but I believe that the extra time to observe, to listen, to study, and to confront, was what I needed, and I am thankful to the Lord for giving me these ten years.

As to what the future will bring, I can only pray to be delivered safely into His arms at the last, and until then I will pray for guidance.

Just this week in my prayers I heard a response that I did not desire. It came as two words: "Study more". I, like most, never did like to study. Serious study is hard work. Such study requires discipline. I have done it for extended periods in the past, and I can't say that I enjoyed the process, but the fruits of that labor have been great. Part of me responded to those two words "Study more" with a sarcastic, "Thanks alot." The other side of me said, "Maybe it is time to double down."

As our priest announced the upcoming Lenten programs would include a session on Buddhism during the "Faith Formation" (formerly known as "Christian Education") hour on Feb. 17, I could but shake my head and think, "Here we go again."

Today, in my inbox I received the following, and I had to think of the patience of Simeon as I read it,
“God’s children, should pray. You should cry day and night unto God. God hears every one of your cries, in the busy hour of the daytime, and in the lonely watches of the night. He treasures them up from day-to-day; soon the full answer will come down: ‘He will answer speedily.’

Christ never loses one believing prayer. The prayers of every believer, from Abel to the present day, He heaps upon the altar, from which they are continually ascending before His Father and our Father; and when the altar can hold no more, the full, the eternal answer will come down.

Do not be discouraged, dearly beloved, because God bears long with you—because He does not seem to answer your prayers. Your prayers are not lost. When the merchant sends his ships to distant shores, he does not expect them to come back richly laden in a single day: he has long patience.

'It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.' Perhaps your prayers will come back, like the ships of the merchant, all the more heavily laden with blessings, because of the delay.”

--Robert Murray M'Cheyne, "Fourth Pastoral Letter: Edinburgh, February 20, 1839" in Robert Murray M'Cheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 193-194. h/t Tolle Lege

I think that is an excellent preparation for Lent.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
Galatians 5:22-23 King James Version (KJV)

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