The Power of Patience
Indianapolis First Friends Quaker Meeting
Pastor Bob Henry
September 30, 2018
John 14:5-11 (NRSV) Page in the Pew Bible. _______
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know[a] my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
This week as I was doing my research for this sermon, I read an article by Dr. Judith Orloff on Psychology Today’s website. The title of the article was “The Power of Patience.” Here is a bit of what she had to say,
We need a new bumper sticker: FRUSTRATION HAPPENS. Every morning, noon, and night there are plenty of good reasons to be impatient. Another long line. Telemarketers. A goal isn’t materializing “fast enough.” People don’t do what they’re supposed to. Rejection. Disappointment. How to deal with it all? You can drive yourself crazy, behave irritably, feel victimized, or try to force an outcome--all self-defeating reactions that alienate others and bring out the worst in them. Or, you can learn to transform frustration with patience.
Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation, but power. It’s an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act. I want to give patience a twenty-first-century makeover, so you’ll appreciate its worth. Patience has gotten a bad rap for the wrong reasons. Too many people, when you say, “Have patience,” it feels unreasonable and inhibiting, an unfair stalling of aspirations, some Victorian hang-up or hangover. Is this what you’re thinking? Well, reconsider. I’m presenting patience as a form of compassion, a re-attuning to intuition, a way to emotionally redeem your center in a world filled with frustration.
I like what she is getting at. I think the church has given patience a bad rap as well. I am sure you’ve heard it said;
“Whatever you do, don’t ask God for patience…because God will give it to you.”
But what Dr. Orloff is getting at, is that when we look at patience as a difficult thing, or something to avoid asking God for, patience becomes problematic instead of helpful. I agree that patience needs a makeover in our world today.
If we were to look at patience as a form of compassion, a re-attuning to intuition, a way to emotionally redeem one’s center, it would be beneficial, and I can see it immediately making a difference in our personal and corporate lives. And I don’t know about you, but what Dr. Orloff is talking about seems very much Quaker in orientation and process.
See, early Quakers were part of, what I will call, “the original Slow Movement” They were known to discover a third way to respond to, what they labeled, “the presence of darkness” within their own hearts and in the surrounding society.
They also were known for not hiding from the truth, nor wallowing in their own issues. Early Quakers clearly knew that playing the “blame game” was not going to help move them toward the light, so instead, they embraced patient waiting, to help them be more compassionate to their neighbors, to help re-focus themselves on seeking after truth, and to ultimately center themselves before making decisions.
If you notice, Dr. Orloff’s makeover is simply taking us back to our Quaker roots.
Quaker James Nayler in 1659 referred to this as “waiting in patience.” It was taking the time to slow down in a patient way to mind our inner light. He described it this way.
Art thou in darkness? Mind it not, for if thou dost it will feed thee more. But stand still, and act not, and wait in patience, till light arises out of darkness and leads thee.
In many religions, as well as early Quakerism, darkness and light were the metaphors used to help one see the stark contrast of the good and bad parts of life and even God. It still is being engrained in our culture, just look at our obsession with the darkness and light in Star Wars – and that is just one example of many.
Interestingly, almost every world religion sees patience as a way to know God and more specifically the ways of God in our world.
Instead of getting caught up in “darkness,” frustration, and the externals pressures of this world, waiting in patience is what Dr. Orloff says, “draws us inward to a greater wisdom….” It connects us to our inner light and to how we are to respond to the world around us.
Dr. Orloff concludes by saying, “…patience doesn’t make you a doormat or unable to set boundaries with people…Rather, it lets you intuit the situations to get a larger more loving view to determine right action.”
Patience is what helps us love and act in ways that are beneficial to our community. In the last several months, I have been challenging myself to take a moment, wait, and patiently think before responding. It is hard for me – especially since I like to process and dialogue about things in the moment. It has been a real discipline to seek patience first. The reality is that most of us are wrestling in our busy lives and world with our impatience and its negative effects on that needed love and action that Dr. Orloff is speaking about.
Let’s take a moment to ponder some of this as it relates to impatience:
· In what sort of situations do you find yourself most impatient?
· Why are you impatient, and how do you deal with your impatience?
· What groups, people, organizations, etc. cause you to be impatient?
[Pause and reflect]
When we start to address the “darkness” around us, the frustration that seems to grip us, the external pressures that we, our work, our families, the news, our world put on us, we begin to notice the impatience that is or has been growing.
We begin to notice the lack of compassion we have for our neighbors and their situations (as well as compassion for ourselves). We begin to have “short fuses” and become irritated by little things.
We notice that we are no longer as intuitive and willing to try and reason or understand or work to see what is actually going on (or take time to understand the back story). Instead we are quick to make assumptions and think our view is the right and only way.
And then as part of our struggle and impatience, we often lose control of our emotions. Some may go inward in a negative way and become depressed emotionally while others may become outwardly expressive emotionally. There are many ways we express our struggle.
Let me ask you some more queries that will address your impatience, and really pay attention to how they make you feel:
· How do you feel about being stuck behind cars that go slowly on your way to work or to an event? How often do you honk your horn or god-forbid give someone the bird?
· How do you react to a slow cashier at the grocery store? Or in the drive up at a fast-food restaurant?
· What is your response to children who dawdle? or adolescents that take too long to respond, or parents who hover like helicopters?
· How do you respond when someone does not understand your explanation or belief about a certain topic?
· What deadlines in your life effect you?
· How much does not having WIFI or internet service bother you? Or when the cable goes off during your television program? Or when your computer will not connect to that printer?
By now, I should have given almost everyone in the room a little impatient feeling and maybe even a heightened blood pressure or heart rate.
We are an impatient lot – aren’t we?
Today’s scripture gives us a picture of the disciples’ impatience with Jesus.
· Thomas is frustrated because he doesn’t know where Jesus is going. And isn’t sure he knows the way?
· Philip wants to see fully or clearly – and only when he does will he be satisfied.
Now, these two disciples I think we can relate to. Thomas and Philip remind me of the children in the back seat asking their parent driving, “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” “Do we need a map?” “Are we lost?” “How much further?” And Jesus is simply saying, “Trust me.”
And then over the years, the conversation continues to develop into the parents saying to the child, “Be aware, watch, notice your surroundings – check the street signs, know the neighborhoods you are in, someday soon you will be driving.” The parent is trying to bestow on the child “the way,” “the truth” and “the life.”
Jesus is being the patient example and teacher – just like the father in my example. He is teaching the disciples to follow his way, to be truth, and to live life to the fullest - all while asking them to be patient – through getting to know him, seeing him, believing him. Yet Jesus goes even one step further in saying, if you can’t believe me in this, let the works speak for themselves. Let what I have shown you and done among you speak for itself.
Carl Gregg on his Pathos blog puts this into perspective. He says,
The best summation I’ve seen of this perspective is by the pastor, writer, and spiritual director Eugene Peterson. Peterson encapsulates Jesus’ point in John 14 by saying,
“Only when we do the Jesus truth in the Jesus way do we get the Jesus life.”
Isolating only the so-called “Jesus truth” yields a disembodied orthodoxy: all the right words with no behavior to make the words believable. More important is the “Jesus Way” of loving God and loving neighbor.
In the book, The Jesus Way, Eugene Peterson says,
“A Christian congregation, the church in your neighborhood, has always been the primary location for getting this way and truth and life of Jesus believed and embodied.”
If Peterson is right, what might this mean for you and me and First Friends?
Just think about that for a moment. Are we willing to be patient and slow down so we can embody the way, the truth, and the life among our neighbors, our families, our world?
To close, I would like to leave you with this thought from the book, “Slow Church”
Before I share the quote, I also want to let you know that John Pattison and Chris Smith who wrote Slow Church will be with us live and in person (or maybe I should say, in our neighborhood)on Sunday, October 14. We will be offering breakfast that morning at 8:30am followed by a special Education Hour before the service at 9am. They will also be preaching during Meeting for Worship that Sunday. I highly encourage you all to come, especially our clerks, committee members, concerned friends and neighbors to engage in this ongoing conversation.
Now, here is what John and Chris say,
The local church is the crucible in which we are forged as the patient people of God…As we mature together into the fullness of Christ, over time and in our places, we learn patience by forgiving and being reconciled to one another. Our brothers and sisters may incessantly annoy us. But we are called in Christ to love and to be reconciled to them. Just as marriage vows serve as a covenant bond that holds a couple together in difficult times, our commitment to our faith community is essential if we are to learn patience and practice stability. Patience can hold us together when other forces conspire to rip us asunder.
Embrace the patient way of Christ this week so that through compassion we can “do the Jesus truth in the Jesus way” and work toward the Jesus life together!