Sunday Reflection

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. James 5

As a child, I used to strategically unwrap my Christmas presents that were placed under the tree well before Christmas. I would carefully maneuver the tape off the edges and neatly unfold the wrapping paper on the ends hoping my deed would go undetected. I had a meticulous procedure and the steady hand of a brain surgeon. After I had taken inventory of the goods, I would then, with just as much care, reassemble the wrapping to leave no trace. I had no patience for the coming of Christmas morning. One could say that I was not a fan of Advent.

In the book of James, we see patience as the focal point. There are two words that I disdain greatly, especially when they are used together and directed at me: “Be patient.” My first thought is, “Easier said than done, do you realize you are talking to the Christmas present bandit?” But James gives us a new way to approach patience, which inspires hope even to Christmas present bandits. The hope that James describes for patience is not achieved by looking upward to some heavenly salvation, nor is it looking inwards to some sort of spiritual illumination, but instead he asks us to look at each other, directly and squarely in the faces of our neighbors.

The patience James is proposing is given by the Holy Spirit and deeply rooted in faith, but it is achieved through community. He exhorts us to strengthen our hearts as a community. We learn patience in suffering as we participate in a common life of faith with one another: not by grumbling, not by backbiting, but by watching and caring for one another.

Although patience is grounded in faith and is undoubtedly a gift of the Holy Spirit, James shows us that patience is also cultivated by deep compassion and love toward one another. Patience means sitting all together, looking longingly at the presents under the Christmas tree, and not grumbling that they can’t be opened right now, but rather strengthening each other’s hearts, in the hope that the day is drawing near when the greatest present of all will be revealed.

Who do you consider your community of faith? Who do you consider your neighbor? How can you nurture and encourage patience within these relationships? In what areas of your life do you see a lack of patience (e.g. finances, marriage, friendships, parenthood or relationships)? How can you allow God to stir your heart and expose bountiful grace and mercy? ✦ Amanda Payne, Sermon that Works.  

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