August 16, 2020

                                                                              Rev. John Watts

                                                                              Nampa First UMC

 

SUMMER OF LOVE: IT’S PATIENT AND KIND

I Corinthians 13:1-7

The second in a series of four.

 

If that video seems familiar, it’s because you saw it last week. We plan to show it next week too.  And the week after.  We are introducing every sermon in this series with that particular video, and I’m guessing you won’t get tired of it.  It’s pretty cute.

The title of this series by the way is “Summer of Love.”  Thanks to Jenny Durkan, mayor of Seattle for the idea.  We are closing out the summer with this four-part series based on I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.

Last week we said that “Love is Everything.”  We can give a great speech, we can have great knowledge, we can have great faith, we can be great givers, but without love it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  Because love is everything. The whole point of life is love.

Today we’re going to take just a snippet out of the rest of the chapter, the part that says “love is patient and kind.” Be honest. Is your love patient?  Is your love kind?  The love of Jesus was.  He is our model as we grow in love.

If someone were to ask you to describe Jesus with a single word, what would that word be?  Loving?  That would probably be the number one answer on Family Feud.  And that’s probably the answer you are expecting since this is a series about love.  But there actually might be a better answer.  A famous Jesus scholar was asked that question.  “If you had one word to describe Jesus, what would that word be?”  He said, “Relaxed.”

Why did he say that?  Jesus?  Relaxed?  He had the most important job in the history of the world.  He only had three years.  All that pressure!  All that stress!  All that responsibility!  The poor guy must have been worn to a frazzle!  Yet, that is not at all the way the Bible describes him.

You would think he would start those three years like someone shot out of a cannon.  As soon as he landed he would hit the ground running.  He would efficiently manage his time to squeeze as much possible into each day.  But no.  Remember how he started?  As soon as he was baptized and his public ministry was underway, he took 40 days off.  He took a personal retreat into the wilderness so he could spend some unhurried time with God.

Speaking of unhurried, how did he get from place to place?  Helicopter?  No, he walked.  Even when you walk fast, that is a slow way to get places.  You waste a lot of time.

In his best known sermon, he addresses those who are anxious.  He says, slow down.  Don’t worry.  One day at a time.

He seems to have all the time in the world for the people he meets.  That woman for at the well, for example.  There is a whole chapter of their dialogue.

He is in a boat during that terrible storm.  His disciples are freaking out.  What is Jesus doing?  He is taking a nap.

Even in the single moment when Jesus sounds least relaxed, when he gets angry at the money changers and drives them out of the Temple, the way John tells the story, Jesus takes the time to braid his own whip (2:15).  Didn’t they have pre-braided whips back then?  I guess it was good therapy for him to do it himself.  Kind of like counting to 10.

Jesus was laid back.  He was relaxed.  His disciples are often described with another word.  Slow.  Slow to understand, slow to obey, slow to trust, slow to serve.  You don’t recruit slow people for an urgent mission.  But Jesus did.  He had time.  Only three years as it turned out, but he lived and he led and he loved as if he had all the time in the world.  Patiently.  Because love is patient.

Maybe we should say “love is relaxed.”  Sometimes I think we associate patience with gritting our teeth and trying real hard not to lose our temper.  Jesus was not that way.  I don’t think the disciples ever had to say, “Watch out for Jesus today.  He got up off the wrong side of his bed this morning.  Better stay away.”  No, Jesus was the most relaxed person they had ever met.  His love was a patient love.

Andy Stanley’s church in Atlanta did a survey.  They asked, “Which fruit of the spirit do you need to grow in the most?”  The nine fruits of the spirit, by the way, are:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  More than half the people chose “patience.”  Which was a surprise, but if you think about it, it shouldn’t be.

We are living in a time when most everyone seems to be impatient, in a hurry, on edge.  Part of it is technology.  Part of it is the pace of life.  Part of it is the pandemic and the unique strangeness of 2020.

I read about someone in Prineville, Oregon who was taking his over-sized pick-up through a car wash.  Something set him off and he crashed into the vehicle ahead of him, then he backed into the vehicle behind him, then he exited by driving off the conveyor track and through the car wash machinery.  No one was hurt but four vehicles were damaged and the car wash was a complete loss.

We have road rage when we drive and when we stay at home, like we’re supposed to, we spend way too much time in front of our screens.  The CEO of Netflix was asked about competition from other streaming services.  He said, “Our biggest competition is sleep.”  If only people wouldn’t waste so much time sleeping, they would have more time for binge watching.

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879.  Before then, when it got dark you went to bed.  Before Edison, people slept an average of 11 hours a night.  You might know that John Wesley would get up at 4 in the morning to pray.  Everybody marvels at that, but it’s really not that impressive when you realize he probably went to bed at 7.

I think Jesus slept 11 hours a night.  That’s one reason he was so relaxed and patient and kind.  It might help if we got more sleep.

Impatience seems like a small thing, but it’s a lot bigger than we think.  It will ruin your prayer life.  It will keep your relationships shallow.  It will get in the way of your goals.  But we are in a hurry.  We don’t want to wait.  We want it now.

Teilhard de Chardin has a beautiful reading.  It’s a little long.  At first I thought that it was too long to read it to you, but then I realized we’re not in a hurry!  So here’s the whole thing:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.  We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something new.  Yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and it may take a very long time.  And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste.  Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.  Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.  Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.  Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser  (excerpted from Hearts on Fire).

God wants to grow patience in you.  And it’s probably going to take some time.  There’s that prayer:  “God, give me patience, and give it to me now.”  It doesn’t work that way.  God is in no hurry.

And if we are, one thing that will suffer is our ability to be kind.  There is a connection between patience and kindness.  “Love is patient and kind.”  It takes time to know how to be kind to a particular person.  Generic, one-size-fits-all kindness is not very kind. It takes time to understand the uniqueness of people and how best to respond to their individual situation in a helpful way.  Kindness that isn’t helpful is not very kind.  You have to slow down, you have to stop, you have to discern what is most needed.

Love has a passive side.  The passive side of love is patience.  And love has an active side.  The active side of love is kindness.

King David was patient and kind.  He was anointed king as a boy, but Saul was still king.  He had to wait patiently for the crown to pass to him.  While he was waiting, he suffered patiently from Saul who kept trying to kill him.  Then after Saul and his son, Jonathan died in the same battle, and David finally became king, he asked, “Is there anyone else in the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (II Samuel 9:1)

It turned out there was someone.  A young, lame, frightened boy named Mephibosheth. Jonathan’s son.  A rival to David’s throne.  Yet David befriended him and protected him and showed him great kindness.

That’s our question for today.  “To whom can I show kindness?”  Patient kindness.  “Love is patient and kind.”

I’m just going to toss out three suggestions of some simple things you might want to try this week.  The first is, slow down.  Drive the speed limit.  Stop at the stop sign, all the way.  Refrain from road rage.  The other drivers out there are not your enemies, even though sometimes it seems that way.  Ask, “Is there anyone on the road I can show kindness to?”  When you walk, walk slowly.  When you eat, eat slowly.  When you read, read slowly.  Life is not a race.  Or if it is a race, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Take time to smell the roses.  Take time for people.

Second, notice people.  This is hard to do if you are in a hurry.  Only patient people really notice other people.  It’s pretty hard to love people if you haven’t noticed them.

People in a hurry are usually people with an oversized ego.  Other people are a nuisance.  They just get in the way.  Kindness is a waste of time.  Like the priest and the Levite who hurried past the crime victim in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  They had more important things to do than stop and be kind.

But Jesus, who only had three years to save the world, didn’t have anything in his world more important than people.  He noticed Zacchaeus, that tax collector up in the tree, who would have just as soon not be noticed.  Then there was that man who blind from birth who other people ignored.  And the woman who touched the hem of his garment in that crowd of people.  And the children that the disciples were pretty sure Jesus would not have time for.  Jesus was a master at noticing people

Do you know why?  Relaxed people notice.  Hurried people overlook.  So here is a prayer for you:  “Jesus, help me to notice people like you did.  Help me to look at the people you send my way this week, not look past them, but look deep into their eyes.”  Are they sad?  Are they scared?  Are they discouraged?  Is there anyone I can show kindness to?

One more thing to work on this week.  Relational repairs.  It happens.  Feelings get hurt and we are too proud or too stubborn or too busy to do anything about it.  We just let it slide.

Life is all about loving and being loved.  Part of that is forgiving and being forgiven.  The same Paul who wrote the Love Chapter also said:  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

It’s impossible to go through life without hurting people and without being hurt.  A love that is patient and kind is a love that says, “I was wrong.  I am sorry.”  A love that is patient and kind is a love that says, “Our relationship means more to me than my hurt feelings.  I forgive you.”

It happens so often that one life is ending as another is beginning in the same family.  I’ve seen this so many times with other people.  Helen and I saw this 36 years ago as her dad and our daughter crossed paths, one going up to heaven, the other coming down to earth.  And now the birth of our granddaughter and the death of my mom six days apart.

If you were to ask me to describe my mom using only one word, that word would not be relaxed.  And that word would not be patient.  The word would be kind.  That word describes her perfectly.  I’ve never known a kinder person.

My uncle, my mom’s brother, sent me a video that helps us see that the distance from our first day to our last day on this earth is really not that great.  Let’s take a look.

(YouTube: Amazing Drawing / Growing Up)    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O96O-V018eE

Life seems to go by almost that fast!  No one can know how long they have to live on this earth.  Jesus only had 33 years and only three that we know much about.  Every moment is a gift.  Why are we in such a hurry?

Don’t miss your life.  Don’t miss your opportunities to bring joy into other lives.  Notice.  Care.  Love – with great patience and with great kindness.

 

God, help us to slow down, and to notice, and to forgive and be forgiven.  Help us to love.  We are now half way through this series.  God, don’t let us get to the end without being changed, without becoming more loving.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.