Fruit of the Spirit - Patience
Scripture Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 Sermon: The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience by Pastor Jenn
Not sure what you were doing on July 4th, but this is what my husband was doing. Waiting.
Waiting in line at Sheetz, who were selling their gas for $1.776 a gallon. Yes, can you believe it! Word got out as the day continued through social media and news. We found out through my mother whose cousin told her she got up at 4am to go to Sheetz to fill their RV.
And by 7pm on the 4th there were signs like this: sold out, because yes, all gas was that cost, including the higher grades. Fortunately my car doesn’t take that.
So, was it worth the wait? YES! Scott and I can’t remember gas that cheap in our entire marriage! It was definitely worth the wait.
But waiting is not always easy, is it?
We wait for the time we need to leave for work, or the time we can leave work. We wait for emails or the items we ordered through the mail. We wait for the food to be cooked, the dishes to be done, the nightly news to come on. And sometimes, let’s face it, we wait for sleep. Yet today’s lesson encourages us to be patient in our waiting, because God’s Spirit empowers us to be patient.
The background to this text is this, the church of Thessalonica was in what we know as Greece today, in fact it still exists there, but it’s name ends with a k not a c. It was also one of the first stops Paul made on his first missionary trip after converting to Christianity. There he tried to convert the Jewish population with the gospel of Christ, but they disagreed with his teachings.
However, the Gentiles, the non-Jews, heard Paul, and chose to believe. Paul lead them for as long as he could in a house church, until the Jewish leaders ran Paul out of the city. That’s when Paul sent Timothy there, and Timothy writes to Paul, who is now in Corinth, sharing how the Gentiles were struggling in their understanding of this new faith, as well as being persecuted by the unbelievers. This letter was Paul’s response to those concerns.
In the beginning of the letter, Paul writes to nurture their faith development by praising them. He writes: 1: 2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In chapter 2 he writes about what a blessing it was to be part of their church,2: 13 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. And he ends that chapter hoping to visit them again one day.
In chapter 3 Paul references the report he received from Timothy about them and writes, 3: 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
And in chapter 4, Paul writes about what he and all Christians at that time were waiting for, the coming of the Lord. 4: 16For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so, we will be with the Lord for ever. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Now you do need to know that Paul believed Jesus was coming back in his time. So, the ministry he shared was focused on being ready and waiting. Waiting for Jesus’ return, when they can be with the Lord forever. Which is why in chapter 5 Paul calls for patience, as our lesson shared, because they were waiting for the second coming. And yet, what I want to say is that as we read and hear these words,we should recognize what it means to have the fruit of the Spirit that is patience for our lives today, who are still waiting for Jesus to return, but recognize living life now with the ways of Jesus is what God wants and hopes for us.
I want you to listen to the Message’s interpretation of this text (a contemporary translation of the Bible): Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
What a powerful lesson. Let’s face it, when we are feeling impatient, that impatience grows within us, and it can lead us to act out, you know getting upset, or angry, and usually at someone or something else that has nothing to do with the situation we are impatient about! But when that happens, Paul says be careful, and instead look for the best in each other! Further do your part to bring their best out! That’s exactly what Paul was doing with this letter, right? It’s what we should strive for too.
Did you know that while polls reveal that a majority of Americans believe it is mental health issues that lead to gun violence, research is showing it’s actually conflict, frustrations, anger, disagreements, and the access to guns, which are a quick way of dealing with those emotions if no other options are known or experienced.
Erin O’Brien, in their April 2023 article in Psychiatric Times titled: Changing the Narrative: Mental Illness and Gun Violence, interviewed Dr. Rahn Kennedy Bailey, who is chairman of psychiatry at LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, and he says interpersonal engagement is key to preventing gun violence. He teaches this in his training for violence prevention to mental health clinicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, case managers, pastors, and teachers.
He says: “We spend much of our professional training time geared toward conflict resolution strategies. The prospective one takes when engaging in conflict resolution is detrimentally opposed when the prospective taken is trying to win because we are trained to have a win-win outcome; to find a space for both to maintain self-respect and dignity and not feel disrespected is the goal for conflict resolution.”1
Hearing that, receive what Paul writes again, Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
Maybe teaching about patience and understanding is the key to less gun violence in our country. Especially if we welcome the work of the Spirit of God in and among us.
Paul continues, 19-22 Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!
Paul claims the Spirit of God is at work to make us holy and whole, spirit, soul, and body. And this is something we can depend on, especially if we trust in the ministry and resurrection of Jesus Christ because God’s power is transforming the world through the gospel of Christ, and through the Church, where God is strengthening and building up the believers with the fruit of the Spirit.
Friends, I know we often find ourselves waiting, waiting for God to make all things holy, whole, and right. To take away are bent for sinning, to take away the violence that destroys lives and communities, to heal, to provide.
But hear the good news, God has given us the Holy Spirit, so that in our waiting, we are not idle, but following God’s will. To share love, joy, peace, and patience. And in so doing, trust that God is at work with us to correct the wrongs we know and see, and even some we may not recognize yet.
Rev. Robert Schuller, once shared this statement regarding patience; Don't try to rush God. Mountains don't move overnight. Give God time to work miracles. I have seen God dissolve resentments, resolve frustrations, fill lonely hearts with new love, and wash away hurts like a new wave washes away scars on sand scratched by children's sticks. I have seen God turn juvenile delinquents into great men, criminals into good citizens, alcoholics into church elders. God can get you out of a rut, onto a new road, and over the mountain that seemed impassable, if you will be patient.2
His point is the present is never the end of the story. No matter how discouraging it seems now, God is at work among us and justice and righteousness and love will have the final word, therefore we can wait for that victorious word if we let the Holy Spirit produce in and around us the fruit of patience.
Let me close with one more example of patience. Today is the 71st anniversary of Claude and Louise Swartzbaugh, long time members of this church and community. And following our 10am service there will be a light reception to celebrate with them, hosted by their children. And in that time, we will watch a movie of their wedding. Now, keep in mind this was 71 years ago, long before the iphone, or home video cameras. Claude and Louise got married on a national television show called The Bride and Groom. And we will be watching that 14 minute video. But I want to share with you a clip from that video now. They were interviewed before the ceremony, and listen to what is asked and what is answered.
(start at 3:00minutes and end at 4:06 minutes to see this part)
Notice they said it both took time for them to know their love for one another. They were patient, patient in their understanding of each other, patient in understanding their relationship. And in their marriage that patience continued.
They were patient in achieving their work goals. Patient in developing a family. Patient in honoring and serving God, patient in honoring and serving others. They were patient because love is patient.
Friends, I know waiting can be trying, and difficult at times. But when you find yourself struggling in those situations, know this, God’s fruit of patience is a given, and therefore we must trust that in those times of waiting, the Spirit is at work. To bring joy (like cheap gas), to bring peace (to the church of Thessalonica), to bring love (Claude & Louise).
Let us pray: Lord, we are human—which often makes us oblivious to what’s around us. We are in so much of a hurry to get our own stuff done, that we forget to stop and notice what’s going on with everyone else. Nudge us when we get distracted and caught up in ourselves. Remind us that we need each other, and we need each other in the Church.
On this day we do pray for those who are struggling with challenges. Whether it is sickness, sorrow, pain, hunger, or anger, we pray for your intervention to help them and we offer ourselves to assist in that work. Because of Jesus, we know they are not meant to walk through life alone and we thank you for the opportunities to be Jesus to each other.
And on this day we especially thank you for the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience that calms our waiting, our wanting, our tempers, and leads us to trust and believe in your salvation that makes all things holy and whole in our lives and in the world. We thank you for the examples of patience given in scripture and in life, may they inspire and direct our ways. And on this day we are grateful for the wedding anniversary of Claude and Louise. May their patient love continued to be blessed in your name. We offer this prayer in the name of you Son, Jesus Christ who taught us to pray…Our Father... Amen.