How many of you have ever been called pessimistic or negative? Are you a Negative Ned and Nancy Nay-sayer? Or a Debbie or Donnie Downer?
Something deep within our fallen pessimism tells us that when Jesus says, “A little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16), it’s like a doctor saying, “This will only hurt a little bit.”
We don’t believe it.
We live in a drive-thru world—buying now and paying later. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch commercials.
We like hymns with three stanzas, and, thank the coronavirus, Pastor’s sermons are only one page long.
Godly patience is a virtue that we rarely exhibit.
Joseph was betrayed, jailed, and forgotten.
Job, sinner though he was, endured.
The disciples, with Jesus’ body in the tomb, waited.
Those were all “little whiles.”
For Joseph, years. For Job, months. For the disciples, days. All eternal-feeling “little whiles.”
It may have seemed like God was slow to help Joseph. Slow to speak to Job. And even slow to visit and relieve the disciples, but “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The Lord remembered Joseph. He—finally—spoke to Job. And Jesus came to His disciples on the evening of that day, as promised.
Despite fear, worries, betrayals, and self-quarantine, Jesus came and stood among them speaking peace into existence as light from darkness.
Since then, the Church endures her “little whiles.”
When are yours? They don’t have to be virus-related.
Slow internet? When you have to repeat yourself? When a child won’t nap?
When do you shut the door, as the disciples did, in fear? From your spouse, from your family, from your friends, from your children? When do you hide?
We usually handle the initial onslaught of evil—the devil, the world, and our flesh—fairly well.
Our faith is trained. We pray and hope. Good!
But when the “while” part of the “little while” settles in, when we realize that we might have to live with this, with suffering, with consequences, limitations, broken trust, and maybe even a sad future, we get scared.
Ask the widows. Ask those in prison.
Ask the parents of hospitalized children.
We experience the broken and dying aspects of life.
But do we know that the world is broken and dying because it is at enmity with God?
Inmates know this. And widows. And the cancer ward.
Joseph—and Job—and the disciples—these all learned to hope in the Word and promises of God.
“Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), Jesus says.
And it’s as if He says, “I’m with you in the little whiles and the long little whiles. You will see Me again. I’m coming back. I’ll keep My Word. Believe in Me unto life everlasting.”
We know that Jesus says, “…A little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).
We must wait.
But the only way to wait is to be ready.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
He comes to you by means—proclaimed, poured, and given and shed. That you would be comforted.
You (or your children or your spouse) may suffer for the rest of your life. You have peace here and now in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
You may lack. You may doubt. You may fear.
But the perfect love of God casts out our fear.
When you sit before the Lord, your cup runneth over.
You have no lack.
St. Paul says it this way: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5) [in Holy Baptism].
So we rejoice. And and endure. And wait in the Lord.
Patience is a gift from God, a fruit of the Spirit that abides in the Christian.
It’s part of the good conscience that God gives His children.
Part of the clean heart that God creates in us.
Wait on the Lord and His promises.
And not yourself.
What Jesus says is true: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:21).
So we pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”
We wait for the Lord.
And we live for our neighbor.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Easter 4 (Jubilate), 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt