Sunday, December 07, 2008
Sermon - Advent 2 - 2 Peter 3:8-14
2 Peter 3:8-14
December 7, 2008
There are lots of ways to sin, and many forms sin can take. In this season of preparation for Christmas, perhaps some of those sins take a more prominent place. At this very busy time of year, we can easily become distracted, caught up in all there is to do. Perhaps we grow jaded over time, despondent, and even depressed. Some are just downright crabby. The “Bah Hum” bug bites more than a few of us. What is meant to be a season of joy and peace and hope and love can be, for many, a time of stress and sorrow and conflict and consternation.
Some can't wait for Christmas to come, and some can't wait for it to be over. Which brings us to another common species of holiday sin – impatience. How often anticipation goes sour, and our looking forward expectantly becomes looking forward cynically, perhaps too eagerly, as in, “let's get this over with already”.
Come to think of it, it's not just at Christmas that we are sinfully impatient. Everyday life brings lots of patience-testing. From the car to the grocery store, to the kitchen table, to the cubicle to the classroom to even the church pew – we are impatient at all times and in all places. After all, what is impatience but a form of selfishness. We want whatever we want, and we want it on our time, as in, right now! After all, my time is more valuable than yours, my priorities are more pressing, and my schedule is more important, even if it's only in my head.
And if love is "patient and kind" our impatience and unkindness is unloving, and breaks the command of Jesus.
And so also, our impatience leads us to other sins, and we are short with people – we speak hurtfully. We misplace our efforts and short-change our neighbor in order to get where we're going. We even sin in our thoughts against that person who takes too much of our time.
But it's not just our neighbor on the receiving end of our impatience. We can be, and often are, impatient with God himself. St. Peter says,
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise vas some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Just as we sin against our neighbor, so do we sin against God. Just as we are impatient with that person, so are we impatient with our Heavenly Father.
When God does not act on our time table, as is so often the case, we grow impatient. When our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears, when our waiting for an answer becomes unbearable. When God's promises seem so far off and hard to believe...
Peter reminds us who sets the schedule. God is not slow, he is patient. Perfectly patient. Sinlessly patient.
Now, some might end this discussion right there – we are impatient, God is patient, so go and be more like God, Amen. But it's not that simple. For our sins of impatience need to be dealt with. We don't get off the hook so easily. A day of judgment is coming, and the very creation will melt before God's holiness, and all the works of sin will be exposed, so Peter also says.
God wants us to repent, and he wants us to be forgiven. Bring your impatience, with all your other sins, to the cross of Jesus Christ. And wait for God's forgiveness – you won't have to wait long! While God is slow to anger, he abounds in mercy. He is patient with sinners like us, who need his constant grace and mercy. He takes the long-term perspective, and he can wait forever.
But he won't. And this too is good news for us who believe. Over the millenia, God's people have prayed the simple prayer, “come quickly, Lord Jesus” echoing some of the last words of revelation. We long for the day of his return in glory, the defeat of all our foes, and the restoration of all things. And yet, he hasn't come yet. 2000 years and counting – must God have forgotten? Perhaps he is just really slow? No, he is patient. We wants all men to be saved. But his patience has an end. The day of Christ's return is appointed, and it will happen.
Just as God remembered his promise to Adam and Eve, and thousands of years later brought forth the offspring of the woman who would finally defeat the serpent. Just as God remembered all his promises to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, to Moses, to David, Solomon and the prophets. Patiently, patiently, promising. And finally delivering. The baby was born. He grew up, and preached, and suffered and died, and rose and ascended, and sits – patiently waiting to fulfill the final part of the plan.
And since he's told us the plan, we see things differently. Since we know all this is temporary, that all our stuff and all our things, and even our earthly life is temporary. Even the sun and moon have an expiration date.... Since all of it will come to an end – that changes our perspective. It focuses us on things above, our hearts and minds are set on Christ. And his Spirit guides us with an eternal perspective. We live “lives of holiness and godliness” not out of fear, but in faith – with an eye of that day, and in grateful response to his merciful patience with us through Christ.
As we wait for Christmas, let us not grow impatient with each other. As we wait for the Lord's mercy, let us not lose faith in his promises. As we repent of our impatience, let our sorrow give way to joy and peace as we cling to his forgiveness in Christ. And as we wait for the day of his salvation – in patience and peace, but also with eagerness, we pray with all the waiting church, “come quickly, Lord Jesus” Amen.