In Part 1 we considered how Lenten discipline actually helps us reflect God's character... I’m talking about something we hear at the heart of our Lenten Scripture readings. In 1 Peter we read: God waited patiently. Specifically, God waited patiently in the days of Noah (1Pet. 3). When the whole earth was wicked and corrupt. When all God could see wherever He looked was wickedness and violence. When the world God created in love rose up in violent revolt, God waited patiently.
God waited to renew the face of the earth with one, single family. Noah. One family that was deeply flawed itself; prone to wander. But that’s how our patient God works. When we hear the story maybe we have a hard time getting past that flood. Maybe we’re indignant about God’s wrath. It seems harsh, but we can save God’s justice for another sermon. Today, let’s hear the other side of that coin: God waited patiently.
It’s so easy for me to rationalize my self-interest and my immediate consumption. Even when it’s something good. Even when it's not something small like coffee. We might even be talking about something big, like growing a church. It’s so easy to rationalize everything that we should be doing and everything that should be happening right now. If we’re going to continue growing and expanding our mission, and ministry, and witness - well there’s a whole bunch of things I can think of. And don’t get me wrong, I plan to keep moving in those directions (just like I plan to keep drinking coffee). But heaven help us in the midst of this process - or any other - if we’re unable to wait patiently for God. Heaven help us if all we can do is respond to one opportunity after another without understanding why we’re doing it.
The more we’re simply looking for any opportunity that comes our way, the easier it is to have mixed motives. That’s why this first Sunday of Lent we always remember the temptation of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel doesn’t give us any of the juicy details (like Matthew & Luke) about the temptations of turning stones into bread, about throwing himself from the temple so the angels could catch him, or about gaining command of the world’s armies. Mark doesn’t give us all the details but the temptation is still here. In fact Mark’s short description almost makes it sound even more intense. He makes it sound like Jesus was tempted for the entire time: "40 days, tempted by Satan..." (Mk. 1.13).
And we know from the other Gospels what these temptations were about: pleasure, power, position. Instant gratification and immediate consumption. And Jesus has to decide who his audience really is. He has to understand what opportunities he’s responding to - and why. He’s not going to accomplish his mission when he’s just trying to impress people or trying to grab something for himself. He’s going to accomplish his mission when he patiently and faithfully responds to God. Because it’s God who gives everything: from success and power, to daily bread and sacred space. It’s also God in today’s Gospel story who gives Jesus his name at baptism. As we hear in today’s Gospel it’s God who calls Jesus “my Son” - and that name will only mean something if Jesus actually waits patiently and listens.
Maybe it took Jesus 40 days of fasting and wandering in the wilderness before he could really learn to wait patiently and to understand the difference between those whispering voices that were pulling him in so many directions - saying, “show your power now and get on with it, don’t take the risk of trusting other people”... or that still small voice saying, “wait for God, your Father, who calls you Son, and he will give you every good gift”. During those 40 days Jesus waited patiently (and, we might add, painfully).
Jesus waited patiently. That’s one of our invitations this first Sunday of Lent. Because for the next 40 days part of our Lenten journey is to wait patiently for God; to figure out the difference between the voices, the desires, and the opportunities that push and pull us in so many directions. Some of those voices tell us, “Get on with it, grab whatever you can, don’t take the risk of trusting other people - especially if they’ve let you down”. Instant gratification and immediate consumption. Go for it. Or the voice of God saying, “You are my child. Wait patiently, and I will give you every good gift.”
Whether you’ve already chosen a Lenten discipline or not, let me encourage you to choose something today (it’s not too late). Maybe you’ll even hear an idea at Coffee Hour. Whatever you choose, it’s about learning to wait patiently for God. It’s even about learning to recognize when we’re doing the right things for the wrong reasons. Daily bread is good, and so is charity, but not if we’re just showing off. This Lent our invitation is to wait patiently for God; in our homes, in our jobs, and right here in our church. And as we hear today’s story about Jesus who is both baptized and tempted as God’s Son, our invitation is to consider: What would it look like for us to become patient children of God? Amen.