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May 1, 2016

May 2016
Earl Palmer 

   Patience is an undervalued and sometimes suspect virtue in a fast moving time like ours. I think one reason is that swiftness has become today’s definer of best practices, especially where an immediate need requires immediate action. But even in non-emergency human encounters we often want and expect successful solutions for personal and interpersonal goals to happen as quickly as possible. Technology has enable swiftness to become a norm.

   There is a downside to this capability of the new norm when it comes to learning and creating and sifting and wondering. There is a downside to this capability of the new norm when it comes to learning and creating and sifting and wondering. These human brain capabilities taken together describe wisdom, and they each have a friendly alliance with patience. Each takes time.

   I am struck with this when I read the New Testament. Jesus seems unhurried in his ministry and even in the time of his post resurrection meetings with his disciples and especially Peter, that event happens with a non-immediacy cadence though we are aware of Peter’s distress after his failure of courage on Good Friday. Peter is fishing at the lake of Galilee with other disciples: a breakfast is prepared and it is there that Peter, the one who fell so hard during the trial of his Lord and friend is quietly restore to wholeness by Jesus, and to his original leadership too (John 21).

   St. Paul meets the risen Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). In that swift restorative noon time flash of light, he learns that Jesus is alive and that Jesus knows the man Saul of Tarsus by name. Paul is overcome by that discovery and he speaks the words of immediate immediate, present tense faith, “Lord what do you want me to do?” But then what he hears from Jesus is a non-immediate instruction: “Go to Damascus and you will find out.”

   Jesus is unhurried with both Peter and Paul. There is an important lag time preserved for each. AS much as two years later Paul is found by his friend Barnabas in Tarsus and brought to Antioch. The rest of the story is the history that the Book of Acts and the letters of St. Paul unfold for us.

    It is in fact patience that Paul will offer as advice to the believers at the city of Philippi in Paul’s final letter to a church. “Let all people know your moderation, the Lord is alongside” (Phil. 4). This is not an urgency challenge but of an unflappable patience that knows and trusts the Lord of time.

   Paul gives the same advice to his young friend Timothy in his last letter (II Timothy). He urges Timothy in the face of the dangerous stresses of the Roman world in the mid-sixties of the first century to take the time that it takes to teach the Word and the Words of the Gospel. He compound the word “patience” for this young teacher with the adverb pase.” Be patient everywhere, every time.” (II Timothy 4:2)

   Paul is convinced that the words of the good news have the ring of truth about them and that those words will win a hearing sooner or later, therefore, Timothy should take the time it takes to teach.

   The Lord may choose swiftness when that is necessary, and if that happens we will rejoice in the experience of the acceleration at the core of love, faith, hope, and joy. But when patience slows everything down, we should welcome that cadence too.

 

The Rev Earl Palmer is the author of many books including Prayer Between Friends. He recently taught a New College Berkeley seminar on “C.S. Lewis in a Time of War.” This meditation was originally published on the Earl Palmer Ministries website: www.earlpalmer.org.

Posted on May 1, 2016 at 4:21 PM
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