Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Lectionary Reading: Matthew 18:15-20 (NRSV)
As I assigned various Fruit of the Holy Spirit to the lectionary passages, I decided that this particular scripture was a good one to talk about patience. You can look at it from both sides. It would be difficult to be patient with someone who was obstinate in their wrong beliefs or behaviors. Likewise, it would be difficult to be patient if you thought you were in the right and a group of people from the church were trying to correct you! I'm not sure which would be more annoying!
Dictionary.com defines patience as "the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like." While I'm old school and don't like it when you use the root word to explain the meaning, I thought they recovered pretty well! I think we can be taught to bear provocation. I think we can also be influenced to be too sensitive to irritants. I believe stress has something to do with our ability to show patience with a person or situation. In other words, when I'm stressed out or afraid, I have much less patience with people.
As Christians, our example should be Jesus Christ. I believe his response to his own suffering and crucifixion showed an immense amount of patience as per the above definition. The phrase, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" from Luke 23:34 reminds us of the composure Jesus showed on the cross. How many of us when confronted unjustly in this manner from our enemies (you can picture them) would rather respond, "Father, get them; they're killing me!"
When this is the case, we are setting our minds on human things rather than divine things.
|Sometimes rubbing a rock with the word on it|
can actually be a good reminder for us!
So how can we show more patience with one another? I think it is crucial during this time with everything that is occurring. Since patience is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit, we must immerse ourselves in the Holy Spirit to show the world we are connected with God. How do we do this? I think that each person may do this differently. All of us connect with God in a unique way. But I also think that today's reading gives us a hint when Jesus says, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
When we gather together, we are going to disagree on some things. It should be expected. But we also recognize that if we begin to focus on disagreement, we will soon be standing alone. It is better to focus on that with which we recognize and agree. The love of Jesus Christ as our witness to the world becomes our focus. If this was not true, it is much easier to send an offender packing than seeking to work with them in love.
Photo by M Cheung via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.
All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.