Patience for the Process

One of the things that amazes me about Jesus is his patience with people. You can hear it in the Gospels, in places like Mark 8. This is after Jesus had fed the five thousand, and then after he had fed the four thousand. The disciples were discussing among themselves that they had forgotten to bring bread when they sailed across the sea to the other side.

The conversation could have went something like this: Peter says, “Hey John, did you grab the basket of bread?” John says, “Oh, I thought Andrew was going to grab it.” Then Andrew says, “Oh, I saw James holding the basket just before we left.” And James says, “Oh, that was just an empty basket I wanted to bring along.” And that’s when they figured out that nobody grabbed the basket of bread, and so they’re concerned, and maybe a little irritated about it. And Jesus, who has fed something over 10,000 people in just a matter of days, says to the disciples, in Mark 8:21, “Do you not yet understand?”

They’ve seen him feed bread to multitudes out of hardly nothing, and yet they’re bickering over who forgot to bring bread. And Jesus says, “Guys, do you still not get how this works?”

He’s patient with them. 

And what’s amazing about it is that Jesus chooses the patience. See, we are patient because we have to be. We find ourselves in situations that we can’t change, and so patience is sort of forced upon us. But Jesus is the guy who controls the wind with one word. He raises the dead with his voice. He could just say it and the disciples would know everything they need to know. He could snap his fingers and each one of them, personally, would be exactly where they’re supposed to be. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead he says, “Guys, you don’t understand yet.” You’re not quite there yet. See, Jesus is patient.

And I think right now, for where we are as a church, this is a word that we need to hear. Because the more we grow and the longer we exist, we will begin to take on a certain personality. And that personality will not be mainly formed by our preaching or our music or our website; but rather, our personality, our vibe if you will, will mainly be formed, I think, by the patience we have for one another. 

Everyone of us, you see, are not quite there yet. In one sense, we are the disciples who are looking around at one another bickering over who forgot the bread, and Jesus is looking at us,  each one of us, so amazingly patient with us. And I want you to know that. I want you to know, wherever you are right now, that Jesus is patient with you. He is so full of grace for you, and he calls his church to be the same.

Our mission as a church actually demands it. Our mission is to make disciples, to gather and to grow followers of Jesus. And discipleship, in its essence, is a process. It’s a journey, and all of us, if you’re a Christian, are at certain parts along the journey — we’re all walking together, all headed in the same direction, but all in process. And we need to be as a church, like Jesus, God help us, patient with that process. We need to be patient with one another. This is one reason, among many, that we should confess our sins. Please pray with me.

Prayer of Confession

Father of mercy, with you there is no variation or shadow due to change. You are the same, and your years have no end. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of all who call upon you in Christ. And because of him, because Jesus died for us and was raised from the dead for us, we who are sinners are now called your children. And as your children, we confess to you our sins.

We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We confess that we so often do not reflect to one another the patience that you have with us. We live in the land of compulsive mobility, and too often we ourselves resemble the values of Babylon more than the heart of New Jerusalem. 

So Father, we ask, in your mercy, please forgive us. Forgive us for these sins and for the particular sins that we now confess to you in silence. . . .