the penultimate WORD
The example of his patience

The Irvine Tartan  My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican

Patience is in short supply - have you noticed?

There are cues everywhere. In the super market, at the checkout and at the bank there are line-ups. And every line is impatient.

In the doctor's office, at the fast-food outlet and at the gas tanks there are line-ups. Watches are checked, furtive eyes glance toward other lines, shorter lines, competing lines. Yes, impatience is everywhere.

With instant coffee, five minute rice and over the counter pharmaceuticals promising ever faster relief, impatience holds us captive. Nothing seems to be accomplished fast enough. Instant access will draw. We are busy and we have things to do. We are impatient to get on being busy.

Our prayer is that we will be graced to follow the example of Jesus' patience. It has often been prayed carelessly, mindlessly, impatiently. Palm Sunday carried with it its own excitement and impatience. Word passing through the crowded streets, the curious and hopeful come forward with palms, spreading cloaks and incessant alleluias! The donkey moves inexorably on, through the crowd, carrying Jesus and the ordinary threads of life are dropped by folk eager - anxious! - even impatient to greet him.

And Jesus moves on, deliberately, assuredly, patiently.

"Grant," we pray, "that we may follow the example of his patience." And then we move on with the excitement of resurrection and Easter morning.  Perhaps it's our reluctance to journey through Holy Week. The anticipation of a sunrise Service and the baked ham and the chocolate draw us. The importance of celebration eclipses the patience that Jesus demonstrated especially in that fateful week.

Jesus' patience allows Peter's impatience and protestations. Jesus' patience allows Peter's denial and embarrassment in an early morning glance. Jesus' patience has him place bread in a dish and pass it to Judas. Not in a hurry does he pass it. Patience allows, permits. Jesus' patience deliberately takes a basin and intentionally pours water, allowing it to slosh as he knelt to carefully wash feet.

Jesus' patience allows others to be themselves and further, allows them an authentic response. Jesus' patience provides the time for those around him to decide and respond to his life and ministry.

"Grant," we pray, "that we may ... follow the example of his patience." That our attitude toward one another is patient is a supplication worthy of grace. That our prayer allows us to be vulnerable with others, allowing them to be in the company of Jesus where we are, goes without saying. This Holy Week journey, uncomfortable with its imagery but tolerable with patience, permits us to walk through the valley amidst shadows of death and discover a shepherd who dispels fear and terror, patiently.

Copyright 2000 James T. Irvine

Series 2000

the penultimate WORD Lenten Series | Ashes to Easter