Immanuel Lutheran Church
Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit - Patience
Pastor Marla Amborn
Immanuel Lutheran Church
July 8, 2018
Genesis 29: 15-30
As we heard the story of the water system installation in Itonya, it is a story of patience.
When I traveled to Itonya in May of 2016, Ken Smith was part of that team. Since he volunteers for St. Paul Partners to provide clean water to villages in Tanzania, Ken was looking for ways to bring clean water to Itonya while we were there. Ken also teaches as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota. Each January he leads the J-term class of engineering students to Tanzania like the one Ethan was in. So Itonya was a natural place to use as one of the sites for students to design water projects.
But designing a water project is no guarantee the project will be funded or built. The students had to make plans that would actually work. And they had to convince others of the viability of their plans. So, Ethan and his team made presentations at the U or M outlining their plans. They were solid enough to convince the Winter Wheat Foundation to contribute toward this project. The students then came here to Immanuel to build support for the project and raise money to help fund it. When we raised $5000 covering about 1/3 of the cost and the Winter Wheat Foundation covered another 1/3 St. Paul Partners came up with the rest of the funding so that the project could be built.
Then the people of Itonya needed to commit to digging miles of trenches. They also had to contribute financially to the maintenance of the water system and care of it. The digging began in the fall of 2017. Can you imagine digging miles of trenches into the side of a mountain --- by hand? It was slow and dirty work. But the patient people of Itonya dug for months!
Finally, in spring of 2018 two years after our visit the system began pumping water. Two years is a long time, especially if you are one of the people who has to go and fetch water each day and carry it long distances on your head! Two years is a long time, especially if you have family members who are getting sick or dying from waterborne illness.
The truth is, the people of Itonya have been waiting a lot longer than two years for clean water. This is the first time in history that Itonya has clean water, right out of the tap! That was a long wait!
Thankfully, the people of Itonya dared to hope and believe that this project would come to fruition. They invested their hard work to bring it into being. In doing so, they demonstrated true patience.
Patience is a tough one for many of us. Who here likes to wait in line at the grocery store? Who likes to wait in traffic? Waiting seems like a waste of time. We want things now! We are used to things happening quickly. We dont like to have to wait for them.
In our scripture for today we heard the story of Jacob waiting 7 years to marry the girl of his dreams, Rachel, only to be tricked into marrying Leah, her older sister! He then had to work another 7 years to marry Rachel. Thats a lot of waiting for a young man in love! But Gods timing is not always our timing. When you have waited that long to marry your true love, you really appreciate it when you can at last be together as husband and wife.
How did patience make it onto the list of the fruits of the spirit? Patience is one of Gods defining characteristics. The Bible tells us God is patient with his people, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Since we are Gods children, God shapes us in his image, helping us grow in patience.
Jesus was very patient. The disciples were often slow to understand his teachings. Sometimes they missed the whole point. Yet Jesus continued to work with them, patiently meeting them where they were at.
So too, God is patient with us. He has hopes and dreams for us. We inevitably disappoint him sometimes. Yet, like the father of the prodigal son, when we wander astray, he welcomes us back as his beloved children.
And he calls on us to develop patience. Patience in prayer and patience in realizing that even when things in our life dont happen in the way and timing we want, God works for our good. Have you ever prayed for something you really wanted, hoping it would happen soon, and that prayer wasnt answered as you hoped? Maybe later, with the benefit of hindsight, you realized that Gods timing was perfect.
There is value in waiting. God uses that time to shape us into the people he wants us to become. Learning to live with patience helps other fruits to grow like gentleness, kindness, and self-control. Being gentle or kind or exhibiting self-control depend on treating people with patience, even under pressure. None of those fruits would be possible without patience. And patience takes a while to cultivate.
Many of you love to grow things. Has anyone here ever grown a Chinese Bamboo Tree? Neither have I. But if you ever decide to grow one be ready for a lesson in patience. You plant the seed, water and fertilize it, but nothing happens the first year. Again, the second year you water it and fertilize it, and you cant see a thing. The third year and the fourth year, if you havent given up on it, you continue caring for it, but there is no sign of life. Sometime during the fifth year a shoot bursts forth and grows to three feet tall. Then over the next six weeks, stand back because it will grow to 90 feet tall in six weeks! It can grow three feet a day! It is amazing growth. All that time when it seemed like nothing was happening, it was getting ready, preparing for its big day!
That is also true for patience. It takes a while to develop patience. You may not notice a change on the surface, but under the surface, you are being rooted and grounded.
Do you remember how, as a kid, it seemed like the month of December took forever as you were waiting for Christmas to come? You got sooo impatient! At least I did! Or as a young person, did it seem like the four years it took to earn your high school diploma was an eternity?
It is natural to be impatient when you are young. Some people continue to be impatient all their life. But for many of us, God works in our hearts and souls to help us develop that fruit of patience. You may not notice yourself getting any more patient, but one day you realize that youve grown! Youve become more patient. Youre not so anxious at the little things that slow you down or get in your way. The Holy Spirit has been at work in your soul nurturing you to bear the fruit of patience.
There is one way to learn patience, that is to practice being patient.
There once was a man who realized he was too impatient. He had blown up at a colleague the day before over a missed deadline. He had criticized his son for missing the ball in his game. His doctor told him hed need to start taking blood pressure pills if he didnt make some lifestyle changes. So, he prayed earnestly that God would give him the grace to be more patient.
As he arrived at the commuter train, he got there seconds too late, just as the train was pulling away. There wouldnt be another one for an hour. He spent the next 45 minutes fussing and fuming, angry about the delay, cursing all the little things that had conspired to make him miss his train. Then it dawned on him, God had given him a chance to practice patience!
Youve probably heard the saying Be careful what you wish for! Id say, Be even more careful what you pray for! If you pray for patience, you may well find yourself in situations that test your patience. But if you embrace them, you will come to learn not to sweat the small stuff. The fruit of patience will grow in your life. And as God shapes you to become more patient, it will pave the way for other fruits, like kindness, and gentleness, and self-control.
As we think about this fruit of patience, we can be grateful that God is so patient with us. May we cooperate with the Spirit to cultivate the fruit of patience in our lives and share that fruit in loving ways with others. Amen.