‘My friends, be patient until the Lord returns. Think of farmers who wait patiently for the spring and summer rains to make their valuable crops grow. Be patient like those farmers and don’t give up’ (James 5:7,8 CEV).
As the coronavirus pandemic has rolled around the world, it has intrigued me how many passengers and crew on cruise ships became trapped, as successive ports denied them docking. Certainly, these floating pleasure palaces have been very popular over recent years.
Such activities, of which earlier generations could only dream, have been for the taking for many of us. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted, even sometimes when we couldn’t really afford it. Bucket lists, grey nomad and global travel were widely desired. You’ve probably heard these experiences shared at barbecues, and over coffee after church. If you listened in, you might have heard the subtle competition over whose holiday, equipment, or experience was the best. It all seemed to matter.
But now, quite suddenly, our attention has been diverted. Toilet rolls, hand sanitiser, rice, pasta and flour are the talk of the day – not over coffee, but over the internet or phone. These everyday items have been flying out of supermarkets, shoppers even stripping the shelves bare. As I write this column, several weeks into the pandemic, some items are still hard to get. From cruise liners to toilet rolls … how quickly that has happened!
But that’s old news. No need to repeat more of it in The Lutheran! But what are we learning from all this? What’s the take-home message?
It’s too early to rush into answers, but the apostle James reminds us to turn to God, trust him more and re-learn the art of patience. In James 5, he compares the return of the Lord to farmers waiting for their crops to ripen. Farmers must accept how long
it takes. There are no shortcuts. Instant gratification is not the thing when it comes to farming. You play the long game, take the long view.
We’re also in that place right now as a church. When we first shut our buildings, we got busy with online materials, resources and streaming. That was an amazing, positive emergency response. In the longer term, other important and necessary responses will emerge. Some of them are likely to continue when we are back together again in the same physical space. (We hope that won’t be long!) We’re facing challenges we never thought we would face in our society, in which we have enjoyed freedom of association and the means of coming together regularly, without fear of reprisal. We’re also finding answers, some good, some perhaps not so good in the longer term.
Patience. As a child, I learnt it is a virtue. I still believe that. Patience is not knee-jerking into permanent changes until we know more about what they mean. Patience is holding the course, even under quite understandable pressure to do otherwise. Patience is trusting God in our helplessness. Patience is looking up to see the new dawn breaking, while we are still shrouded by the shadow of night.
God will do this. God will give us patience. God will fill us with hope and the ability to cope. He will teach us how to choose right from wrong and to take the right direction at the right time. God is leading us into a new season of faith, grounded in the unwavering hope of our resurrected Saviour, Jesus Christ. God is preparing us, ready and willing, for the harvest to come.