Slow and patient

Advent 2 – 2 Peter 3:8-14

How many times a day do you look at a clock? Or check your watch, or your phone to see what time it is?

Probably safe to say that the number is too high to count. After all, clocks surround us, telling us the time, telling us how long we have been waiting, and how much longer we are going to have to wait until the bell rings, or the sun goes down, or the next show comes on.

And no doubt you have experienced the nightmare scenario, those sometimes rare, other times very frequent days, when the clock seemingly does not move. Where 15 minutes seems like 15 hours; where if you look at the clock at just the right angle, it almost seems as if time were moving backward, not forward.

And of course, there are those other days, where time goes by so quickly, it seems as if the clock were skipping half the hours in the day.

Which do you prefer?

And during this time of Advent, the Church has its own clock of sorts: it is the Advent wreath, which counts the weeks until the celebration of Christ’s coming into the world in the Bethlehem manger. Last Sunday one candle was lit, today 2 candles burn bright.

How do you look at the Advent wreath this morning: that we are only halfway to Christmas, or that we are already halfway to Christmas?

For all the trouble they cause, at least with a clock, whether it hangs on the wall, sits in your pocket, or adorns the church, you know that there is a definite time in which something will happen. You know when the clock strikes the hour, or the alarm goes off, or all the candles are lit, you know that we will have reached the goal.

Unfortunately, there is one event that we anticipate that there is no clock for: the return of Christ.

We know when the celebration of His first coming in Bethlehem is; we know when we can come forward and receive His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper; what we do not know is when His return in glory will be.

In a world where everything is done at a set time and a set place; in a world where there is no question about when something will happen; in a world where schedules are set in stone well in advance, one thing that we do not know, is when Christ will return.

We know what He said, that He would return to judge the living and the dead. We know that He promised to return quickly. We know that He promised to take us to be with Him to live and reign for eternity.

And yet, here we sit, looking at the clock, wondering why it does not move any faster?

And we wonder why God is so slow in fulfilling His promises.

For when we look at 2 Peter, we can say in unison that in waiting for the return of Christ, a day seems like a thousand years. For every day is another slog through the temptations and the sin and the death of this world. Everyday seems like another test of every fiber of your being to remain faithful in the midst of a generation that is not faithful. Everyday seems to witness another loss for the Church, whether it be in court cases, or popular opinion, or in the simple interactions with family and friends.

And you look at the clock and wonder why the Lord does not rend the heavens right now and come down and put an end to this madness. Why is the Lord so slow in rescuing His people? Why does the Lord allow this world to continue to spin out of control? Why is the Lord so slow in dealing out justice?

Israel had this same problem; they were waiting for the coming Messiah, and they too did not have a clock telling them at what time He would come. Israel also wondered out loud on many occasions why the Lord was so slow in coming to save them.

Israel’s response to occupy the time in waiting for the coming of the Messiah was to chase after false gods, to engage in acts of immorality, to succumb to the temptations of the flesh and of the world that surrounded them, even question the existence of God at times.

That is the response of many today: the Lord is slow in coming, so this is free time to chase after false gods, engage in immoral acts, and live as the world lives. Satan is having his little season, wreaking havoc with society, declaring that the Lord has forgotten His people.

What are those who remain faithful to do? How does one make the clock move faster, in an effort to bring about the return of Christ and deliver us from this time of tribulation?

On the surface, the answer would appear to be nothing. For the Lord has indeed set a time and a date in the heavens for when He will come in glory. To you and to me, it may feel like a day is a thousand years, but for the Lord, that thousand years has only felt like a day. For the Lord does not count time as you count time; for He is outside of time and therefore not bound by time as you are. Nor does the Lord stare at clocks, set schedules, or wonder about the time; for He is patient with His people, far more than we are with Him.

And yet you can rejoice in this. For the patience and slowness of the Lord allows for more people to hear the Gospel and to be saved from destruction. The Lord’s wants as many to be saved by the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus as possible, and if that means waiting a few more years before the final judgment, then so be it. The Lord is patient, far more than you or I will ever be. The Lord is in no rush to condemn the world, rather His slowness is so that the world might be saved.

But what about those of us who have heard the Gospel, repented and been baptized? What about those who of us who have gather here to receive the Lord’s body and blood to give us strength in these grey and latter days? How do we cope with the Lord’s slowness? How can we make the clock move faster? How can we who pray ‘Come, Lord Jesus’, hasten the day of His return?

The answer may not be as difficult as we imagine it to be. For the answer is before us every day.

Why do some days seem to go faster than others? Not because of a metaphysical miracle of some sort, but simply because on those days we are occupied with activities that engage us and stimulate us.

How do we make the days go faster as we await the return of Christ? The Church is to occupy itself by doing the good and holy things that God desires for us to do.

Pray, praise and give thanks; sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the word. Fill the days with service to God, that you may constantly be reminded of His great love for you.

But there is more. Love and serve a neighbor; reach out to those in need; help those in distress; serve the Lord with gladness. Fill the days with service to others so that they too might know the love of Jesus in their lives.

The days will go faster as you are not occupied with the temptations of the evil one, but instead are occupied by the love that you have for the Lord of heaven and earth. And in spreading the love of Jesus to those sitting in darkness, you will also help to bring about the return of Christ, as more people will be saved from sin, death and hell.

The clock is moving forward in the Church and in the heavens. Today, we anticipate the annual celebration of His coming in the manger so that He might go to the cross; but we also anticipate His future coming in glory everlasting.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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