by Rev. Lindsey Baynham
Read 1 Peter 3:18-22
Piers Plowman, a poem about finding faith coined the well-known phrase, “Patience is a virtue”. Patience, something that is a good and desired piece of one’s character, I’m convinced, is in some ways a lifestyle. It is something learned, developed and ultimately lived. Patience models endurance in all things. Patience is a virtue…but let’s be clear, that does not mean it is easy. I find myself often praying…pleading for this virtue and quality as I walk the path of faith. Whether it is patience in a specific task or with an individual, the practice of patience is one piece that grounds and strengthens a faithful life.
And so with this notion of patience, we begin a season that is often attributed with characteristics such as that of wilderness, the dryness of a desert, testing, difficulty, the desperate feeling of thirst, and elongated fasting. Lent, is a span of forty days that tries our patience. Not to the point of annoyance, but we are tried because it equips us for endurance. And endurance is seen in Christ’s passionate suffering. We can endure because Christ endured.
The lesson from first 1 Peter, ascribed to the first Sunday of Lent is an interesting one because it pairs unlikely biblical themes and narratives. These few verses contrast the righteous and the unrighteous; the flesh and the Spirit; flood waters and overwhelming waters of grace. All contrasting elements pointing to the hope we share in Christ’s resurrection. But one aspect in particular illuminates our place in this holy season of Lent.
God’s patience. A patience, that in the time of Noah saved a few from water by an ark. But more importantly, God’s patience with a new ark, the church that is saved by the overwhelming waters of grace in baptism. The church rides the rising and falling waves of change, adversity, extreme joy and great pain. Our baptism however allows us to endure all things grounded in the person of Christ. Baptismal waters mark us for a “good conscience through the resurrection of Christ” and for the lasting endurance in all opportunities.
In the spirit of the creator of this blog, I turn to a movie in order to illuminate our understanding of faith. In Evan Almighty Morgan Freeman portrays God and Steve Carrell is a new age Noah. God has delivered the wood, allowed a beard to grow and asked Carrell to build this ark. In one particular scene, Carrell’s wife is talking to Freeman (disguised as a waiter) and finds it hard to believe that God has asked her husband to build an ark. Freeman responds with this:
“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”
This Lent worry less about what you have to live without and more about what opportunities are given in order to grow in holy patience. Focus your heart and devotion on the opportunities that allow you be brought into the very presence of God.
Lindsey Baynham is an Associate pastor at Fairfax UMC in Fairfax, VA.