No time for paitence? (Revelation 22.12-21)

No Time for Patience? (Revelation 22.12-21)

Eastminster United Presbyterian Church, Easter 7C/May 8, 2016
Tom James

About ten years ago, there was a video clip that went viral. It was of a woman who had come out of her house, I believe because of a fire. In the course of her telling about her experience, she said a line that would become internet-famous. She said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I can’t remember much about the original context, but the expression caught fire because there are so, so many contexts in which those words are perfect, especially for kids. Homework? “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” Chores? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
The sage of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes famously writes that there are times and seasons for every kind of thing. You may remember the words from Ecclesiastes, or you may remember them from the Byrds’ song, “Turn Turn Turn,” from 1965. The song was actually written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950’s. To quote Seeger and the Byrds,
To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.
A time to plant, a time to reap.
A time to kill, a time to heal.
A time to laugh, a time to weep.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to build up, a time to break down.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
A time to cast away stones.
A time to gather stones together.

But this rather accepting and tolerant view of time, and of life under the rule of time, sometimes gives way to something else. Sometimes, we find that we cannot accept the wheel of time that puts everything in its place as it “turns, turns, turns,” and we cannot accept the so-called wisdom of waiting for the wheel to turn, bringing perhaps more favorable circumstances. A situation can become intolerable and even unsurvivable—a fire in your home, to take an obvious example—and patient waiting is not the order of the day. And then we don’t hum the Byrds—instead, we say something very much like, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
I think it can be uncomfortable for those of us with some measure of means and creature comforts to admit that things have reached that pitch. Patience, for us, is often the easier course, because for the most part things are not really that bad. So when we hear words like those from the book of Revelation, they strike us as a note from another world altogether. It is interesting that the church-approved reading for today actually skips over some of the more evocative verses in our passage—the ones about the “sorcerers” and “idolators” and “murderers” and even “dogs” on the outside, for example. The ramped-up rhetoric seems perhaps too divisive, too intolerant, too angry, for our mainline, moderate, well-to-do, polite sensibilities.
But these verses that would rather not have to deal with are actually crucial to the meaning of the text because their context has to do with a desperate struggle for survival in the face of a cruel and oppressive empire. The promise of Jesus to come quickly, and the cries of the faithful for the Lord to come, and the angry condemnations of the pagan world empire, are words that come out of a situation of intense persecution and deeply felt fragility. They come from an experience of having no more time for patience. Suffering can reach a pitch where waiting doesn’t teach us patience, but only fuels the fire for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “fierce urgency of now.”
Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was written to fellow clergy members who were counseling patience in the struggle for civil rights in the South. Many of these who were calling for patience were progressively minded white clergy. They agreed with Dr. King’s message about equality, for the most part. They were preachers and teachers of the gospel who heard in the words of Jesus and read in the New Testament a message of hope for the marginalized, and who, with Dr. King, longed for a world of racial reconciliation. But we have to be patient, they said, and allow the culture to evolve slowly and without too much acrimony or discord. We have to let our politicians and our courts do their jobs, bringing the best of our American democratic traditions to bear on the legacy of segregation and Jim Crow.
But the theme of Dr. King’s letter is that we cannot wait. One is tempted to say that, for these white clergy, patience may have made a lot of sense because, for them, life wasn’t all that bad. Sure, they hated to see what was going on in the South. It was depressing and morally offensive to see so many of their neighbors being deprived of civil rights. But there is perhaps a great gulf between being morally offended and being abused and pushed to the limit by forces that you cannot control. And perhaps that gulf is “patience.” We can afford to be patient when we are morally offended. But can we be patient, or should we be, if we are being pushed to the limit?
The greatest saints of the early church, the legendary heroes whose memory was treated with such reverence, were the martyrs. “Martyr” is from a Greek word meaning “witness.” The church’s “witnesses” were those who died confessing that Jesus’ imperial reign had come and thus that there was no more room for Caesar. They were giving witness that God had weighed the empire in the balance of justice and found it wanting. They were giving witness to the face an imperial domination system that favored aristocratic elites and used military power to crush opposition, that enforced crippling requirements for tribute that robbed peasants and small landowners of their security and their livelihood, could not stand. They are the ones who had no time for waiting for the empire to crumble under its own weight, as surely it would, because it was already crushing them, now. Ain’t nobody got time for that. In other words, Come, Lord Jesus.
What about our “now?” Is there a “fierce urgency” to it? I suggest that we can only experience time the way it is so often experienced in the Bible, as an urgent call to faithfulness—we can only experience it that way when we make ourselves neighbors and friends of those who are being crushed by the wheel of time, those most vulnerable, who are the losers in our society. Unless we do that, we are too complacent, too patience, to feel the urgency of the moment. Unless we do that, we are like the well-intentioned clergy Dr. King wrote who were putting themselves on the wrong side of the civil rights struggle in the name of patience. Or worse, we are like those who were too comfortable in the Empire, too awash in its prerogatives, not to fall into Revelation’s condemnations of the “outsiders” in relation to the reign of God. Goodness, can we be the “dogs?”
As much as I like dogs, as much as I’m a “dog person,” I don’t believe God is consigning us to the “dogs.” Rather, I believe that God is calling us in this moment to hear Jesus’ invitation to discipleship with new ears and to give witness. The challenges our communities face in this moment create a fierce urgency for many, and therefore for us who are their neighbors. Two and half million Americans are in prison. That’s more than any other industrialized nation by far. There are kids in our schools who cannot read  and will grow up to face a job market that demands diplomas and degrees. People are drowning in debt. Infrastructure is crumbling. Local governments are cutting staff and services, throwing the needy upon the care of churches.
We’re small, so I don’t believe that for us giving faithful witness means solving all these problems. But it does mean confessing Jesus, giving witness to his reign in these circumstances. It means refusing to wait for someone else to help or for the wheel of history to turn, but instead to help where we are able. There are prisoners to visit. There are kids who need tutors. There are families who need a bag or two of groceries. There are debts to forgive. What all of these things amount to is that there are people who need people: people to march with them, to eat with them, to pray with them, to stand with them, to be with them.
I’ll go further. Jesus said that where two or three are gathered together in his name, he is there. What could this mean but that it is when we become allied with our neighbor in his or her struggle for a decent life, our prayer for the coming of the Lord is answered? For what is reign of God, if not the beloved community? “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.


June 2, 2019 – 10:00-A.M.
Reverend Thomas James
7th Sunday of Easter
As we join together today to offer worship to God, we welcome all who share this worship with us.  If you are here for the first time we invite you to return again.  Please take a moment to fill out a welcome card that may be found in the cardholder at the back of the pew.
If you have concerns, prayer requests, or need to convey information to the Session or Deacons please use welcome card in the pew.
Now, let us greet each other saying: “The Peace of the Lord be with you” and Response: “And also with you.”
Leader:       The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
People:     Let everyone who is thirsty come.
Leader:      Let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
People:     Let everyone who is thirsty come.
Leader:      Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
People:     Let everyone who is thirsty come.
Leader:      Come to the tree of life, the Alpha and the Omega.
People:     Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
*HYMN…………………..…….”Come, Thou Almighty King”…….….…………..……2
Gracious Power, you call us to your everlasting springs to be drenched and reformed, but we fail to heed you. We do not turn with love to our neighbors to ourselves, or to you, Forgive us for our failings, shield us from our due, and guide us into unity with all for the sake of the whole world. AMEN.
NEW TESTAMENT (Pg. 1086)…..………..Revelation 22:12-14, 15-17, 20-21                              Response: “Thanks be to God”
GOSPEL (Pg. 941)……………………………………………..…….………..John 17: 20-26
                                    Response:“Thanks be to God”
SERMON.  .  .  .  .  .  .   .   .   .   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    “No time for patience”
*HYMN.……………………”Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”……………….81
*DOXOLOGY (#606)
*HYMN……….…….….……”Will You Come and Follow Me”………..……..……726
*CONGREGATIONAL BENEDICTION.  .   .   .   .   .   .   . “Tune of Edelweiss”
Lord of life, Lord of love walk forever beside us.                         Day by day, show the way with your vision to guide us.
Striving to follow your will and way nothing can divide us.              Lord of life, Lord of love walk forever beside us.

June 2 – June 9
 Sunday June 2 ………………………………………………….………….Worship @ 10am
Session Meeting after service.
 Sunday June 9………………………………………………………………Worship @ 10am
Wednesday June 12………….………………………………PW Luncheon @ noon.
Flowers on the Altar are in memory of Sadie Bossler from the Holzhauer family.
Eastminster’s 125th Anniversary Homecoming on Sunday,           September 29, 2019.  More details will be forthcoming.
Counters for May/June
        THIS WEEK – June 2
          Sutphin Team
   NEXT WEEK – June 9
         Holzhauer Team
                              HEAD GREETER FOR JUNE
                                          CRAIG GALE                                                                                                                                                                            
         CHURCH FAMILY                                  PRAYER CHAIN
Looking for a church family?  
We would love to have you here at Eastminster. Please call our Secretary Jenny, and she will be happy to help.  419-691-4867.
Are You in Need of prayer? Please call our Secretary Jenny, and she will see your “Prayer Requests” are answered. 419-691-4867
Rev. James has started a blog with sermons and other
information from the church. You can check out the information at
If you need to contact Rev. James you can do so by either e-mail ( or his cell 1-248-990-3041.

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