Isaiah 35:1-10 & James 5:7-10
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
November 11, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about patience and growth.
Advent is a season on contrast between darkness and light, of waiting and coming, and anticipation and realization. Within these contrasts we must have patience to move from one to the other.
Patience, cooking is an activity which requires patience from me. Now we have a lot of great cooks here at Pilgrim and over the last month or so I have been trying to join the ranks of decent cooks. I have been trying new recipes for dinner and some, if I do say so myself, have been quite tasty. I have also learned there is patience needed in cooking.
For instance, I was making a fig and pig (bacon) quiche. Well I am not fancy enough yet to make my own crust so I purchased the pre made crust from Trader Joe’s. Now, the Trader Joe’s crusts comes frozen and rolled up in wax paper, two to a box. You are supposed to set the crust out for 1.5 hours on the counter to let it thaw so you can unroll it. Well I waited, I tired rubbing it to warm it quicker, and placing it next to the preheating stove so it would be in the warmer part of the room. When it seemed to be thawing I decided to try and unroll it. Well it was not thawed and it started braking in long pieces. Patience grasshopper! So I had to wait for the second one to thaw to use.
Cooking requires patience of me, but this is not the type of patience our scripture is referring to today. The patience which is proposed here is patience which is “given by the Holy Spirit. It is patience that is deeply rooted in faith. It is working, laboring towards a goal when one is not always sure what the goal is, what it will look like, or even what it will mean for ‘me’." If you have ever planted seeds or tried your hand at gardening you know the uncertainty of nature. You plant the seed but will there be enough rain, will the squirrels or raccoons eat your blubs or did you plant them in the right spot with the right amount of sun light? And most of all gardening takes patience.
I came across this story, The miracle of Chinese Bamboo which I would like to share with you:
It all begins with a seed and with the vision of someone willing to wait.
A Chinese farmer, usually struggling to survive and provide for his family plants the seed and sets his hope and vision on all it will provide when it towers 90 feet above his head. With a heart toward the future, he digs hole after hole, plants the seeds, then begins their care. Day after day he carries water to the spots he has marked. And because it’s human nature to want to see results he carefully inspects “the spots” every day. NOTHING
Knowing he has to feed his family he plants other crops, carefully sewn around “the spots” that contain the real hope for his future. He continues to water them every day feeding them carefully, and watching… NOTHING
The other crops sprout within week, providing nourishment for his family within months, but provide nothing for the future. These crops will not make his dreams come true- they will simply provide for the present. The Chinese Bamboo seeds contain all his hopes, his dreams…
A whole year goes by…NOTHING
He continues to haul water. He stares endlessly at “the spots” but sees nothing but barren ground. His hopes, his dreams, seem so very far away. There is no evidence of life.
Has the seed rotted?
Has it died before it ever has a chance to grow?
Another year goes by…NOTHING
His neighbors – those who don’t know and believe in the miracle of the Chinese Bamboo – laugh at him. They mock his vision for the future. They look on with scorn as he hauls buckets of water to “the spots.” He begins to question himself. Will it ever grow?
Is he pouring water, and his life’s energy, into something that will reap no reward for him?
Another year goes by…NOTHING
3 years of pouring water, energy and hope into the Chinese Bamaboo. Nothing to show for it. Yet he’s heard of the miracle of the Chinese Bamboo. He has heard of the huge rewards that come to those who believe.
One day he stands over “the spots” and he cries his frustration and fears. The spots revile nothing, the barren ground seeming to mock him, yet the wind whispers hope to him. He sighs and hauls yet more buckets of water.
Another year goes by…NOTHING
4 years…4years of hoping, wishing, and diligently tending his dream. Surely the miracle will happen now. His neighbors have quit laughing. They no longer even care – yet they talk quietly among themselves of the farmer who “isn’t quite right.”
At this point the farmer isn’t even sure…Yet he has fallen into a habit so he continues to water “the spots”. He continues to feed them. It simply is what he does now, with no knowledge of reward – just the simple, now unspoken hope that life resides beneath the spots he so carefully tends.
Another year passes…NOTHING
The farmer is tired. Tired of hauling buckets. Tired of growing and tending so many other crops to feed his struggling family. Tired of trying to keep his dream alive. Tired of seeing no results day after day. He stares hopelessly at “the spots”. There can not possibly be life after so many years.
He must have watered them wrong. He must not have fed them correctly. If only he had done things differently, there would be growth.
Despair rocks his soul. 5 years he has poured into his dream – into his hope for a better future. His dream mocks him. The vision of a better life for his family melts away under harsh reality. Tears fill his eyes as he grabs for the last hope residing in his soul and slowly lifts the bucket to pour water on to his dream.
After 5 years he realizes it would be folly to give up…
Then comes the morning when the whole village is jolted awake by the cries of joy from the farmer. They watch startled from their windows as he runs down the dusty road calling for his family to come see. As his family races back up the road after him, the rest of the village pours from their houses to see what has this crazy farmer so excited. They find the family clustered around “the spots,” talking excitedly. From the edge of the road they can see green sprouts thrusting out from the barren ground. They seem to be growing before their very eyes!
The farmer is dancing. “The miracle has happened!” he cries. “The miracle has come!”
The spots become the place for everyone in the village to come – watching in amazement as the bamboo grows, and grows, and grows. 5 feet! 10 feet! 20 feet! 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90.
In just 6 weeks the bamboo has grown 90 feet tall! 5 years of nothing and now this … 90 feet in 6 weeks! It is truly a miracle!
So did the Chinese Bamboo Tree really grow to 90 feet tall in only six weeks after not growing at all in 4 years? Or was there a little tree growing underground, developing a system of roots so strong that it could support the rapid growth of the fifth year?
Well, the answer is Yes. Had the tree not developed a strong unseen foundation, it could not have grown so tall and strong. And the key to this growth was patience.
Sometimes in life we are the farmers who like in our story and scripture “waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains.” (v. 7) and sometimes we are the bamboo tree needing to be patient as we build a strong foundation so that we might take action or grow.
As we move into these final two weeks of Advent, awaiting the birth, the sprouting up of Christ, I invite you to planted seeds of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love this season. You might not see the immediate results of your seeds but in time and with faith they will grow and Christ will be born.
Just as the Bamboo tree grew unexpectedly, my quiche also turned out quite tasty. But I learned that crusts burn more quickly than a quiche bakes. So this Advent take time to slow down, breathe and have patience to allow the quiche crust to thaw. For “You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (v.8)