2 Peter 3: 8-15a
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.
Impatience is a killer. Life, as short as it is, cannot be taken in a hurry. Rushing from one thing to another, grabbing onto whatever gives us the most satisfaction in a single moment, it all makes the short span we have on this Earth pass even faster. We cannot afford to be impatient people, because impatience ultimately wastes our time more than simply waiting out inconveniences.
I myself am guilty of trying to get things done quickly or with less work and instantly finding that I have trapped myself in more work that takes more time than if I had just done something simple and straightforward. Recently, my greatest offense takes the form of a pumpkin roll in which I thought that I could stop beating the eggs when they were frothy instead of stiff and that I could roll it once instead of the suggested twice. As a result I made a delicious, albeit messy and flat, pumpkin pile, rather than a tall and stately pumpkin roll. It did taste good though.
Beyond baking though, there are far more serious consequences that can come from rushing into a situation. Speaking too quickly when we are upset or angry. Rushing through important work at our job and thereby complicating someone else’s or even hurting those our job serves. Still more, there are few things that cause more strife in our hearts than the continual heartbreak that impatience can give us. When we are waiting for something and unwilling to dwell in that wait, then we find our heart broken every moment that we do not receive the outcome that we wish. An unwillingness to wait things out, produces pain, after pain, after pain.
Of course, it is not as though our impatience is always meant to be selfish or lazy. Oftentimes we become impatient for very good things, things that we must want to come as soon as possible. When we are waiting for test results to tell us what kind of or if any treatment will work. When we have a loved one who went out somewhere and we do not hear from them even as the snow begins to fall out our window. When the news is just too bad for too long.
In all these cases it would be wrong of us to be alright with the present situation. If we became complacent and apathetic to the pain of those around us, even of ourself, then we have deprived ourselves of some of our most basic and authentic aspects of our humanity. We are people born into a broken world. As we become more and more Christlike over time, it only makes sense that the broken world would break our heart as well. We are people who, for love of others and of goodness must cry out periodically, “How long, O’ Lord!”
2 Peter, the book from which our scripture comes, captures a moment in the biblical witness which is usually called, “The Delay of the Parousia,” or in other words, “The Delay of Christ’s Return.” This period marks the end of the first century in which the expectant Church, having believed that Christ would have come back to save them within a single generation, now had to accept that their wait would be much longer than that. The tone of the letters which the apostles and teachers wrote out in this period changed. No longer was their a sense that the church had only a few days to repent and to become good, but that they now had many years to remain good.
It is easy to reform one’s behavior or beliefs for a short period of time. Afterall, we can always keep to a diet for a day or two, maybe even stop cursing for a day or two. Drag that out over a few months and a few years, suddenly the struggle becomes much harder. We all can be holy in a moment, we can ever be righteous in extremis, but the lingering question must be whether or not we can endure in goodness. Can we love beyond the superficial, can we keep the faith across months and months, years and years, and disappointment after disappointment?
Our scripture today gives us a vision for how we can endure, and that is to take time out of our hands and put it into God’s. The author, looking at the Psalms for inspiration, makes it clear that God does not see time as we do. While we are fixated on minute details of every second and squeezing the most out of them, simultaneously draining them of their worth, God is invested in a larger view. The momentary troubles we face, even those that seem insurmountable, are attended to by a God for whom a thousand years are as a day, and for whom a day is a thousand years.
The brilliance of 2 Peter’s conception of God’s time is that it can be read in either direction. For God a single second lasts and eternity, and yet at the same time eternity is just a passing second. God is intimately involved in every moment of the life that we live yet is also looking decades and centuries down the road to how that moment will be played out. God is active and involved in the short and long term, and we have to let God be involved in every moment we face.
We wait for Christ every day as the Church. We wait for the Kingdom to be truly inaugurated and all things set right in Christ’s victorious return, but we also wait for the occasional deliverances we receive every day. When the power of sin is broken in our life in a new way, when our hardness of heart is melted, when the miracle we have been waiting for finally comes our way. We wait and we wait and we wait, would it not be good to know that God is not only in control, but waiting alongside us.
When God is invested, not only in the big picture, but in every passing moment as well, then we can be confident of two things. Firstly, God is not acting cruelly by making us wait, because God sees infinite number of steps down the road. Secondly, God is not disinterested with our present feelings and worries because God is actively involved in the most minute of details and the shortest increments of time.
We must develop patience, not out of an unwillingness to acknowledge the dire straights we currently inhabit, but from an earnest belief that God is with us and looking ahead of us no matter what comes our way. We are told in 2 Peter that God is not waiting to test us, not dragging feet to put off setting things right. God is taking all the time that is needed to bring about a kingdom people by as many people as possible, a kingdom founded on righteousness and imbued with all the qualities that produce true community.
We must continue to pray to God to bring about goodness. We must continue to look to the future and the goodness that God will bring. However, in doing so we must not become impatient, breaking our heart with every passing moment. We must trust in God who has given us an abundance of goodness and somehow try and take the same view of time that God has. Every second, an infinitude in itself, must be treasured as though it were a millennium. In the same way, when something drags out and takes longer than we would like or expect, we must try and put that time in perspective of the long arc of history.
We must be patient and await God’s recreation of the world and of ourselves. Patience, like anything is a skill that we must develop over time. It begins with taking time in the little things we are given, in taking time to do something right the first time. It begins in patiently waiting through whatever delays we face in life. Overtime though, we see time as God does. Every moment invested with all the importance of every decade, and all things working together to bring us into something new and sacred.
We wait now for Christ, and we pray for Christ to come near to us. – Amen.