What’s Taking Jesus So Long?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 — Week of Advent 1, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:1-24 (morning) // 12, 13, 14 (evening)

Amos 3:12-4:5

2 Peter 3:1-10

Matthew 21:23-32

One of the earliest challenges to the Christian faith was the fact that Jesus did not return to the world as quickly as people expected. “What is Jesus waiting for?” they must have wondered. Even worse, there seem to have been scoffers who taunted believers about the God that they were waiting for. Our reading from the Second Letter of Peter tries to encourage early Christians by giving us all some stunning words about God’s delayed return.

According to our second reading today, “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.” God is not poised to come in judgment; God is offering us mercy indefinitely. God is not fashionably late; God is infinitely loving. And God is not coming for some of us; God is waiting for all of us.

Did you catch that? Not some of us—all of us.

The strange imagery from our first reading reminds us that salvation for just part of humanity is really not salvation at all. The prophet Amos compares God to a shepherd who “rescues” his sheep by pulling two of its legs, or even just a piece of its ear, from the lion’s jaws. Likewise, the prophet expects God to rescue his people by saving a corner of a couch or part of a bed!

The prophet’s words convey severe anger about people “who oppress the poor, who crush the needy.” Yet the prophet’s imagery also reveals the absurdity of trying to save just a few people. Even if its legs and ear are snatched from danger, the sheep itself has hardly been saved.

Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us about God’s infinite patience and universal love. Our gospel today shows Jesus patiently and persistently offering the chief priests and elders an opportunity to change their minds. He offers them a parable about a son who tells his father that he won’t help him in the vineyard today, “but later he changed his mind and went.” Then, Jesus reminds them that people enter the kingdom of God at their own pace. Jesus tells them that “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you,” and he chastises the chief priests and elders because “you did not change your minds.”

But although the most reviled members of society enter the kingdom more quickly than the self-righteous, Jesus still offers us time and space to change our hearts. This Advent, we can open our hearts to the expectation of a God who shows in Christ his perfect patience and eager desire that no one should perish, but that we all should be saved. That is the God that we are waiting for this season . . . and that God is also waiting for us.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Past Posts