By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
Acts 1:6-8: “So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'"
I don’t know if I’m a patient person. I’d like to think I am, but I don’t think it’s for me to say. Hopefully the people in my life who know me well would think I’m patient. I’m guessing the people who know me would say I likely am, while the people who know me best would probably have a different story to tell. I can be restless, easily bored and easily distracted. I can be extremely patient in making a decision, but once my mind is made up I find the intervening wait to be interminable. Am I a patient person? It depends entirely on the day and the situation.
My patience has been tested over the past year. I was looking at some emails from April of 2020 and they included phrases like “In a few weeks when we can get back together...” or “Let’s check back in May to see if we’re able to get lunch."
Over the course of this past year I have had to adjust my expectations, reevaluate my risk tolerance, manage public health for myself and my family, work from home with an exuberant toddler, and figure out all sorts of new technologies and new ways to use them. All of these things have led me to be at the end of my ‘big picture’ patience, and have led me to be less patient with people in my life.
And yet, when I hear the disciples asking Jesus when the Kingdom of Israel will be restored, I cringe at their impatience. Jesus was resurrected and inaugurated the Kingdom of God, and they keep asking when it’s going to come to fulfillment? C’mon. I guess the benefit of hindsight is to know that this is a long haul experiment in building the Kingdom of God. The disciples' impatience at wanting this whole thing to come to fruition seems foolish to me right now, but maybe when they were there they thought it would be immanent.
But Jesus puts that to bed, saying “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority," which pretty much translates to “stop asking." That must have bothered the disciples, but Jesus does not leave you empty-handed. He promises that the Holy Spirit will come to them, be given to them. And in this case, they don’t need to be all that patient. Shortly after this, the Holy Spirit lights on them in the festival of Pentecost.
So maybe they would have to wait for the coming of the Kingdom, but at least they received the power of the Holy Spirit. Not a bad consolation prize.
I’m impatient for the coming of the Kingdom as well. Not impatient in the same way that I’m impatient for the new season of a TV show that I love. Not even impatient in the same way that I’m impatient for the pandemic to fully subside. But in the way that I’m impatient to see justice come to fruition in all places for all people. I’m impatient to see an end to the violence in Israel and Palestine, looking for a healthy, durable, and just peace that seems increasingly unlikely. I’m impatient to see the eradication of racism from our culture, structures and hearts. I’m impatient to see a world in which the stranger is welcomed and the vulnerable are treated as a neighbor.
But my impatience is tempered by the recognition that we are not to know the times or periods in which this will occur. So in the meantime, it will suffice to know that the gift of the Holy Spirit will continue to animate me and my siblings in Christ to eagerly and tirelessly pursue the promise of the Kingdom that we await.