1 EITHER Start by silently laying out a game of patience and playing a few hands. Look up and ask if the children know what you're doing. Ask why they think Patience is called patience (because you're only playing against yourself, so you just patiently start over and over again until it comes out.)
OR have one person playing patience and on the other side of the 'stage', have a person lying in a bed with a thermometer in their mouth and doctors and nurses round them. Then ask the children to guess what word goes with both scenes. (For older children you may want to explain that our word 'patient' actually comes from a Latin word meaning 'suffering' but it's changed in meaning now and means waiting calmly)
2 Line up four actors from your class whom you've primed earlier. Explain that these people are waiting for a bus to take them to a local theme park. One is fuming and puffing and looking at her watch and groaning impatiently. One is holding her 'mum's' hand and whines: 'How many more minutes till the bus comes? I'm bored! It's not fair! Make it come NOW!' The third one waits quietly and expectantly, keeping an eye open for the bus but smiling all the time.
Ask the children which person is the most IMpatient and which is the most PATIENT of the three. The bus isn't going to come any faster just because someone is being impatient: some things we simply have to wait for and it makes it so much easier for us and more pleasant for everyone round us if we wait patiently. Some people are born patient and others have to learn to be patient. Here's a story from the Bible about someone impatient who had to learn to wait patiently.
3 You'll know about Joseph and his multicoloured coat? But do you know about Joseph's father, Jacob? His story is also in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis.
Jacob was a very impatient boy. He was the younger boy of twins and even when he was a baby inside his mum, he was so impatient to be born that he came out of his mum holding the heel of his twin brother Esau!
When he was older he was so impatient he couldn't wait for all the good things that would be coming his way. He cheated his elder brother Esau and stole what belonged to him! So he had to run away from home so that Esau wouldn't kill him. 'Run away to your Uncle Laban!' said his mother. 'He'll look after you.'
While he was walking across the desert on his own, Jacob had a lot of time to think about himself and about God. And one night he had a dream about hundreds of angels going up and down a huge ladder that went from earth to heaven. And at the top of the ladder in his dream, he saw God and heard him saying 'Jacob, I will be with you wherever you go.' As you can imagine, when he woke up after a dream like that, he felt very different.
He kept on walking through the desert until he came to a well, where some shepherds were about to give their sheep a drink. And there at the well, he saw a beautiful girl. 'Who is she?' he asked the shepherds. 'That's Rachel, one of Laban's daughters,' they answered. And Jacob realised to his amazement that the beautiful Rachel was his cousin! In fact he had two cousins - Rachel, the younger sister and Leah, her older sister.
Now Jacob fell in love with Rachel. So he said to her father, his Uncle Laban: 'I'll work for you for nothing for seven years if you let me marry Rachel.' He wanted her so much that he was ready to wait seven whole years for her! If Jacob was (name someone in Year 6), he would be seventeen or eighteen before he could have what he wanted! I wonder how patient Jacob was all that time?
But the seven years passed and Genesis says that they seemed like only a few days to Jacob because of his love for Rachel. And the wedding took place at last.
BUT! Jacob wasn't the only cheat around. His Uncle Laban thought that Rachel's older sister Leah should be the first to get married, so he made Leah pretend to be Rachel and get married to Jacob! And because she wore a veil and because it was dark, nobody knew until the morning! Jacob was very upset.
But in those days you could have more than one wife. So Laban said to Jacob, 'If you work for me for nothing for seven more years, you can have Rachel as a wife as well.'
So Jacob didn't just work seven years for the girl he loved. He had to work fourteen years for no pay. If that was (someone in Year 6), he would be twenty-four or twenty-five before he'd finished! Perhaps God wanted Jacob to learn something about patience before he could carry on with the rest of his story.
Let's stop a moment and think about what's ahead of us today. I wonder if there's something that you know you might be impatient about. Think about that situation now. Let's pray.
Dear God, give me the courage to change things that need changing.
Give me the patience to accept the things that I can't change.
Help me to know the difference. Amen.