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Patience and Honor

Rev. Kristi Denham
Congregational Church of Belmont
July 17, 2016

Once again there was so much heartache and terror in the news this week, why did I choose to stay with the Book of Qualities? I was pondering just that question when the words from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi came to mind:
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Certainly Patience and Honor will serve us well in difficult times!

When I was choosing Qualities from The Book of Qualities to share, Patience and Honor seemed like great choices, but as I’ve pondered their significance, my own challenges in finding ways to include them in my life began to grow blatantly obvious to me! I remember that “Humility is endless” and also a good friend of Honor, according to Ruth Gendler. I also remember that my struggles with patience and my ambivalence about honor may not be that unusual. So I push forward.

Choosing I Corinthians 13 was for me an obvious reading on Patience.

The Call to Worship reminds us of honor…
“Those who speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; in whose eyes the wicked are condemned, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;” (Psalm 15)

But what do we make of the Martha and Mary story? “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things!” There was a time when I loved this passage, because it encouraged me to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen and learn, because it clearly affirmed a woman’s right to participate in the religious life in spite of what the church once taught. But now…after raising two sons alone, and taking care of both work and home and children and seminary and ministry, I wonder if Jesus had a clue as to who did the dishes, cooked the meals, took care of families, did the laundry for his motley crew of disciples! And what would our world be like if all those hard working disciples and career men and world leaders had to do their own laundry and dishes and cooking and child care. If you’re rich enough you can pay somebody to do it all but Jesus didn’t preach and teach to the wealthy and Martha and Mary weren’t rich! Now our world is learning to share responsibilities so that both Martha and Mary can find time to sit at the Master’s feet and do the work of the church, the family and the world.

Perhaps if I focus on I Corinthians 13 I can get my patience with Martha and Mary back! In context, Paul was probably speaking to a mostly female audience in his letters to Corinth. There were lots of strong women in the church there. They were preaching and prophesying and displaying plenty of knowledge. Paul wanted to remind them that love was more than that. It was patient and kind and long-suffering! His description of love would make sense to women, but it is meant for all of us. And when we remember that God is Love we begin to see how powerful an understanding of the sacred this passage presents.

We talked with the boys at Juvenile Hall about this passage last week. Their questions and observations brought it alive for me. They understood that this is so much more that a good reading for a wedding. It is a challenge to all of us to know God isn’t done with us yet as we work to live out the law of love!

Love is Patient! Ruth Gendler’s beautiful description of Patience in our Quiet Meditation brings this most demanding quality to life in a gentle way:
“Patience wears my grandmother’s filigree earrings. She bakes marvelous dark bread. She has beautiful hands. She carries great sacks of peace and purses filled with small treasures. You don’t notice Patience right away in a crowd, but suddenly you see her all at once, and then she is so beautiful you wonder why you never saw her before.”
Remembering that the first definition of love is patience has always goaded me to do better.

My mother used to say I was too patient in the way I raised my sons. (Her generation was a bit more “because I said so!”) I know, of course, that my sons would strongly disagree about how patience I was. And my controlling tendencies reveal how impatient I am today. God’s not done with me yet!

I think kindness, lacking envy, boastfulness, arrogance or rudeness may all grow out of practicing patience! And when I am patient I tend not to be irritable or resentful.

To not rejoice in wrongdoing and to bear all things moves us into the realm of Honor, I think! Ruth Gendler’s words in the bulletin insert on Honor speak eloquently of this beautiful quality.


Many people would consider Honor a poor man. Of course, there were times when he was fabulously wealthy. For a while he lived in a large house with arches and courtyards and fountains and gardens and olive trees and rare birds. Now he lives in a tiny room with windows on three sides. He still likes to go out for breakfast o special occasions.

Honor has a different sense of value than most of us. When Honor was famous, all kinds of people came knocking on the door asking for favors. Since he has met with hard times, many of his old friends are afraid to be seen with him, as if hard times would notice and visist them too. This turn of events saddens Honor but he has never tried to change other people.

Honor is an old man now. He is becoming more transparent. He walks softly, and people do not hear him as he walks past the on his way to the park. Honor's children, ipatient with his old-fashioned manners, complain about him to their friends. His grandchildren adore him. Only his childhood friend Humility has stayed loyal through the long rainy winter.

Why does Ruth Gendler describe honor this way? It seems that Honor is a rare quality in the lives of most people. In this crazy fast paced world, who has time to live by such old fashioned values? Can you think of anyone who lives up to this description? I certainly can!

The first person who came to mind was Gary Brandenburg! Most of you know he and his sister Galyn joined the church with their parents many years ago; that he built our beautiful pipe organ from parts shipped here over 60 years ago from Pennsylvania from an organ first built 100 years ago (We’re having a concert to celebrate its 100th anniversary in September!); that he comes weekly to tune and maintain it; that he donated our magnificent concert piano several years ago; that his beliefs are quietly old school and he skips the “Our Mother” part of the Lord’s Prayer and sings the original language of our older hymns, and he probably disagrees with half of what I say each week. But he is steadfast and loving and kind and compassionate. He is a man of honor!

Then I think of so many others of our elders, of Bob and Ella Mae Donovan and Belinda and Bob Sims and Martha and Bob Woodman and Lois and Bob Shouse. We’ve got a lot of Bobs in this church! We can add Betty and Bob Pex of our founding members to this list though her Bob died a few years back. Each of these individuals continues to contribute by their presence and their wisdom and their kindness and their openness to growth to the life of this community.

But you don’t have to be old to be honorable. You need to be willing to show up and care for others, to use your gifts in service in quiet and public ways. I would add Carol and Bill Patterson who do so much behind the scenes to help their neighbors and our church to this list; and Micki Carter and Mike Venturino, who keep trying to retire from service but are just too good at what they do! And Maura Whitmore and Paul Anderson, and Henry Altorfer and Elizabeth Nordt, and Doris Brown and Brenda Garner, and Danielle and Steve Chamberlin, and Warren Dale and Georgie LaBerge, and Mary Beth Gray and Irene Hall and Garrett House and Christin Kerhin and Susan Linares and Richard and Kris Morgan and Elizabeth Mye and Ursula Jorgensen and Steve and Deja Ramos and Donna Stanger, Emily Tauscher and Kristin Tewksbury and Barbara Todd and Barbara White and Grace Yoshida…And I can’t forget Greg Thornhill whose devotion to the work of the church is awesome and overwhelming. If I haven’t named you it is because I can’t name us all, but I know that we are all incredibly honorable people and I learn from you all every day. And if you are new to this community, do stick around to get to know these folks. You are all amazing!!

To be Honorable doesn’t mean God’s done with us yet though. I know that each of us is growing and learning and facing challenges every day that most of us know nothing about. I know that some of us have personalities that push each other’s buttons and remind us to work on the log in our own eye before trying to take the splinter out of yours. Honor is best friends with Humilty. God isn’t done with us yet.

We gather in worship to remind ourselves of how much we have learned and how much more we can learn from each other. For

“Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now we know only in part; then we will know fully, even as we have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love!” (I Corinthians 13)