2 Peter 1:3-11
April 28, 2013
When I was a kid, I loved this song sung by Herbert the snail: “Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry.”
Hoopomonay–this morning’s virtue– is sometimes translated as patience. And we commonly hold patience up as a virtue.
Holding off for at least four seconds after the light turns green before we honk at the unmoving car in front of us. Giving a kind smile to the check out clerk who is new on the job and doesn’t know what a rutabaga is–let alone how to ring it up. Being pleasant and productive and relatively calm even when a big event is coming up. Not calling the real estate agent every day to see if they’ve accepted our offer on the house yet.
“Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry.”
It’s a good lesson. But it’s not what the writer of 2 Peter is talking about here.
You might remember that last week Ryan mentioned that the Greek term translated as “self-control” is almost always translated as “self-control.” In every major translation (except King James) and every time it shows up in the New Testament. It’s “self-control.”
This morning’s word is different. ύπομοήν (hoop-o-mo-nay)
The New International Version, that we heard, translates it as “perseverance.” The New Revised Standard as “endurance.” King James, among others, talks about “patience,” and the English Standard translates the term as “steadfastness.” The Orthodox Jewish Bible uses a wonderful, strong, powerful term: “fortitude.” And then there are the more popular-oriented translations and paraphrases that give us phrases like “passionate patience” and “the strength to keep going;” that tell us to “wait and do not give up,” to “be strong and do what is right.”
I looked at thirty translations of 2 Peter 1:6 and found hoop-o-mo-nay translated ten different ways.
The translators of the New Revised Standard translation alone translate this same Greek term as patience, endurance, perseverance, patient endurance–depending on the context.
You heard the scripture readings earlier. They all use the term hoop-o-mo-nay (well, except for Isaiah, which uses a Hebrew term).
By your endurance you will gain your souls.
the testing of your faith produces endurance
let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes about “great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.”
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, which we heard at the beginning of worship, he writes that “suffering produces endurance.”
So, at least from a biblical perspective, whatever this Greek term means, whatever this virtue is–it is not being polite to a slow check out clerk. It is not waiting a full four seconds at a green light before honking. It is not remaining calm as you anticipate an exciting event or big news.
Patience, endurance, perseverance . . . in the New Testament, it is frequently connected with suffering and persecution. This is big stuff. Life and death stuff. Immortal soul stuff.
This morning’s virtue is the virtue not just of getting through the hard stuff, but of sticking with God through the hard stuff. Of holding to the truth of Christ–of love and peace and justice–even when taking another way would be a lot easier.
Hoopomonay–patience, endurance, perseverance, fortitude . . . We may not be imprisoned like Paul, stoned like Stephen, or otherwise experience persecution because of our faith. Yet we still need this perseverance in so many areas of our lives. I want to briefly mention three types of perseverance that I think we–those of us here this morning–particularly need to cultivate.
First, we need interpersonal perseverance. We need to persevere in our relationships.
Jenny has talked about this. Barbara has talked about this. I’m sure others of you have experienced it. When your non-Christian friends don’t understand why you go to church, why you, an intelligent person, would buy into all of this Jesus nonsense. But you persevere. You don’t give up on the friends and you don’t let go of your faith.
Or, on the other end of things, when your good church-going friends and family don’t understand why you go to a church that is open and affirming toward gays and lesbians or why you don’t “support the troops” or want to “uphold the constitutional right to bear arms.” And you persevere. You endure the hard conversations. You don’t give up on the relationships and you continue on the way of Christ as best as you can. Interpersonal perseverance.
We also need emotional perseverance.
I haven’t heard any complaints about this, but Joey was worship leader just a couple of weeks ago. And then I put her on the schedule again for today. In my apologetic email, I told her that I didn’t know how long I would get to play the “my dad just died” card. That my brain is still slow and fuzzy and making mistakes I wish it wouldn’t make.
Then I went on to explain how I was preaching on endurance. And she told me to put the two paragraphs together. She wrote, “Anyone who’s ever had to endure a serious loss understands that it goes on…and on.”
She is right. That is a type of endurance. To move forward through grief. Not that we try to block off the pain. Not that we don’t take time to feel the sorrow. Not that we feel guilty for our fuzziness and our exhaustion. But that we keep going anyway. We keep talking to God, even if we’re mad. We keep singing in church, even if we don’t feel like it. We keep loving the people that are still here to love.
We persevere. We are patient. We endure. And some days are easier than others.
And finally, we need, for lack of a better term, what I will call moral perseverance.
Oppressed people need this type of endurance. The Hebrew slaves in Egypt. The African slaves in the United States. Jewish people during the Holocaust. Women. Sexual Minorities. You know the litany. It is long. And living under oppression while fighting it is exhausting.
Of course, Christ-followers who do not suffer personal oppression are still called to work toward justice for others. To proclaim the Good News of Jesus in a world that really does not want to listen. In her book The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss explains how annoying the Romans found the early Christians–in part because Christians were rejecting violence, while for the Romans pacifism didn’t even exist as a concept.
So to speak and act against the accepted way society operates makes us annoying, and it also makes us exhausted.
To try to stand against the hatred and calls for torture that wash over society in the wake of something like the Boston Marathon bombings. To work against the death penalty in a culture that values vengeance. To work towards health care for all, toward ending poverty, toward more environmental sustainability . . .
There is so much work. And so many forces that oppose us. Including, at times, our own desires and our own weariness.
Yet in the face of oppression, injustice, and violence, the people of God are called to endure, to persevere in our commitment to the way of Jesus. I won’t say we should “be patient,” because that implies a passive stance. Lots of people told Martin Luther King, Jr. that he should just be patient.
But King knew–and if we look at the Bible we know–that this virtue of (hoop-o-mo-nay) is anything but passive. It calls for conviction and action.
It’s not just that we shouldn’t be in such a hurry. It’s that we have to realize that, as King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long.” We may not see the end of the arc. We may be tempted, very tempted, to just let ourselves find a comfy resting place in dip of the arc.
Yet we are called to endure. To persevere. Because as the Word of God assures us, as King so eloquently articulated, however long that arc is, we know that “it bends toward justice.”
And so we continue, as individuals and as a faith community, to try to live out this virtue of hoopomonay. To endure in our relationships, in our emotional life, in our moral life.
And when we are overwhelmed and exhausted, we rest in God’s grace and in the promise that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Amen