The lessons for this week are held in Luke and Corinthians. Both are well-known citations, and I will leave the Gospel text encounter of Jesus with evil to the pastors.
I’m much more called to examine the Epistle text in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13. This well-known text is Paul’s treatise on love and his conclusion that of the three components: faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love.
Many people choose to use some piece of this text for the groundwork of their marriage vows. I wonder if we as a church might use this as a statement of caring and commitment to ourselves and our mission as a church on a weekly basis. I wonder if we might find ourselves more closely connected if we substituted our reciting of the creeds, founded on the trinity and belief statements, with such reminders to ourselves as we try to live out our discipleship.
We live in curious times, but I think they are no more difficult than many other points in history. The times gone by are settled and not in front of us looming with insecurities. We are confronted each day, whether in the news or in our daily exposures to the world, with issues that shape how the things appear to us and what our responses might be.
It is easy to fall back on our own opinions and our cling to voices that agree with our own thinking. It is much more of a challenge to couch our thinking in the words of Paul, the admonition to greet all, issues and people, with love.
I have always struggled with the popular term of some years ago, then referred to as, “tough love”. It always seemed to me to be based on my (our) personal judgement; to weigh in with moral superiority over the actions or situation of another person. One could justify their expressions of love, littered with those judgements, neatly packaged in the appearance of caring. It smacked of love with-held but soothed our conscience as it was filtered through our personal belief systems. In the end, I’ve often wondered if it is an expression of selfishness.
I don’t think this is what Paul is talking about here. He is speaking of freely given and unconditional love. That is the tough part.
The world we are in right now is loaded with many issues that prey on our fears. Are there more now than in previous times? I’m not sure.
The pressures to fall to one side of an issue or another are huge. We are polarized on issues that do not seem to have a precedent. Our politics are divided, our views on immigration are divided, the local demands for an opinion on people who are homeless or hungry weigh heavily, and we are truly challenged in our views on how we might live among the vaccinated and non-vaccinated. All of these are real and important issues.
In her book, Fierce Love, Dr. Jacqui Lewis says it well, “What a distortion of the Gospel it is to have limited sympathies and unlimited certainties…
In returning to the second paragraph above, what might we become if we recited such statements of love in the presence of one another during a worship setting, and then to help, and hold, each other responsible to act unconditionally out of love?
How might we function as a church family and as individuals when the results of our actions are founded in love? What then would the world look like?
Lord God, help us to see those around us with the same eyes that you see us all. Grant us the same unconditional love for others that you freely give to us. Amen