1 Corinthians 13:1-8a (NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of mortals or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t just let it go by without talking about it. It’s the day when we take special care to say I love you to those we cherish. Parents, children, whole families (both those we are born into and those we create around us) and especially our partners are all included in those important words: “ I love you”. Words we say and words we long to hear. Love gives depth, meaning and breadth to our lives and our world.
Love makes our hearts beat faster, love breaks our hearts, us and if we let it love makes us better people; more humane, more compassionate; more caring people
The Message translation of the Bible ends the passage
(I Corinthians 13:13) this way :
But for right now, until that completeness,
we have three things to do
to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
And the best of the three is love.
We, in the Christian church often use this passage in the marriage ceremony but Paul is using love the way Jesus showed love in all his encounters with people. Jesus had the ability to meet people where they were and to embrace who they were with no conditions.
The woman at the well
The lepers on the road
Mary and Martha
The rich young man
The woman who anoints him
He just meets them where they are – not because of who they are but because of who he is.
He doesn’t look at the woman at the well and say to himself “Oh there is a woman all alone, not with her women friends, she must be an outcast, oh she is a Samaritian- not a real Jew, oh, she is a woman: therefore I know I shouldn’t talk to her according to our laws but she is marginalized so I will show her compassion and speak to her – besides I’m thirsty” He talks to her,
and reveals a different life for her future, if she wants to embrace the opportunity he is offering. She leaves him excited and hopeful not only for her future but the future of her village.
He doesn’t look at the people with leprosy and say I should be compassionate and heal these poor souls. He just recognizes them as whole human beings and heals them.
He doesn’t think “Oh poor Martha, Mary should go and help her like a good sister.” Mary’s thirst for spiritual nourishment was recognized by Jesus and honoured.
He doesn’t look at the rich young man and say “Oh, OK, I know it’s hard to sell all you have – just sell half and follow me and you’ll be fine”. Jesus’ love for the person standing in front of him demands that the truth be told, what the rich young man couldn’t do was let go of the false god riches had become for him.
He doesn’t ever go to the disciples and say “I know it’s not quite working out the way you thought it would but I’m glad you followed me anyway.”
He accepts them for who they are, he calls them to follow him because of who they are, not because they are perfect as we see over and over again, but because they willing to drop what they are doing to journey with him and make his road their road.
And he accepts the gift offered to him by he woman who anoints him. He doesn’t send her away, dismissing what she does for him. He accepted her gift and in his accepting recognizes and respects her.
Jesus loved them, he saw these people and he saw through them and encouraged them to be better people, better human beings, better selves.
It isn’t that Jesus is blind to people’s faults and failures. Jesus knew about failure, he knew about temptation, he knew about pain and he knew about wholeness and he knew about the power of love.
Think about his relationship with Simon whom he renames Peter (petros which is Greek for rock) and claims that “on this rock I will build my church (community)”. (Matthew 16:18) The same Peter who he later shouts at: “Get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23) when Peter implores him not to go to Jerusalem. The same Peter whom Jesus predicts will deny even knowing Jesus not once but three times. This Peter is the rock, the foundation upon which the church is built.
What did Jesus see in Peter, what did Jesus encourage in Peter, what did Jesus call out and allow to grow in Peter, so that Peter in Acts, is a leader in the early Jerusalem community along with James, the brother of Jesus. He later goes out to other communities and finally goes to the early church community in Rome where he is martyred around 64 CE.
Jesus and the disciples knew about love, the love that comes with heartbreak and sacrifice and forgiveness and all those other things we don’t usually talk about on Valentine’s Day.
God, who Jesus and the disciples and Paul preached about, was a God of love. They offered a vision of faith that was grounded, in not only loving God but in loving yourself and loving others. They envisioned a faithful community where everyone was welcomed, everyone was accepted, and everyone mattered. We are all children of God.
We are called to love everyone with a love that stretches our hearts, feeds our souls and shapes us into the community, in to the people that we were created to be.
Holy and loving God
You call us into community
You call us into family
You call us into relationship
And all the time you are really just calling us to love.
We are living in difficult times
We are separated from each other in our community
We are separated from family
We can’t hug
We can’t go about our daily lives like we used to
We miss relationship
Teach us, O God, to reach beyond the way we used to…
Help us to find new ways of connecting
And caring for ourselves, for others, for each other
We are truly thankful for your presence in our lives
And for the life of Jesus and the disciples
and all who have walked a path of love,
they are our teachers
as we walk our path following Your Way.