The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

My devotion at yesterday’s Reading Day …

The Lord be with you. [Read 1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13]

This reading is found in the 3 year lectionary and in the one year lectionary so it must be worth hearing where Paul is writing to his fractious congregation – a former missionary pastor writing to people some of whom, maybe many of whom he knows – and they have their issues – about unity and what Christian behaviour is – remember that it is new for them – and they will squabble and chal-lenge Paul about his own ministry over against the ‘super apostles’ – we’ve been hearing about that in the 2nd Readings if you use the 3 year lectionary – and so it might seem strange for me to read this pas-sage at this time when the thought arises ‘Who is getting married?’. Today 1 Corinthians 13 or at least parts of it are strongly associated with weddings be-cause love is important in relationships like marriage. And there is nothing wrong with reminding husbands and wives about this but this is not the context into which Paul is writing.

No, he is writing to the people of God in Corinth and to the people of God wherever his letter is read – to the Church about the most excellent way to be the body of Christ individually and together – through love – not feelings really but behaviours – 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Of course people often use truth against love as if one is more important than the other but Paul advises the Ephesians ‘to speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15) so we work together in truth and love, love and truth – neither of which are ours by our own making but both are gifts to us so that we can be the Body of Christ together. And we are always learning how to do this because the days change as do the situations we face. I am not talking about a formula or a programme but about living in the moments of our life.

I remember in my first parish I made a faux pas in a Bible Study once and acted with incredulity at being told by a woman that she and her husband (who had been married longer than I had been) hadn’t had a marital argument. My incredulity was noticeable and as I heard later hurtful. So what to do? New. In the Outback, nearest pastor by road was about 600 miles away, but Jesus was closer as was Charlotte and other members. What is truth here? What is love here? I went and spoke with them to understand the truth so we could agree it and to behave in love – which meant in this case I apologized. I’m not sure why that incident came to my mind but the point is that truth and love are not abstract – but specific, personal, rela-tional – Jesus towards us – and we towards others – not just anyone in general but specific others with faces and names.  We all confess each Sunday that we believe in the Christian Church – that it is one, holy, catholic, apostolic – that we believe that there is such a thing. Just as you can’t prove that I am a Christian but accept in charity and trust that I am not lying when I say that I am even as you can see me so we in faith can’t see the Church but what we see are people and structures, relationships and behaviours – and we bring to them above all love. It isn’t easy at times – love doesn’t mean doing what someone else says – but rather love means as-sessing everything and then doing what is best for the relationship and for the other as we follow Jesus.
We have returned for another Reading Day to listen and learn and share our thoughts and views and we who are the ELCE and united in Christ are encouraged to do so in an excel-lent way – with love. GS