Fourth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – Being a “lover” for the Lord God

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1 – 3)

It is, quite honestly beloved reader, hard to think about Paul as a “lover.” But that only means the type of love he is talking about is not the soft, mushy romantic love that we usually think of.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (Verses 4 – 7)

It is said that sustaining romantic love, or love that marriages/romantic intimate relations are commonly associated with, is hard. Harder still, I think, is the type of love that Paul is talking about.

“Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.” (Verses 8 – 10)

Now this in an interesting portion. Paul is saying the gifts of the Lord that are given on earth will not be needed in the world to come: we will not need prophecies because all things will be known; we will not need to speak in tongues or understand tongues because communication will be instantaneous; and all will have all knowledge. What we know and know of now is incomplete and therefore imperfect. In the world to come, when all things are complete and finished, then we will know in full and perfectly. And still there will be love. It will not end.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (Verses 11 – 12)

To me verses eleven to twelve are both comforting and disconcerting. It seems that as each year passes I learn more and understand more about myself, others, and the world. There are many meme and adages about adulthood, “adulting” and maturity. Some amusing and sone that contain great truths about our relative understanding even as adults versus what is actual and of the highest truth. We do not attain adulthood and complete understanding (in this world) as much as we keeping getting better at it. It heartens me to think and believe that I don’t have to have figured everything. But neither do I think we should completely set aside “child-like” ways. Maybe the self-centered impetuousness of a child, but not the innocence and naivete of a child. Jesus said that all must have faith like a child’s. That may be another thing I would like to talk to Paul about – how he understood that.

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (Verse 13)

Paul’s argument has come full circle. If I were to be of a mind to write a great deal more, I would say many things about faith and hope. And probably repeat things I have said in the past. We each have our own faith, faith beliefs & tenets, and faith circles. We all have hope – whether it is dim hope that has been tested and assaulted by circumstances in life, or bright hope that cannot be quenched. When all – that is at the end of this world – is said and done, love will remain. And it is that love, our love of the Divine and the love the Divine has for us, which will see us “Home”! Selah!

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