February – Christ’s call to love
1 Cor 13:1-13
There is lots of talk of love and prophecies in the Uniting Church as I write this reflection and I wonder if, by the time you are reading, love will have prevailed, particular prophecies will have come to an end, and clanging tongues will have ceased to hurt people who have already been hurt so much?
One of the things I am sure that we all know is that life is lived in fullness when we are in love and when we are loved. I am sure we agree that when people rejoice it is because they have loved, they are currently experiencing love or they expect to love. I am sure we can also agree that when most people are in the depths of sadness and despair it is likely because they have lost love, or have had their trust in those they loved deeply damaged.
Love is the thing that has the power to unite us across all difference. May we love, and use it love as the path for reconciliation.
What and who do you love to love? When have you felt sorrow because you have lost love? Where might you love more and speak less?
I have always wanted to preach this text in one of those big Gothic style churches with pillars and archways. The type of church in which the preacher stands in a pulpit high above the congregation and shouts down on them. Should I ever receive this opportunity I would stand in that high pulpit and ask the gathered people to take a look around them, and particularly notice the columns and arches and high ceiling. I would then ask them to close their eyes and imagine the church shaking as it fills with smoke. I would ask them to imagine seraphs, mythical tetradactyl-like creatures with six wings, coming out of the smoke and flying blindly around the ceiling.
Two of those enormous wings would be sweeping gracefully through the air, keeping the huge bird aloft, whilst the other four wings expansively cover their private parts and faces. As the creatures fly so low that the gathered people can feel the tiniest clip of a wing on their heads I would ask that they imagine a piercing squawking and caterwauling coming from their beak like mouths crying ‘Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth full of his glory.’
I would ask them to imagine that in that moment they are Isaiah and as you sit there one of the creatures gracefully sweeps down before you and touches your lips with a live coal that burns sharply as it melts you skin. Though the pain you simultaneously feel an immense sense of relief as all of your guilt- all of the heaviness of whatever burden it is you carry- disappears. And then through the silence you hear the voice of the Lord saying ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ and you respond ‘Here am I; send me.’
What do you think it felt like to be Isaiah in that moment? Have you ever experienced this type of feeling in the past ? What would was your response? If you were to experience such a feeling in the future how do you think you would respond?
I have recently been part of a leadership course which reminded me that one of the things fundamental to my own ministry is, what was referred to during the course as, ‘active mindfulness’ -or to put it in another way a constant and active intentional awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in the world. To my shame I was also reminded that the type of ‘active mindfulness’ that is most nourishing to me is not something I am not doing as well as I have in the past.
That is not to say that I am not ‘mindful.’ I do see God in everything and everyone. I love that about ministry because I get to speak about God and Jesus and this constant chatter heightens my awareness as the Holy Spirit is there, guiding and inspiring the conversation. But, perhaps because of this constant conversation, I have forgotten to take time aside of the business of life to simply (as the Psalmist says) ‘delight in the Lord and to meditate on his law.’
I have forgotten to take full advantage of the living water- that special sense of peace that comes through intentional time to just sit and delight in God’s love. And perhaps in doing so I have not been as fruitful as I could have been.
What are the things that provide you with refreshment and renewal through Christ? Are you taking enough time to enable ‘fruitfulness’ through Christ’s living water?
As I read this text, that tells us to do what seems impossible- that we love our enemies, I am struck by how personal and intimate it is. I mean it would be really easy to love our enemies from afar. It is easy to love people we don’t see. Think about it for a moment. Who haven’t you seen for a awhile that you love because, though you love them, you don’t like them very much?
Jesus doesn’t make loving enemies that simple. If we really are going to love them we need get close to them, to be in their company, to even touch them. We need to risk the hurt that being with them may cause us. And this is really hard. But truth is it is much harder to hate someone when we know them, and the only way we can truly know someone is to be near them. That is not to say that we suffer their bad treatment of us, the text does not say this.
The love that Jesus speaks of is an honest one. Sacrificial love to be sure. But not love that tolerates injustice. That is not what Jesus was about at all. Loving our enemies is more than this. It is love that speaks against injustice and that tries to find mutual understanding. Because when we know someone, when we truly know them and know why they think the way that they do, it is much easier to love them, and it is much easier for both people to together find Christ.
Who have you spoken to for a while that you love, but don’t really like? What can you do to find the grace to love them as Jesus loves you?
These Lectionary Reflections were prepared by Rev. Danielle Hemsworth-Smith