May 17: 1 Corinthians 13

Welcome!

Reading1 Corinthians 13
(text below)
Nikki Strandskov
Reflection(text below)Mike Miles
Reflection(text below)Nancy Moe
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
HymnWill You Come and Follow Me
#798 vs. 2, 3 & 5 (text below)
Chris Tou, piano

Reading

1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And 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. 3If 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. 4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love 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. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When 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. 12For 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. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


Reflection

Mike Miles

Getting married? Asked one of your friends to be the officiant but your fiance’s parents are a little put off because they aren’t ordained? The wedding is out in the woods and you are walking up to the front to the ringing of a Tibetan prayer bowl? Your parents are okay with it but just told you Grandma isn’t coming unless there is a reading from the Holy Bible to consecrate the nuptials?

No problem. Just Google ‘best bible verses for a wedding’ and number one on the list is going to be I Corinthians 13 (I did it and it is). It’s got some really sweet sentiments about love that shouldn’t offend anyone and it never even mentions Jesus.  You might want to edit it down just a bit because of some crazy stuff but it should make everyone happy and help keep the peace with the new in-laws.

The thing is, these verses are not about sentimental love that makes us all warm and fuzzy. The church at Corinth was seriously divided on so many issues that Paul has to conclude this letter to them, “if anyone does not love the Lord Jesus- a curse be upon them.” Or as Clarence Jordan puts it in his Cotton Patch translation- let them be damned!

So what’s going on here? I believe this would fall under the “it’s all Greek to me department.” There are several Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated into the word ‘love’ that carry starkly different meanings. This confusing exchange between Jesus and Peter, after the resurrection, illustrates how much can be lost in translation:

…Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John do you truly love me more than these? “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “yes Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,” Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” 

John 21: 15-17

What’s going on here?

Love, agape, is unconditional, sacrificial love. The love that God has for us. It implies action, unmitigated compassion, more than feelings. This is what Jesus keeps asking Peter, “Do you agape me?”

Peter was never very bright so his answer was, yes, Jesus I phileo you which is essentially saying I like being your friend. The reason Peter’s feelings were hurt the third time is Jesus asked the question using phileo instead of agape and it finally sunk in that he didn’t understand the depth of love to which Jesus wanted him to go.

The new commandment that Jesus gave them at the last supper was to love each other as he had loved them. Loving your neighbor as yourself was no longer enough. The new Covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah had been fulfilled in the resurrection. The love of God is now written on the hearts of all who are willing to recognize it.   Unconditional, compassionate love for all is the new normal.

So back to Corinth. They didn’t get what the ‘agape’ of God meant in their new reality so they became  distracted by cosmetic divisions rather than focusing of the universality of love. As my musical mentor Mark Murphy puts it, “If love is not the answer then you’ve just asked the wrong question.

“I belong to Paul.” “I’m more impressed with Apollos.” “I follow Jesus (so there).” “I’m a mystic so I speak in tongues.” “I’m a gifted speaker so I’m going to preach.” “Somebody has to call attention to how unfairly the Romans treat us so why don’t you be the prophet?” “Who wants to cook at the soup kitchen, there’s a lot of people out of work?”

Why is it that what sets us apart always seems more compelling than that which should bring us together? Even before the pandemic, the issues that divide us as a nation were becoming as exponential as reproducing viruses: Left/right, Republican/Democrat, rich/poor, black/white, American/Mexican, Christian/Muslim, rural/urban, coastal/fly-over, vegan/carnivore.

Now we have to sort through who is for tyranny and who for liberty, is it better to have a job or protect our health, do people need financial support or does business need it more, do masks help or hurt, is there plenty of food or are we running out?

The Chinese character for the word ‘crisis’ is a combination of two words-danger and opportunity. There is plenty of discussion bantering about regarding potential lessons to be learned once ‘we’ get to the ‘other side’ of this ‘thing going on’. Where one lands is dependent on way too many variables for me to keep track of.

No matter what happens, my understanding of what discipleship to Jesus entails makes me want to err on the side of love. I don’t need to like everyone who is trying to maneuver the chaos but I do need to love them. I can’t pretend to know what this kind of love looks like in practice, but I do know that undeserved suffering, on behalf of people who somewhere along the way became engaged in way too much deplorable behavior, is somehow an important part of the answer.

One of the mantras that swirls around my attempts to be conscious is a poem from May Sarton. Many of you have heard this before.

We change people, if we do at all, by being something irresistible, not by demanding something impossible.

I hope for all our sakes, that Jesus got it right when he took the stand he took against the principalities and powers of darkness. The new command he left us with is to love each other the same way he loved us. Who’s in?


Reflection

Nancy Moe

Agape is the love inside us that we give freely to others regardless of our relationship to them. We want to help them, cooperate with them, or do good deeds towards them. Them is referring to people, nature and animals.

Food, in my house, is the language of love. I learned this from my Mom who learned it from her Mom. The food that comes into the house is grown sustainability, most often in a family garden. Cooking is done in a way that maintains the most the food has to offer. My concerns are for meals that are varied, flavorful, interesting and pleasing to look at. That is all about the food. Here is the best part…who the food is for. Mostly my family but often for friends and sometimes for strangers. I love to learn about guests food preferences so that I can make a meal that is pleasurable to everyone!

I make mistakes and sometimes fail in my goals for cooking. I’m always cooking by experience and experimentation, even when guests are expected. When dinner is served and loved, I say “Good, enjoy it now I’m not sure I can make it again”. Even when the food is not loved, there was love in the trying.

In a world where there is so much noise, gongs and clanging cymbals and many untruths are spoken, I can share food I prepare with kindness and generosity. Food prepared with love.


Hymn

#798

Will You Come and Follow Me, vs. 2, 3 & 5

“Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray’r in you and you in me?”

“Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?”

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

Text: John L. Bell
Music: Scottish traditional (Kelvingrove)