“Melodies of Love”
January 31, 2016 – Year C – Epiphany 4
Early in the month I went to St. Catharines Ontario for my annual visit with my chosen family. There are 8 of us who met at Brock University 36 years ago. Each January I visit with these wonderful women for a time of deep sharing and personal catching up. We know some of the deepest secrets of each other and can be truly honest with one another. In other words, there is profound love among us. It has taken 36 years to develop, but they are relationships that I cherish.
We seek to be patient, kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. We try not to insist on our own way. We try to avoid being irritable or resentful. We do not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoice in the truth. We have supported each other through divorces, ill children, new partnerships, the endings of jobs, celebrated the birth of grandchildren, grieved the death of parents. We have loved each other through hard times and in truly wonderful times. Three of us have vacationed together including going to Scotland last summer. We have shared our diverse faith journey’s and remained hopeful when illness threatened to cripple. But the greatest of all is love.
Eugene Peterson, in the Message Bible in Contemporary language talks of love in this way:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Many of you have been blessed to have experienced the kind of love that the Apostle Paul described to the early Corinthian people. This scripture passage, read often at wedding celebrations, outlines the joys and challenges of deep, abiding love. It isn’t some mushy romantic feeling. It isn’t some early romance infatuation. It is deep, gutsy hard work kind of living.
Let’s take a trip to ancient Corinth. We stand in the ruins of the agora, or the market place. There are broken statues at the four corners. Remnants of stalls of the merchants line the outer walls. We look out towards the Mediterranean Ocean and marvel at the scene. We can imagine Paul standing in the square and issuing the call to love extravagantly. His words must have been startling to the first Century crowd that were gathered. They were people who had much dissension among themselves. Their way of living was fractious. Worship had been times of turmoil and communion was marred by class distinctions, and several members had filed lawsuits against other members.
However, let’s hold a mirror up to our own life and relationships with others and see what it has to say. Paul uses the analogy of a mirror to expose our own way of loving. Ancient Corinth was the leading producer of high quality bronze mirrors. Those listening to Paul would have been familiar with good mirrors and realized that the image was at best indirect. It was a little like today’s photos – a great replication but just not quite as good as the real thing.
Those of us who hear the phrase “now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face” realize that we see our own reflection – incomplete lovers that we are. Although we seek to be radical lovers, extreme in our compassion and tender in our caring, we fall short. However, as we see the indwelling God, we are confronted by the awesome life giving lover.
The challenge before us is to recognize one another as image bearers of God. This is the “bottom line” of why we are to love each other. When we live love, the fog of our transgressions is lifted and we see one another as images of God.
Elvis Presley sings “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and we sing “O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go.” Perry Como sings “Love makes the World Go Round” and we sing “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” May the deep and profound love of God be revealed in our living. “Faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.”