The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon preached at Springwood by Br. Luke on Sunday 31st January
In the reading from Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, St Paul gives us a wonderful description of love. This passage has become a standard reading at weddings. I suspect that most people when hearing it, say that’s nice and move on, but don’t really stop, listen and absorb what St Paul is saying. I think here he is actually being really helpful, and not his confusing self.
You have all heard me say that the message of the gospel is love. That love underlies the way in which we approach God and others. Yes I’m talking about the 2 great commandments. And you’ve also heard me say these are difficult to do. So any suggestions about how we can understand, or live this instruction has got the be helpful – right? Well here is such a helpful idea from St Paul.
He makes it clear that without love, we are hollow, simple shadows of what we could, or claim to be. But in our world the word love has become a much overused, and a much misunderstood word. We use it when really, it is not love that we are talking about. So perhaps we need to spend a few minutes unpacking this word.
The theologian C.S. Lewis wrote a book entitled, “The Four Loves”, in which he describes and explains some different understandings of love. His four definitions are: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. Now I’m not going to give you a detailed talk about Lewis’s book, it is something we can all study at a later date. I’m mentioning it here, because I think we need to grasp that when we say ‘love’, our hearers may think of love in way that we did not intend or mean. So if we are meaning friendship, and our hearer thinks we mean eros, then paraphrasing what as the crew of Apollo 13 said, “We have a problem”.
Now there is a temptation, and it can be so subtle that we don’t even realise that we have given into it, to use the words of St Paul as a measuring stick, as a means of judging a relationship, even a person. What we do, is we go looking for evidence of love. When we give into that temptation, then I think we have missed the point of what St Paul was saying. What do I mean I hear you ponder? Well here is a suggestion about understanding, or applying this part of St Paul’s teaching in our lives. When you read the passage again, and perhaps do this quietly by yourself, don’t use it as a measure – personalise it. What I mean is replace the word ‘love’, or if it is not there, then add to the passage, the words: “I am”. So what you will get is something like this:
I am patient; I am kind; I am not envious; I am not boastful; I am not arrogant; I am not rude; I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable; I am not resentful; I do not rejoice in wrongdoing; I rejoice in the truth.
You get the idea. Now be truthful, how many of us squirmed in our seats when I read that – probably all of us. I have never forgotten a Franciscan brother once telling me that when the scriptures disturb us, then they are working. Now I suspect we not only squirmed just then, but we were perhaps also a little disturbed. Yes I hear you, no more Br Luke, that’s enough disturbing us and making us squirm in one day.
Okay, but remember, this suggestion is just a clue about how we can try to pattern our lives, and apply the two great commandments. We will look at the remainder of the passage from Paul,
“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. 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.”
at our Bible study on Friday.