Monday, 1 February 2016

Love is

This weekend, the last of January, we again celebrate a baptism at Applecross, Perth.  Today we also hear read the famous passage written to the Corinthians, Paul's treatise on love.  This passage comes at the centre of a rhetorical essay beginning in Chapter 11 and going on to the end of Chapter 14.  This passage is one that centres on gifts of the church both Spiritual and given by grace.  So what is love and how does it impact upon the new life in Christ that we celebrate today.

Well, we ask that the parents and godparents raise their child  into a life that is described in Paul's passage in Corinthians.  A major task one would think.  Given the attributes that Paul ascribes to love.  Patience, never boastful, never conceited, never taking offence, delights in truth doesn't make an accounting , etc.  A truly superhuman thing to achieve.  I know people who have some of these attributes but all of them, no way.  Surely we would wish for some of the other gifts on this child of God.  The gifts of knowledge, prophesy, speaking in tongues.  These are tangible things that will contribute immensely to our understanding of God and are sources of goodness to the Church.

Just think back through the decades, I am sure there are those who will remember, the outpouring of the Spirit during the Charismatic movement, when these gifts were prominent.  Think of the thousands that came into the Church then.  Even now we can think of the movement of the Spirit in the African countries and the enormous church attendances and presence in services in countries such as Nigeria and South Africa.  These are gifts which are useful to the Church and some would say essential for the Church's growth and ability to reach out into our communities to bring Christ's light to the darker places of the world.

An enduring power of love found in refugee camps

Yet Paul draws on the noisy environment of the brass foundries and bronze markets of  ancient Corinth to show how distracting such gifts are without an understanding and lived into experience of love that is needed to go with it.  Paul draws on the clamour of the market place to show us that for all our good intentions such gifts lead to our own downfall.  The tendency is to boast of having spoken or speaking in tongues.  Even if we do not have the gift now we still mention that we have had so in the past (we must be good!!).  We lord it over others if we have specialised knowledge that they do not have.  All of these things are typical of human nature we just need to look at the reading from Luke (4.21-30) to see how human these reactions are especially when we think we know better.  However, all of these things are fleeting in the scheme of things.  The Spirit does not stay but moves on to encourage others.  Our knowledge is transitory as new information comes to light and we have but our own glories in the past to reflect on rather than an ongoing  deepening understanding of our faith.

At the start of our faith journey the greatest gift that we can ask for is that the child comes to understand the strictures and freedoms of growing up filled with love.  An easy task, well perhaps perhaps not depending on how we think of love.  Looking at Paul's list of what love is and isn't it may not be as easy as we think. Can we truly say that we can bring our children to show the patience of withholding any power that they may wield over another, in the same manner that David withholds his power to kill King Saul on a number of occasions (out of love).  More often than not the encouragement is to use our power to benefit ourselves or the person with the power.  or can we encourage our children to have the endurance that those in refugee camps have.  The power to endure a life that is subjugated to power over us in the worst possible conditions.  A life that is seemingly impossible yet still brings love into the lives around us no matter how subjugated we are.

These are almost impossible but they are what Paul enjoins us to do and how we are to love our neighbour.  Are we able to bring our children up in this light giving of themselves selflessly in love?

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