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St Paul on love to the Corinthians

Audio for Reflection

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This is St Paul’s great chapter on the meaning of Love. It is so beautifully and simply expressed, rising to the great heights of poetry and yet it is so profound. It wants us to explore his meaning. Faith, hope but Love will last forever.

There was a time when the passage was overused at Weddings and its meaning simply passed us by. It reaches a depth that perhaps only one other passage of the Bible reaches: St John’s
God is love – is that not the gift of Christianity to humanity

Jesus wept
Be still and know that I am God
Such simple phrases – so profound for us

We are aware of so much around us that troubles us politically and socially. We are lost in the forest of life.

LOST by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

I wonder what St Paul’s childhood was like. Is he passing childhood over as an immature phase of our lives – I put the ways of childhood behind me – now I am adult? What was your childhood like? Do we see it through rose tinted glasses. I would want to say that my childhood was a wonderful part of my life, in which I lived in love and trust in the bosom of my family. I do remember sickness and fears – but more so I remember wonderful love and security.

We are told that the ages of 0 – 3 are the most creative phases of a child’s life. After that it is all down hill. Why is this – because of play and the imaginative life, through which we build the inner person. I loved being a young dad, who was given the opportunity to enter a child’s world again through books and toys and games.

Sadly though we leave much of that world too far behind us.

When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

St Paul is right, though – we need to go on a journey, to engage the big world and all that it means – there is no story, or a very sad story unless we leaves home. Well St Paul did in a big way – you know his story – martyred in Rome – champion of the Christian faith! Of love and responsibility itself. There is Jesus today taken to a brow of a hill to be stoned. There is Jeremiah locked away in a cell.

I hope that St Paul never lost the child within
It seems that in the adventure of life = we leave home, leave childhood, accumulate wounds and like the prodigal son/daughter, we have to come home and return to the trues self.

Cynthia Bourgeault in Loves Endures
Finally, “love endures all things.” . . . Everything that is tough and brittle shatters; everything that is cynical rots. The only way to endure is to forgive, over and over, to give back that openness and possibility for new beginning which is the very essence of love itself. And in such a way love comes full circle and can fully “sustain and make fruitful,” and the cycle begins again, at a deeper place. And conscious love deepens and becomes more and more rooted. . . .

And that is when we rediscover the child within and our dependence on the God who is love – so that trust, hope and faith – love itself becomes the rhythm of our lives. A living hope in us that love will itself transcend this life.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

This is the essence of the Christian tough love that is realised in the forest of life, that moves beyond the romanticism of love, the emotions of love to the deep agape of love – the principle of love – that I must treat the other with deep respect as someone who is a child of God.

It is the love that keeps us daily alive and alert, ready for more adventure:
It is as the poet T S Eliot says:

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers

Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion (East Coker)

I shall know fully, even as I am fully known

Do you wish to understand our Lord’s meaning?

Understand truly: Love was his meaning.
Who revealed it to you? Love.
What did he show you? Love.
Why did he show it? For Love.
Hold firmly to this and you will learn and know more of this. But you will never know or learn anything other than this, ever.

He showed me a little thing, the size of a hazel nut lying in the palm of my hand, and it seemed to me to be as round as a ball. I looked at it and thought, ” What can this be?” And I was answered generally thus, “It is all that is made”.

I marvelled how it could last, for it seemed to me that it might fall suddenly to pieces because of its littleness. And I answered in my understanding, “It lasts and always will because God loves it”.

And in the same way, everything has its its being through the love of God.

Julian of Norwich 1343 – 1416

The poem “Hope” is the thing with feathers, by Emily Dickenson, came into view this past week. It seems to say very simply what I was saying in my reflection on Hope last week, in “Hope is the motion that runs the dogs tail”

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hope is the thing with feathers

One comment on “St Paul on love to the Corinthians

  1. So beautiful Bob and so true. Read this all gave me great comfort today – thank you.


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