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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Living Love Love provides for the possibility of life lived in the close quarters of the Body of Christ. Our love for one another and the world grows out of God’s gracious love for us. Prophecy that prepares us to receive God begins and ends in the speaking and doing of love. Such love enlivens community. Such love persists. By such love we are fully known. 1 Corinthians 13: 1–13 Paul frames this passage using a rhetorical device of the time. In such constructions, typically used to praise an individual or virtue, actions serve as clues to character. Here, love is known by its actions. The Greek language has three words for love. Eros refers to sensual or erotic love. Philia refers to love based on relationships of kinship or friendship. Agape, the word used here, indicates love that is gracious in origin, nature, and expression. Paul does not seek to theorize about the nature of agape love. Rather, this passage stresses actions that reveal love. Those actions are not always easy, and often come with risk. The critical nature of love to Christian life and community becomes clear in the first verses. For without love, even the best of actions ring hollow. It is difficult not to hear this text apart from our associations of it with weddings and commitment ceremonies. It is important to remember that Paul did not write these words to give preachers something to read to couples. This passage originated in his attempt to describe what makes life possible within Christian community. The meaning of these words in rituals of marriage grows out of that prior truth, not vice-versa. The context of this passage is Paul’s concern in chapter 12, and the entire letter of 1 Corinthians, for what it means to live as Christ’s Body. Love forms the bottom line to that vocation. A key element is that such love does not exhaust itself in revealing Christ to and for one another within the community. Love serves as the way in which we bear witness to Christ to the whole world. One critical observer of the early church made the begrudging comment: “see how they love one another.” Community and witness both take form in love enacted. As Paul prepared the Corinthians for life lived in the close quarters of community, two of the other readings narrate how the prophetic voice prepared God’s way. Jeremiah 1:4–10 narrates Jeremiah’s call to speak words and later engage in actions that will be difficult. The commission to pull down and build up anticipates Jeremiah’s task of announcing exile and then return. In Luke 4:21–30, Jesus’ words found a hard reception at home. The gospel of including outsiders stirred conflict. That truth, experienced by earlier prophets, still holds true today. Paul adds the perspective in 1 Corinthians 13 that even the prophetic word rings hollow without love. These readings also share the imagery of childhood. Psalm 71:1–6 employs positive images. The psalmist relates trust in God “from my youth” and reliance on God from birth. In Luke and Jeremiah, “boy” and “son” seem to be used in pejorative ways, while Paul alludes to “child” and “childish.” Remember, though, those who belittle youth in Luke and Jeremiah miss God’s affirmation and choice of these children. And the word Paul uses for “child” refers to an infant, a stage at which speech and reason are just beginning to develop. True maturity is not scorn of an earlier age, but growth into newness of life. Paul urges the community of Christ to love expressed in action. How might this text shape or transform the way we embody love today, especially in the context of community? How does love prepare us for God – and how does God prepare us for love?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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