828 King's Highway, Suffolk VA 23432

757 255-4168 stjohns1755@verizon.net Worship Service: Sundays at 10:30am
Welcome to St. John's community. We are honored to serve Christ, and to open our doors to all. Please feel free to join us for worship. St. John's can trace its history to the founding of Jamestown. The parish is over 350 years old, and the church building itself has stood for 2 and a half centuries. St. John's saw the American Revolution and served as a camp ground for troops during the Civil War. Through it all, St. John's has been a place of worship and a home for those seeking communion with Christ. St. John's has a rich and abiding history. Today, it is as it was... a place to find and be found by Christ.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Meditation on 1 Corinthians 13

It happens around this time of year, the greeting card aisles turn pink. The cards, decked out in a rich variety of red hues, proclaim a message of love. Love is… Love is passion, romance, burning desire, a rush of emotions tumbling like the waters of a flood. Or, love is pleasant, a warm feeling for a friend, appreciation for a gift, a positive thought for another. Love can also be humorous, awkward, embarrassing, stressful, or in some cases, simply lacking. In short, the cards tell us that love is a multifaceted state of emotion.

The lesson from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians offers a different image of love.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13: 4-8, NRSV translation)

This message sounds beautiful, even inspiring, but on closer examination, it paints a different picture than love found in the greeting cards. True love calls us to be patient when things do not go our way; to be kind even when others are insistent, or demanding. This kind of love deflates the ego, and leads us to be servants at heart, willing to make sacrifices for another’s good. This love requires strength, endurance, and a willingness to hold fast to hope, even in the darkest moments of life in relationship. Far from being an emotion, feeling or rush of hormones, true love is action. Love is hard work.

I believe the apostle Paul based his description of love on the character and actions of God, as they have been revealed in relation to God’s people Israel. Even before his conversion experience, Paul was a student of scripture, and the stories of God in scripture are of a God who is patient from generation to generation, long suffering, faithful, humble, generous, life giving, enduring and filled with hope. When Paul encountered the risen Christ, he experienced the full measure of his loving grace. He saw that hope fulfilled in person. Paul knew love in a different way.

When I look at the description of love in Corinthians, it is humbling. I am not sure I can give such love. I know I can’t. But when I look at it purely as a description of the way God loves -has loved and will continue to love- us, I see it differently. In this light, love ceases to be a burden. Love is a gift. It is not a gift that I can summon up by will power or determination, but a simple grace flowing from God. The challenge for any of us is not to give love out of our own limited resources, but to allow the eternal love of God to fill our hearts and our lives so that we may overflow with the love of God- and simply love.

The Rev. Earnest Graham
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Suffolk VA
Jan. 31, 2010

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