The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Reflection for the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 “Love is patient and love is kind”

Opening Prayer:  Holy, gracious, and amazing God, may the words on my lips as we reflect on your holy Word for us this day be acceptable in your sight, amen.

Last week you might recall I spoke about what I understand to be “blueprints” or guidelines for Christian living in the context of community. 

By community, I mean whenever two or more are gathered who have in common the desire to build up this particular body of Christ.

To put it another way, community for me can also mean the times whenever two or more of us are together who share a common bond, that being, the well-being of this particular United church. 

Sometimes two or more of us might find ourselves gathered together by chance in the grocery store or in our church office for casual conversation.

Others of us might find ourselves gathered together in more deliberate ways, say as members of the official board or at any one of our governance team meetings; at Tea Time Talk with Seniors; or even at our very engaging current bible study on A New Creed that’s happening on Tuesday evenings. 

For me, the church has so much potential to offer us that something special that’s missing at the Golf Club or at the Brock House Society, fine clubs and gathering places that they may be. 

For me, the church is a kind of learning lab-a place for spiritual discernment and for naming, claiming, and developing our own and others’ God-given spiritual gifts so that we might become the healthiest and most vital body of Christ as we possibly can be. 

Because God and the world needs us to be the hands and feet of Christ for a battered and bruised world more imperiled each day by misunderstanding, division, distrust, and greed, we really have no time to waste.  But waste it, we often do, it seems, especially when we get caught in the trap of equating being Christian with being nice.

This is where those guidelines or blueprints for Christian living can come in handy.

To my way of thinking, what a relief to be able to be able to commit ourselves to showing up with the express purpose of being present in this moment, not living in the past but, rather, here and now! 

To my way of thinking, what a gift to be able to risk telling one another the truth in love without worrying about causing offense or worse yet, ‘hurt feelings’.

To my way of thinking, what a gift to be able to bring a sense of humour and curiosity to each and every situation without getting caught in that downward spiral of complaining that is so often just a mask for fear and loss. 

And, to my way of thinking, what a gift to be able to hand all of our concerns about life in community in bold confidence and faith to our advocate and friend, the Holy Spirit, whose presence is ever at work honing and perfecting our Christian character for the hard work of being Christian in a broken and ailing world.

Of course, human nature being what it is, thinking and acting often don’t meet in the  middle. Then there’s those long standing habits and practices we have well honed that keep us from bringing our most authentic selves to the formation of our Christian character.   Perhaps, the best remedy in just such times to hear afresh those words we heard this morning attributed to the apostle, Paul in his letter to the people at Corinth, those disgruntled ones who have lost sight of the common good.

Listen again to the apostle Paul’s message about life in community springing as it does from a Christ centered radically inclusive love that is anything but romantic. 

Listen for that description of love shaped by what is best for the needs of the whole community rather than the needs of any one individual. 

Listen for that sense of love modelled for us in the life-giving love and death of Jesus, that takes as its ground God’s love for all creatures and all Creation.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. 

Love does not insist on its own way.

It is not irritable or resentful.

Love does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth.

Love bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; and endures all things.

Love never ends.   

This is a very tall order for those among us who might dare to call ourselves Christian and yet, this is exactly what we are each called to be about alone and together.  The good news for today?  The love we receive from God through Jesus is our lifelong project that though it has no end might well do with an intentional beginning. With that in mind, here are few thoughts for you to take with you and review at your leisure: 

Just imagine what our church community might look like if even one time someone disappointed us or didn’t meet our expectations, we decided to risk testing out those blueprints for Christian living? 

Just imagine what our church community life together might look like if we were to approach one in other with a sense of humour and curiosity about patterns of interaction that, at a first glance, might seem irritable or arrogant or rude? 

Just imagine what this particular body of Christ might look like if we were able to risk telling one other person the truth in love choosing to let go of outcomes or expectations?

Just imagine, indeed!

We are called to remember that there is nothing clean, tidy, or neat about being Christian.  Yet, the apostle Paul invites us always to strive for the greater gifts and more excellent way of becoming the body of Christ in this time and in this place.  For, indeed, “Christ has no body now but ours”. 

For all this and more, we say, “thanks be to God.” Amen