This Epistle from Paul has a beauty all of its own. As such it has been loved and admired, as a reading, for instance, at many many weddings. But, in its context in 1 Corinthians, it stands not only as a fine piece of writing, but also as a very confronting statement.
Paul has been concerned in 1 Corinthians 12 about people’s approach to spiritual gifts, as we have heard over the past two weeks.
He has had to make the point that the life of the Spirit is about building up community, not about getting carried away with one’s own experiences in ways that undermine community.
The Spirit has a place for all. People have different gifts. There needs to be a sense of perspective.
When the passage starts by referring to tongues of men and angels, it is not engaging in a piece of baroque flourish.
Some in the community of Corinth do appear to have been carried away with speaking in tongues. Paul spends the next chapter addressing the problem. So his assertion that speaking in tongues is just a lot of noise if love does not have highest priority confronts a certain kind of religiosity – a piety which is not the be all or end all!
The same happens in the statements which follow. Prophecy, understanding mysteries, knowledge, faith to move mountains, all count for nothing if love is not present.
Paul is attacking approaches to spirituality which have missed the point of what Christianity is about, as he understands it.
From earlier chapters we see that the Corinthians seemed obsessed with these things.
They were squabbling about leadership; some were making claims to be especially wise; some were getting carried away with ecstatic experiences; others were making miracles central.
Paul attacks none of these activities, but he refuses to assume that any of them should be seen as the main thing. When Paul wants to identify the presence of God, these are not the prime things. The prime thing is compassion. It’s only about love.
Matthew gives us a picture of Jesus making a similar point when he declares: “Not every one who says, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my father who is in heaven” and he continues by pointing out that in the end people will report their wonderful deeds, miracles, prophecy and the like, only to be told they have no real relationship with Jesus at all.
Similarly in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Matthew reports that the sheep are those who exercised compassion in their lives That is ultimately what counts.
We may have the talent, the will and the belief to restore buildings and erect new halls, and keep them beautiful. But without love we are nothing.
We might light candles for folk and pray and sound convincing, but without love for each other we are nothing.
We may run Coffee Mornings and lunches and Friends’ Events until they are coming out of our ears, but if we have no love we are nothing. We might give the Diocese wonderful statistical returns, or show up at Synod, but without love we are nothing.
We will be judged on our love and compassion for each other and towards others.
The second half of the passage seems only marginally related to love – until we get to the climax.. Paul is wanting to put everything in its place.
Only love really endures. The point is to assert human vulnerability. We have not arrived – some at Corinth thought they had.
Some of us in St Auggie’s think we’ve arrived too.. beautiful buildings, good music, and lots of life. Hey! We have a show on the road here… but, but, but!
So here in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is trying to bring people down to earth to stop the arrogance. Paul does not need to pretend that he is in control, that he knows everything, that he is superior.
It is OK to be a human being who still has a long way to go. In this way Paul is at least preparing the kind of soil in which love might have a chance to take root. It often can’t get much of a start until we acknowledge our need of it.
Just got this in from the Inspires team, via Mother Ruth’s Blog . If you want to be in the know then I suggest you sign up for it…
I’m writing on behalf of the Information and Communication Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church with some information about Inspires Online which will be launched next week.
You may be aware that the I & C Board has decided to make the printed magazine of the Scottish Episcopal Church (Inspires) a quarterly publication, thus reducing it from 10 times a year to 4 times a year. This will be supplemented by an online newsletter. The initial expectation that this newsletter (Inspires Online) will come out monthly.
This will contain more up to date news than the printed magazine has been able to do and it is hoped that it will go some way to solving a problem that some have perceived in our church, of it being difficult to get news flowing around the Province. The online newsletter will launch next week.
All clergy whose e-mail addresses are known to the General Synod Office have been signed up to receive it. (If you don’t wish to receive it, there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of this e-mail and on every issue of the newsletter). However, this publication is for our whole church, not just for clergy.
For that reason, I’m writing to ask for your help in letting others know about it. If people who have not been signed up already wish to receive this newsletter, then they need to go to Https://www.inspires.org.uk/subscribe and fill out the simple form there. I would appreciate any help you can give in getting this information out. It could be included in congregational/diocesan publications, websites, blogs, notices in church, service sheets etc.
I hope that this new communication tool will be useful and would like to thank those who have been working on it.
The Provost adds: Inspires has become a quarterly print publications supplimented by a monthly online newsletter. The content will be different. Inspires online will concentrate on time sensitive news. Inspires in print will still contain articles and reflection on the life of our church.
Now I’m corrected; I just didn’t get the correct info, I owe aplogies to those confused by the earlier post!
We had hoped that this would be ready this week! However, between a computer disaster and other business in the new rectory, this seems increasingly unlikely. Apologies to our readers!
Let us take you to wartime Britain and remember the better bits of that wartime spirit. Come in 40s gear, if you want to!
In the Hall after the Service.
This will take the form of a Greek Taverna style meal with the sing-a-long DVD of Mamma Mia being played throughout the evening. Hopefully some people will join in with singing and dancing. Guests are invited to come dressed up in either Greek or 70s/Abba style costumes.
Programme: Arrival/start time 6 pm with drinks being served as guests arrive.
Roll + sausage meal (vegetarian option to be provided if required)
Songs from Ricky and Ghislaine
“Tartan” Bingo – 3 games, single line, double line and full house.
Entertainment from Erin & Caitlin, Keir, Ruaridh
“Festive Fissogs” – vote for the funniest picture from the selection taken at Friends/St Aug’s events
Tablet (possibly served at same time as clootie dumpling
Salute to Rabbie – a selection of Burns songs from Ricky and Ghislaine
Pictures are now in the Photo Album under “Multimedia”