If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
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. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Love, Love, Love … All you need is Love, Love … Love is all you need …
In the summer of 1967, everyone was singing it – the Beatles’ anthem to love. I rather doubt that [m]any enjoying the Summer of Love, made the connection with Paul’s first Letter to the Church in Corinth… Love was something the Church in Corinth hadn’t quite got the hang of … in fact they had hardly got the hang of what it meant to be a church. It was all very new.
They were a very mixed group – Jews and pagans, women and men, slaves and free citizens, poor and wealthy people, often with little in common, and they argued about everything. Should women cover their heads? Who should share in the Lord’s Supper (men and women, or just men …?) and how should it be ordered? Who was most important – someone with great knowledge? or someone who could heal others? or speak in tongues of ecstasy? or people of great faith? None of these.
Paul identifies the missing ingredient in their church life. There is a better way.
Love is all you need … well not quite, but it is what the Church in Corinth (and [y]our church, perhaps?) is missing, the key to living in God’s way, the way Jesus lived, with patience, kindness, acceptance of others – not insisting on our own way, enduring whatever comes. I know local churches where people differ profoundly in their views about many things, from same-sex marriage to how Communion is served … but in caring for one another and working together and with others to meet the needs of vulnerable people, in charitable giving and volunteering, they are patient, kind, self-giving and are daily demonstrating faith and hope, motivated by the greatest of God’s gifts: Love.
Love is all you need.
When we think that it’s all about organisation or presentation or information or even congregation, forgive us and remind us that your question is Where is Love? May it be our question too. Amen
The Rev’d Heather Pencavel, Retired Minister, Thornbury URC
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