My summer has been very busy this year, and part of that busy-ness has been privilege of taking a number of weddings and funerals. I enjoy both. Yes, really; even the funerals. The thing that both such events share is a focus on the stories of love: the stories that have either brought the couple together, or played a part in the life of the deceased. Our stories are important, and within them it’s important to recount the part played by the love that we exhibit for particular people and also for our wider family, community and others we encounter in the course of life.
Several of the weddings and the funerals this year have asked for the same Bible reading: 1 Corinthians 13. Different people, in different circumstances, have almost all wanted to focus on this reading. You probably know the one I mean, so here it is in a version that is perhaps less familiar than some:
“If I love, I will be patient. I will be kind... I will not tell people how good I am. I will not think that I am better than other people. If I love, I will always be polite. I will think about what other people want. I will not think only about what I myself want. I will not get angry quickly. And I will not always be remembering the wrong things that other people have done to me. If I love, I will not be happy about bad things. But instead, I will be happy about things that are right and true.” Easy English Bible (edited).
I have been wondering why the popularity of this passage has been so significant this year. It could be just one of those things, but I do wonder if there is an increasing awareness in the relatively troubled times in which we are living, whether at an almost subconscious level more and more people are aware of our need to love friend and stranger alike, and to seek to be the very best ‘lovers’ that we can be.
John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, wrote this: ‘Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.’ He was saying that we should listen to those with whom we disagree and focus on what we share in common – building bridges rather than walls, as a more recent political protest slogan goes.
This might be something we would do well to particularly remember this month. Whatever happens on the national political scene, there is a lot of work we can do to bring people together at a community level, where any political differences can be set aside as we seek to obey the ancient commandment to ‘love our neigh-bour as we ourselves wish to be loved’ (Matthew 19:19). Whether we’re working to support the Village Hall, the School, St. Mary’s or some other significant endeavour, as we meet with others we will need to be careful to use the characteristics of love that 1 Corinthians 13 mentions: patience, kindness, politeness, selflessness, being slow to anger and more conscious of the need to prioritise the search for truth.
Jesus came into the world to show God’s love for each and every one of us. That love didn't end in the injustice and suffering of the cross where one person was scapegoated for largely political ends, but reached its fulfilment in Jesus’ resurrection which showed us that God’s love is able to break the power of injustice and selfish ends.
Whatever happens in the next few weeks and months, let’s strive to make Eversley and Bramshill a loving community, where God’s example of the characteristics of love abound, and in doing so make our country and the world just a little bit of a better place to live, whatever else may or may not happen.
Go well, love well and God bless