Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 1 Corinthians 13
Have you ever found it easier to love the whole world, than one or two people in it?’ Have you ever felt like yelling ‘I have no trouble with the world – it’s people I can’t stand!’ Maybe you feel like this at the moment. Loving the world in general isn’t that difficult; loving the people around us can be a major challenge.
The apostle Paul, human like us, no doubt had his bad days also, when loving wasn’t easy, when people weren’t easy. Today, as we prepare to break bread together and to join with Jesus in his agony before death, we want to ‘grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ (Ephesians 3: 18, 19) Let’s ask God now to fill us with that love, with His love.
Ever loving God,
The enormity of your love takes our breath away.
In the light of our fickleness your faithfulness amazes and strengthens us from the inside out. However our day has started, whatever we are looking forward to or fearing in this day or week, remind us now in ways we can’t ignore ,
of your ever present wisdom and hope in our wobbliest of moments and our fears of abandonment or failure.
Breathe your Holy Spirit now into my words and our responses, we pray in the strong Name of Jesus, the Light of the world,
Today as we join together in communion, as we encounter Jesus with his arms spread out on the cross in love for us, we discern the nature of God’s love. This phenomenal love, is for each one of us, all the time. There is no time when God turns his back on us. The teacher, the wise Solomon, reminds us that there is a moment for everything. God invites us to see his presence, His face in everything – the experiences we revel in – ‘ a time to laugh’, ‘a time to dance’, ‘a time to heal’, ‘a time to mend’ – and the times we’d never ourselves choose to experience – ‘a time to mourn, a time to tear, a time to hate, a time for war.’
There is not one of us who is considered so bad that God’s love can’t enfold him or her. The Voice, a recent paraphrase of the Bible, describes God’s love in 1 Corinthians 13 as having no arrogance, never being rude, crude or indecent, nor being self-absorbed or easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice, but truth – yes truth, is love’s delight. Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete.”
It is our loving God who birthed creation and now pursues a broken people in the most spectacular way. Our loving God compassionately understands our hurts, our defensive behaviour and our fears of being left behind and so emphasises the importance and the power of love in this famous passage.
The context into which Paul wrote this beautiful and practical description of love was in fact a letter of rebuke to a dysfunctional church for the way they were abusing spiritual gifts given by God to build up the church. Paul mentions six gifts of the Spirit at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13 – tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith, giving and martyrdom, and then declares that even these amazing gifts amount to nothing if they are offered and used without love.
This portion of Paul’s letter, as does the much older philosophical book of Ecclesiastes, aims to distil God’s wisdom into human situations, to guide fickle human beings who are in danger of being led by their feelings rather than by God’s wisdom, into despair and negativity. We might be obedient to God in all other respects, but without love we’re a loud, unpleasant noise which distracts and disturbs others, rather than building them up in faith.
Many of us, almost without realising it, spend quite a bit of time, peering into the future, wondering how we will cope with whatever is around the corner. How will I manage when the kids leave home? Should I stay in this job for ever, or learn some new skills? When and where should I move? What happens if my health worsens?
This gem from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds and reassures us that when we take the strong love of God into any unknown situation – the sort of possibilities that the sage of Ecclesiastes suggests – planning, uprooting, weeping, laughing, mourning, dancing, searching, giving up searching, keeping silent or speaking, or whatever– then we enter the future with hope. Than we need not be afraid. Then when we bring the situation plus love to God’s throne of grace, we have confidence born of a hope that is eternal – which emanates from God’s passionate love and perfect plan for us.
And that’s what we bring before God into communion today also. As we offer up our hands to God to be filled with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, they can cling still to that fear for what the future may bring, to our fear of failing, or our difficulties in being uprooted from our home, our family and all we’ve previously known, searching constantly for some new pleasure or obsession. But then when we open our rigid hands to take the bread, the body of Christ, to drink the wine, the blood that Christ shed for us, then his unfathomable and lasting love sweeps over us. Then we have peace – not the peace that the world gives us, but the peace won for us by the Prince of Peace.
Then we’ll notice something shifting, pain and worry being lifted from us. Then those endless possibilities of life from the Creator of all that is good – all the searching, weeping, laughing, tearing down and building, the scattering and gathering, the times of embracing and times of being on our own, all have a God-given purpose. No longer will we be striving for the sake of striving, but we will have a goal, which God alone fulfils of a growing relationship with Him.
This divine relationship will encompass and protect us through our mountain top experiences and the lowest depths of our lives. We will never be alone. Psalm 95:4 assures us of God’s coverage of everything – including the variety of experiences and roles God calls us into.
“In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him”(Psalm 95: 4).
Prayer of response to God’s love