Rev. Helen Robinson
Paul’s writings on love in Corinthians are known well beyond the boundaries of the Church. And rightly so. Few things more powerful have been written about this most perfect of qualities. We hear this passage at weddings, and we are tempted to sentimentalize it, but it has far more true grit than to really invite us to do so.
This is about love which brings us to know our true place in the world. And that place is one of deep interconnectedness with our fellow human-beings. It is a place of service to others which springs from a profound sense of our shared humanity. Paul lets us know that the apparently noble things that we might do to demonstrate our faith- such as giving away wealth- are not worth a snap of the fingers if they are not motivated by love. He goes on to make us all blush with a list of the things which love is not- envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable or resentful.
Paul holds before us the truth that love is patient and kind, and that there is no limit to its’ faith, hope and endurance. There’s precious little room for sentimentality in that. Love calls us to take a good look at our relationships with those close to us, and to all those in need. Love asks us to both celebrate the joys of life with others, and to stand by them in really practical ways throughout their trials. This is about acknowledging the truth throughout life. The beauty and the privileges we experience, and the devastation and the heartache which can be part of life. It’s about being sensitive to what really goes on in life, and not shielding ourselves from the truth more than we need to in order not to lose our balance in life.
There is truly a rawness to love, an openness to what’s really happening. To love is certainly not comfortable all the time, but it is to be fully alive. It’s what makes us the person God designed us to be; fully human. Jean allowed God to lead her to towards being fully alive. There was nothing in any way artificial about her. She was a woman brought to true maturity in her relationship with God. A woman of the most remarkable integrity in actually living out the faith she believed. She always pointed us beyond ourselves, to the situation that others were living in. Her many initiatives in the area of social justice always kept us aware of the common humanity we share with those who suffer injustice or oppression. And that is only one facet of the legacy she leaves behind with the many, many lives which she has touched.
But this is not a hymn of praise to Jean, and she would not stand for that anyway. It is a hymn of praise to God, who is able to make us what we are intended to be- fully human, and fully alive. Paul speaks of our present situation in these terms: “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.” As we are now, we cannot know the depth and height and length and breadth of the love of God. But the day will come when we will know. The day will come when we will realize that we have been fully known, and that we are loved in the knowing. This is almost beyond our imagining, but it is the promise of our faith, and our dearest hope. God’s promise to us is that when we have passed from this mortal life, and faith and hope are needed no more, there will be love. The love of God will abide, being the greatest of all things.
Our worship today is our way of giving thanks to God for the love which always surrounds us, and in which Jean now lives with no limits. The faithful love of God now embraces her completely, and to her are spoken the words that every Christian longs to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Thanks be to God.