Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on February 10, 2018
Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Congratulations to those of you who have plans on going out to celebrate with someone you like or even love. For those who are not going out, well, neither are we! This year Valentine’s Day for us ministers is Ash Wednesday, which begins the first day of Lent. That means we get pretty busy. Also, my wife and I have a restaurant which means it is the busiest night of the year; and we will definitely not be going out for a romantic candlelight dinner. I worked Valentine’s Day last year and at the end of the night I had walked over seven miles in the restaurant. My feet were killing me. Instead we will crash in front of the TV at the end of evening and rub each other’s feet.
Valentine’s night in the restaurant business is “interesting” to put it mildly. We see couples who delight in each other and wish to celebrate their love and romance eye to eye and with the world. What is not to love about that? We also see couples who believe they are “suppose” to go out. Married or together for years you can spot them quite easily. They look like a couple who wishes they were someplace else with someone else. They are uncomfortable like when you see a person walking their cat on a leash. They just don’t want to be there. Conversation is limited, smiles are few, and laugher is nonexistent. In short, they look miserable. By the end of the evening the restaurant starts looking like the last gasp of an Academy Award ceremony. A few smiling winners with the rest of the house moody, mad and grumpy. Mix in some alcohol and we can see why Valentine’s Day isn’t fully loved by everyone.
With love on one side and grumpy on the other this got me thinking about a familiar passage in the Bible. 1st Corinthians 13: 1-13. For those who have ever attended a wedding you may recall, “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, and endures all things. Love never ends.” The passage ends with, “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
I never tire of hearing these words. Whether I am the reader or listener, presiding minister, congregant or guest, these words from the Apostle Paul are like oxygen. They are fresh and restorative each and every time.
To better understand Paul’s letter, we need to know that the city of Corinth is a prosperous community positioned at a crossroad that allowed access to trade routes between the Aegean and Ionian seas. The church in Corinth has a mishmash of wealthy and poor people. They are blending Jesus’ message as they understand it with other popular cultural traditions of the day; and all of this is causing a lot of bad feelings. Divisions are happening and things are falling into disarray. Paul is writing to mend the quarrels and splits but also to teach them that they are missing the message of Jesus. Does this sound familiar?
Paul writes of “agape” love. A deep communal love for all of our brothers and sisters. He is not writing about “eros” love. Eros is romantic, sexual yearning and desires between partners. The love that we “hopefully” see on Valentine’s Day. Paul writes of “agape” love that is not a feeling or an attitude, rather “agape” is a specific action to be patient and help and serve others. Paul is showing us the love he speaks of is a courageous vision that rejoices in truth and bears all suffering. In short, Paul’s love is the antithesis of the divisive behaviors and misguided beliefs that are alive and well in Corinth.
This Valentine’s Day, sweetheart, no sweetheart, broken heart, lonely heart, happily alone or going out with a bunch of friends we can live differently into love. We can all find new and deeper expressions of communal love for all of us. Love for our sisters and brothers 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, and endures all things. Love never ends.” Have a happy Valentine’s Day.
Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah
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