On Saturday mornings I start my day with Morning Prayer. Prayer services including Morning and Evening Prayer have long been a part of the Episcopal Church tradition, and are a wonderful opportunity to refocus your heart and mind on Christ throughout the day. Each prayer service includes Bible readings. Today’s New Testament reading comes from 1st Corinthians 12:27-13:3. In this passage, Paul discusses the various gifts given to the body of Christ: apostles, prophets, teachers, administrations, tongues, etc. He urges the Corinthians to “desire the best gifts.” When I read this I thought, ‘Okay, so I should desire to be an apostle.’ However, I think by stopping here we are missing the point.
Immediately after listing these gifts, Paul goes into his famous passage on love. He says that even if you have attained the highest gifts, it’s all pointless without love; you are nothing more than “a clanging symbol.” Love, then, should be sought above all else. But how do we seek love? What does that word even mean? Most people are familiar with the passage that follows (1st Corinthians 13:4-13), and in some ways that makes it harder to really pay attention to what Paul is trying to say. But if we listen carefully, he tells us exactly what it looks like to put on love. It’s patient and kind, does not envy, thinks no evil, rejoices in the truth, believes all things; the list goes on and on. This is what we should desire. This is the “the more excellent way” that Paul talks about. When I read this passage, I can’t help but think about how little I reflect the image of love that Paul describes. “Love never fails”? I definitely don’t measure up to that.
But there is good news! Love is not something that we have to fabricate on our own. It is a gift, something that is freely given by our Lord. God has given us each the gift of love. Jesus is the only one who truly epitomizes Paul’s description. Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus does not envy. Jesus is not provoked. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus is the gift that we have been given, should we accept him. Through his death on the cross we have been given the greatest gift of all, and we have the chance to follow in his “more excellent way”.
As I sit in my room listening to the sounds of Tela, I think about the gift that I’ve been given and what it means. Even on the days when I am feeling lonely or frustrated, I know that this gift resides deep within my heart. I pray that God will continue to reveal to each of us how to use the gift of love in our lives.