Br. Andrew Colquhoun, OHC
Epiphany 4 C – Sunday, February 3, 2013
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
There was a young woman in South Africa who brought groups to the monastery for retreat. She was not always easy to deal with but we got to like and respect her for her straightforward ways. Her principal gripe was about people who had decided that their favorite flavor of Christianity was Christianity Lite.
|from the cover of the book by the same title, by Glen Berteau|
It’s kind of discomfiting to recognize one’s self in this, I hope! Even the search to discover God can be so tainted – I want to draw near to God because God makes me feel better. I pray and read the Bible for my own up-building; my spiritual welfare becomes paramount.
It’s a delicate balance, isn’t it? Is it bad to feel good? Am I wrong to want the comfort of feeling near to God? Are my needs and longings to be ignored or put down?
Certainly not! Scripture and history are full of testimony of the joy that saints have found in their discipleship even through whatever struggles life put before them.
But the gospel for today intrigues. Jesus has just proclaimed his mission and the villagers liked it – at first.
They spoke well of him – we know this fellow – Joseph’s boy. He’s one of ours. I suspect as Jesus did that that their expectation was that this local boy would be a mine of gratuitous help for them.
The trouble was that Jesus knew them too well. He’d grown up among them after all – and he challenged them. “Are you the only people with widows or lepers?”
And the tide turned. Jesus is not willing to be claimed and held by their limitations. And you just heard the story – they got angry tried to kill him and he left them.
His call is always to the most broken, to the least of these. His heart is for love and not for ease. He is driven beyond comfort to the desperate, the crushed, the starving, the lepers of the world. He’s driven too to the person who can’t get a job, the exhausted single mother, the depressed Veteran, the teenager who’s all confused… fill in the blanks. And if the truth be told, sometimes your name is in the blank.
And where he leads we follow.
I love I Corinthians 13. It never fades, this great hymn of love. But it’s so easy to turn it into Christianity Lite. To think of Love with a Hallmark veneer. But Paul’s not talking about the sweetness of affection. He’s talking about the love he experienced at the hands of the Risen Lord. Blinded and sent to journey to God knows where to be stoned, imprisoned and finally put to death. That’s the love he means.
We are on that same path. We are preparing for the journey here. Praying, longing for God, drawing into God’s broken heart. And the nearer we are drawn, the farther out we are expected to reach.
The more we open ourselves to God’s love, the wider the circle becomes. The more sweetness we know, the more we can taste the bitterness of the world’s sorrow. The closer to the Cross the deeper the pain of God’s people penetrates our hearts.
There’s another option, of course… We could just order a great big glass of Christianity Lite – and die of thirst.