An audio version of this sermon can be found here.
This passage from I Corinthians is in danger of domestication due to overuse. Known as the “love passage,” I suspect many of you have heard it read at a fair number of weddings. And, in fact, I have preached on this passage at a fair number of weddings. And little wonder. It offers a profound message about the kind self-giving love that must form the foundation of any long-term commitment.
But because of its association with matrimony, this passage also is in danger of being too narrowly applied to our lives. In fact, this passage resists all domestication, all attempts to contain it. It is like fire. This passage is talking about a love that will jump fences and cross freeways and send sparks soaring. It is a love that does not want to be confined to one relationship in your life — it wants to burn in every relationship — in your relationship to your self, in your relationship to all living beings on this earth, human and more than human, in your relationship to the Creator and the creation. According to Paul, who wrote this passage to the church he planted in the city of Corinth, this love is the whole point of what he called life in Christ and what we might call following Yeshua (Jesus).
19:1 The heavens are telling of your glory, O God; and the skies display your handiwork. 19:7 Your law, YHWH is perfect, reviving the soul; your rule is to be trusted, making wise the simple; 19:8 Your purposes, O God, are just, rejoicing the heart; your commandments are clear, enlightening the eyes; 19:9 holding you in awe, YHWH, is purifying; your decrees are steadfast and all of them just. 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer.
Last Sunday we received a powerful word from Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, exhorting us to a reorientation of our bodies and beings as we seek justice. This reorientation “means breathing in new patterns,” she said, “and sometimes literally finding new air. Justice begins with a state of heart.”
By Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, offered on MLK Sunday 2022
“Whiteness has psychological advantages that translate into material returns” (54)
“As I move through my day, racism just isn’t my problem. While I am aware that race has been used unfairly against people of color, I haven’t been taught to see this problem as any responsibility of mine; as long as I personally haven’t done anything I am aware of, racism is a nonissue. This freedom from responsibility gives me a level of racial relaxation and emotional and intellectual space that people of color are not afforded as they move throughout their day (55)
-Robin DiAngelo, “White Fragility”
In the past two years and counting, we have been confronted with the reality of our bodies, our being and our breath in ways that we have not been challenged to face before. The necessity of our breathing for living is, in a factual way, not new to us. All animals, humans included, need to breathe in some way or another in order to keep moving about. And yet, at the same time, the finiteness of our breath, the vulnerability of our breath and, conversely, the taken for granted nature of our breath and our bodies is being revealed to us in very visceral and quite tangible ways in these days. It is the fact of our breathing that brings us all to this moment, to worship, here, to today and now. It is also the fact of our breathing that makes it intensely difficult for me to be with you in person safely: that is keeping us apart.
For four weeks during Advent, we dwelt in the dark. We encouraged each other to rest there, to embrace it as fertile and magnificent. As the place from which new birth comes.
And then, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, Mary was awakened by an angel, who told her she would birth the Divine into the world. And then, we said on Christmas Eve: The Divine Child has been born! Glory to God in the highest! We ended our Christmas Eve service with this benediction: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it.”
And then, today on Epiphany, we sing: “Arise your light has come!” And we tell the story of the coming of the light of Christ to all people through the story of the magi that we just heard. The story is meant to say: Even non-Jews, even these strangers from the East, these astrologers (who practiced magical arts that were seen as dangerous to Jewish people of the time) even they see the star in the sky and know that a Divine Light has come into the world.