I Corinthians 13 is a popular reading for weddings, maybe because when St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he wore his heart on his sleeve.
Whenever I read this scripture, though, I am constantly reminded of when I stood before a panel of people as I was being interviewed for the opportunity to train and become a Lay Minister in the Church of England and I was asked to read the scripture aloud to everyone.
I was happy to do this, but for some strange reason, I choked up with emotion every time I had to say the word love. The word love is mentioned nine times in this reading, and by the time I managed to get to the end – we were all exhausted with the drama.
It was completely mortifying for me and I thought that’s it then, they won’t want me now, but as it happened, it was quite the opposite as they seemed to really take to me. The Lord indeed works in mysterious ways.
Trust me; this is a powerful scripture!
During the 1960s, excavations were carried out at Herod the Great’s old palace in Israel. An ancient jar was found in which a number of Date Palm seeds had been preserved. The seeds were offered to a local university, and given the right conditions, they finally germinated in 2004 and grew into full-blown Date Palm plants.
Can you imagine; those seeds somehow retained their dormant vital life energy – in a vase stored in a dark and dusty corner of an old palace for 2000 years!
I find seeds fascinating I can look at some and think there is the potential of amazing life inside these tiny specks; Jesus often referred to them in his teachings to describe God’s ways.
I see each act of Christian kindness and love, no matter how big or small, to be like the seed of God’s love being sown in somebody’s heart which can germinate and become faith at any point in that person’s life.
It might germinate immediately. Or it could come at any time between then and their deathbed when they finally comprehend the vastness of God’s love is freely available to all – including themselves.
In Christianity Today, an article about the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of the technology organisation Apple Inc., stated that he had started questioning faith in the last months of his life. He summarised his feelings by saying, ‘Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t’.
In the Wall Street Journal, a further article reports on “A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs,” saying that his last words were “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”
What Steve Jobs saw, felt or heard can only be imagined by us mere mortals, but I witnessed a similar scene at the deathbed of a loved one of mine.
The thing is that God has individual plans for each of us to reach our full potential; ‘For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11
We are all works in progress, but the road is often challenging, and we can become cynical and sceptical at times.
The soil of a person’s heart can be hardened and made rocky due to life’s trials and tribulations, but if enough Christians sow their seeds of love, then the Holy Spirit can work with the source of love that has been planted. Miracles can happen when they finally germinate – even on a death bed.
St Paul implores us to practise unconditional love in this letter to the Corinthians. In another letter that he wrote to the Ephesians, he said;
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
God’s love is for everyone, but His love’s size and scope are unimaginable to us.
Christians are simply called to go out into the world and sow their seeds of love with acts of kindness – the rest is then up to the Holy Spirit to breathe God’s love and life into them. This is done in a way we cannot comprehend – just as the 2,000-year-old seeds in Israel burst into life after they were nurtured, fed and cared for.
The Gift of Love
13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,a]”>[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,b]”>[b] 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. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.