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Sunday Devotion: 3 February 2019, Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday Devotions

Love with flesh and bones and breath…

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Main readings: Jeremiah 1.4-10; Ps 71.1-6; 1 Corinthians 13.1-13; Luke 4.21-30

Supplementary readings: Ps 119.17-24; Luke 5.12-16; Jeremiah 1.11-19; Ps 71.17-24; Galatians 3.1-14

“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.” (1 Corinthians 13.1)

Dating Jesus is the memoir of Susan Campbell, a bright and capable woman born in the 1960s and raised in a Tornado Alley church in the United States. Her church, while conservative, was reasonably mainstream, so her experiences couldn’t be dismissed as one might a more fundamentalist manifestation of faith. In her memoir, Campbell depicted the ways her church agonised over the codes of who did and didn’t belong. With all the best will in the world, her church bungled love, worrying about whether having a piano or a particular kind of floor covering was Godly, while marginalising people who perhaps weren’t Godly enough.

We bungle love all the time – in church and beyond – but at the same time we know with all the inevitability of night following day, that love is the one thing that we all want and need. Love is not a theoretical occupation and if it is, it is no better than the clanging cymbal of today’s reading. Paul lays out what love is: a work of profound and practical beauty.

The Bible reminds us that God is Love (1 John 4.7-8), and that love incarnate is no distant theory.  Such startling vulnerability might make us afraid, as we rush to legislate, control or scaffold, making rules and rituals, forgetting that Jesus, love incarnate – love with flesh and bones and breath – seeks out the lost, broken and lonely. Do we? Or, do we keep them at a polite and theoretical distance, letting them in only when we deem them Godly enough?

God is love, and it is only incarnate love that has the ability to transform the landscape of our hearts and souls.

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