Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
By Mark McReynolds
Since the 2016 US elections, I have found environmental news both sad and enraging. I’ve been angered by the near theft of public land for extractive use and how “natural resource” industry lobbyists are now in charge of our federal land. Drilling for oil off the coast of California and in the middle of critically needed Sage Grouse habitat (surely messing up both) to enrich already rich oil companies is approved without even a nod to our changing climate. Reading of such news leads me to unloving thoughts.
However, I’m a Mennonite and Christian who is called to love even “Them,” those whose actions I revile. I’m terribly torn between wanting to rail about the sheer stupidity and evil and I see in the news, and wanting to be a person that emanates the unshakably constant and calm love of Jesus. So, this 1 Corinthian 13 love passage makes me pause; what a challenge. I have rewritten it for me (and you?).
If I speak out in great eloquence (via blog, email, Facebook and sermons) about human- caused extinctions of God-created species, of coal fired mercury in babies, of white sand beaches covered in multicolored plastic, and of a planet that is burning up, but do not speak and write and act in a winsome manner, catching more flies with honey than vinegar, with genuine loving concern for people and all creation, then I become discordant and, like a shrill street corner preacher or doomsday environmentalist, am tuned out. Then everything I do amounts to nothing.
And if I write the most amazing books or look into the our planet’s future via simulations or witness the start of the universe with the Hubble telescope or watch life start in a single-celled organism (what mysteries), and if I religiously attend Sunday school, Wednesday Bible Study, church on Sunday, Christian college, marry a Christian, go to seminary, and do good ministry with many people for many years. Well, if it’s not all done in love, and for love, it all amounts to nothing, and I am nothing.
Even if I go full monastic, vowing simplicity and poverty, (I have not – though I sure am sympathetic) and gave away my 1940’s cabin in the mountains, my very expensive scope that makes possible bird identification at a quarter mile, the computer that puts these words out for me, if I boastfully became another No Impact Man and had not even trash to give away – wow wouldn’t I be eco-cool. If I had the holy self-discipline to submit my body to hardship, then I’d exercise two hours every day, rain or shine, eat only organic, vegan food, turn off the furnace and AC, wear only Salvation Army, take cold showers even in winter, scorn sugar, and always get eight hours of sleep; even if I did all that, if it’s not all done in love, and for love, it all amounts to nothing, and I am nothing.
So, here’s love:
Love is patient and I do not want to sit around patiently while there’s more warming, plastic trash, baby deformities and extinctions. Lord have mercy.
Love is kind and I kind of want (actually really do want) to skewer “Them” – you know, the folks who lead all this folly, though I’d be nicer to all those gullible enough to believe their tales. Lord have mercy.
Love is not envious, but wouldn’t it be great to have the power to do it all right? I sure wish my types of folks were in power. Lord have mercy.
Love is not boastful or arrogant, but it’s objectively crystal clear that I am fact-checked correct. Lord have mercy.
Love is not rude, but surely any discussions with the deceived are a waste of my time. Lord have mercy.
Love does not insist on its own way, but if it’s love it must be right? If I’m right it must be love? Lord have mercy.
Love is not irritable or resentful, but I can be and I keep score. Lord have mercy.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing (Yippee! – “They” got caught) but I don’t even see my wrongdoing. Lord have mercy.
Love rejoices in the truth, and despite quotations to the contrary, “Truth is truth” and “alternate facts” don’t exist. Lord have mercy.
Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things, including inept bureaucrats, understaffed and underfunded agencies, businesses only concerned with profit and “consumers” only with price, both sycophantic and cowardly church leaders, and a divided republic with some waiting for regime change. Lord have mercy.
Love never ends, but mine has in many situations and with some people it has not even started. Lord have mercy.
In the End our best predictions of the future won’t matter; blogs, viral videos and awesome sermons won’t matter, and what we know won’t matter at all. Lord have mercy.
In the Now, despite our best scientific efforts, we don’t even know what we don’t know, and what would we do if we could forecast the future? Lord have mercy.
Thankfully, when it’s all said and done, when at the perfect End, all the unknowns will end. Lord have mercy.
When I was a kid I talked, thought, and argued like one; when I became an adult I put my childish ways behind me (Did I really?). My vision is still foggy Now, but at the End I will clearly see and be seen by Him. And at that End, as I am known fully I will know fully. Lord have mercy.
Remember. Despite the gloomy headlines, predictions, and facts, despite the strong dark opposition of the principalities and powers of this present age, three things will always (at least at the End) prevail: Faith, Hope, and the greatest, Love.
Lord have mercy on me, on you, as we keep faith, hope and love in these trying times.
Author Bio. Mark McReynolds: I’m a mix. I’m theologically Mennonite, but ethnically mostly Scotch-Irish-Swedish, and in California a minority (there being no ethnic majority). Family history has a Scot coming to Ireland and then several sons born there cross the Atlantic. I don’t know why any migrated but the rich had no incentive to leave all and risk journeys to unknown lands. Born in the LA area I became an Audubon Jr. Ranger and learned uses of chaparral plants by the land’s original inhabitants who were Kizh, the people. I’ve taught at universities and camps, and am now restoring both people and places through collaborative, community-based conservation via SoCal A Rocha.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.