Love’s Paean

Dear readers,

This week I’m posting an excerpt from a sermon I gave this week in Keffer Chapel. The text for the day was 1 Corinthians 13, often referred to as the Hymn of Love.


“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Paul writes that if we do not have love we are a noisy gong, that we are nothing, that we gain nothing. And here he describes this love we are to have. This is quite a list describing this little four letter noun. But I must tell you that we have a problem with the English translation here. Most of the words describing love – patient, kind, envious, etc. – most of these are adjectives. They modify the noun love, but in Greek the language of the New Testament, absolutely all of these words are verbs.

Our translation has turned verbs into adjectives. In other words, in the Greek text love isn’t patient, but love bears and abides and undergoes. Love isn’t kind but love cares and cries and caresses. Love might be a noun here, but it is a busy noun. Love acts. It endures, it hopes, it believes, it suffers. Love in other words, sounds a lot like a person – after all these are verbs we normally associate with people, and so the apostle seems to invite us to think of a person when we hear of this love that we have, this love we possess: a person like Immanuel, like God with us, like Jesus.

The apostle John writes that God is love and the apostle Paul writes that if we do not have love we are a noisy gong: if we do not possess love we are nothing. John indicates that we have love in Jesus. But can we really talk about having love, about having Jesus, about having God? Is God willing to be possessed by us? Is God, is love willing to

Be sullied by our lust

To be marred by our mistakes

To be tainted by our far from sainted steely stares.

Does love really want to live in this heart?


What might happen to such a love? It will surely be betrayed. I will sell this love for 30 pieces of silver; I will crucify this love to show that I am in power; I will bury this love rather than be burdened by it.

I will be Judas Iscariot: I will be driven by a greed that colonizes.

I will be Pontius Pilate: I will exercise privilege in feigning power over

the indigenous, the immigrant, the poor

I will be the soldier at the tomb: frightened that people will see my vulnerability.


I will crucify love. I know I will, because I know that I have. I remember it all too well.

But the good news is that the love that we betray will not stay in the tomb. The hymn-writer sings us into hope

“In the grave they laid him, Love by hatred slain

Thinking that he would never wake again,

Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen

Love is come again, like wheat arising green.”


Love is come again, like wheat arising green. Love never ends.

No love never ends, but it bends its bearers

So that we who have love find that love finally has us

We who bear this holy possession find ourselves borne by it,

We start to see the world through the eyes of love,

instead of seeing love through the eyes of the world

We find that our desires are chiseled true

We become agents of truth and reconciliation

We, like God, begin to so love the world.


And so

we do justice by opening our minds, our hearts, our hands,

we love kindness by loving our bodies and the body politic,

and we walk humbly with God, treading ever so lightly on the earth, our Mother.

Amen. May it be so.


8 thoughts on “Love’s Paean

  1. I particularly love these lines: “I will crucify love. I know I will, because I know that I have. I remember it all too well.”
    Haunted by it, sometimes. But that’s when your words about love not staying in the grave are such a relief. Thank-you.

  2. shoreacres says:

    Too few people understand that this sort of love isn’t a feeling, but an action. Well stated, Allen.

  3. R says:

    Thanks, Allen – wonderful.

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