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I am patient? I am kind?

January 31, 2019

The first reading this Sunday is the famous "First Corinthians 13" passage on love. You know, the one you often hear read at weddings, which says, "love is patient, love is kind, love is not arrogant or boastful..."  A few years ago, I heard someone say that if you want to take a test that'll humble you pretty quickly, try reading the passage out loud, but as you do, try substituting the word "I" for the word "love," as in,  I am patient; I am kind; I am not envious, or boastful, or arrogant, or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful; I do not rejoice in wrongdoing, but I rejoice in the truth. I bear all things; I believe all things; I hope all things; I endure all things. Yipes.  Brings us up short, doesn't it?  How could we possibly love like that?  In answering that, I have bad news and good news. The bad news is for most of us, we can't. For most* people, it's just not humanly possible. *(There are, I know, some people for whom loving like that on a regular basis just seems to be natural. It seems to just flow from who they are. Those folks are rare, however.) For most of us - for me anyway -- it's a challenge to love like that on consistent basis. At least it's impossible to love like that from willpower-- from what I can summon up on my own.  For most of us, the ability to love like that doesn't come from willpower or education or deep inside our self.  The good news is, if WE can't love like that, God can. Love may not be humanly possible, but is is divinely possible. If I'm to love on any kind of consistent basis, I need to go to where love is -- the inexhaustible spring of love: God. God, who not only loves, but IS love.  We can do that in at least these three ways:  One, spend time in prayer - a minimum of fifteen to twenty minutes a day in prayer. It's there we marinate ourselves in God's love. It's important to not just glaze ourselves in love -- that'll rub off in the first five minutes of traffic! -- but to marinate ourselves in God's love. Because it's impossible to give away what you don't have, we need to receive love until we are saturated in it and are overflowing with it.  Two, in addition to daily prayer, to remember to pause for 10 seconds or so throughout the day to say "thank you God,"  or "wow God," or "help me God" - to say little extemporaneous prayers throughout the day like,  "God, I'm about to go into a difficult conversation. I sure could use some help me love like you love. Help me see this person the way you see them..." And three, in addition to those two, it's important to consciously become disciples, or apprentices, of Jesus. In fact, I'd say the whole point and purpose of "joining a church" is to become an apprentice of Jesus. It is possible to un-learn habits of complacency, comparison and self-centerdness, and to learn habits of love instead. But I don't think it's possible to learn that on one's own; our powers of self-delusion are too strong. We need others to "afflict us when we are comfortable, and comfort us when we are afflicted."  The good news is, loving like Jesus loved is in fact learn-able. We can be trained in it. That's why Adult Forum classes, Bible study classes, and other opportunities to connect with a ministry outside of Sunday morning is so important, and will be such a big emphasis for The Falls Church Episcopal in 2019 and beyond.  See you Sunday, 

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