Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Special thanks to Peggy Graff and her guests for providing this uplifting and inspiring addition to us in her Hymn-a-Day May series. I pray that these paired daily selections will uplift your spirits and feed your soul as much as it does mine.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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.
The thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is well-known as the Love Chapter. The central point of Paul’s entire message to the Corinthians church is found right here. Read between the lines of the Corinthian correspondence in the New Testament and it becomes evident that the Corinthians had their struggles—just as we do—with understanding the love to which we are called and what it all means in relation to how we live our lives. The Corinthians had become very concerned over proper beliefs and the way different individuals in the church had different kinds of gifts and abilities. They had a difficult time understanding how unity and diversity can both exist in the church, so Paul in the twelfth chapter used the analogy of a human body to try and get the Corinthians to view their gifts within the proper perspective. At the end of that chapter, Paul wrote, “And I will show you a still more excellent way…” He then hastened to add the single most important component necessary for that spiritually-gifted body: the lifeblood of love. Just as the individual organs of the body cannot function without the blood coursing through them, we humans are nothing without love flowing through us.
Love is the very life of the Body of Christ. Without love, Paul says, the greatest gift, the most outstanding ability, the strongest faith…is nothing. It is love that stands at the very center of the message of Jesus.
In the Guinness Book of World Records there is listed the shortest sermon ever preached. It was given by John Albrecht, an Episcopal priest in Michigan. He stood in his pulpit to preach, paused, and said “Love!” He then sat down. Some of Albrecht’s members said it was the best sermon he ever preached. Could his sermon have been any other word? Would any other word sum it all up like that word?
As Paul emphasizes the centrality of love in all that we are and all that we do, Paul describes what love is and what love isn’t, what it does and what it does not do.
The Greek word agape (translated as love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention — a new word for a new thing. The word was not nearly as common in literature at large or in the Greek Version of the Hebrew Scriptures as it is in the New Testament. In the relatively brief New Testament, there are more than 150 occurrences of the word. The word refers not so much to a feeling as to a matter of will and action. That’s obviously true, since we are commanded to love even those we don’t like. Agape is the basic element of Christ-likeness. Love is choosing to do right and to act in a loving manner toward others—no matter how you feel.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster