Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Am Not A Noisy Gong: Reflection on 1 Corinthian 13

We have done a terrible thing, I think, in the Episcopal Church when it comes to the service for blessing a marriage, aka "weddings."  

Before anyone gets their hackles up, I'm not talking about the ceremony, or whether what's in the Book of Common Prayer vs. the new rite adopted for same-sex couples is "better" than what's in the BCP.  No, this post has nothing to do with politics.  It has everything to do with the available, oft-chosen, reading from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians from Chapter 13.   Most recognize it because it has a list of what love is ("patient" and "kind" and "bears all things" as opposed to being "boastful", "arrogant" or "rude").   In the context of a wedding, it sounds like sage wisdom from the saint being bestowed upon the happy couple, so as to answer the question posed by the pop song from the 1980's, "I Want to Know What Love Is."  

But... and this is a huge but... this passage is NOT about the romantic love shared between consenting partners in a relationship.  Paul wasn't too keen on marriage, really, and exalted the vocation of celibacy which, again, makes this choice of scripture for Holy Matriomony somewhat comical.  This "love" that Paul is talking about is a synonym for God.  I have given the instruction before in our EfM group to read that passage of Paul and substitute the word "God" for every time the word "Love" is written.  And when you read this passage OUTSIDE the context of a wedding, it has a different feel altogther and one that really highlights the beauty of Paul's statement about the nature of God, Christ and Holy Spirit.   Especially, if you move up a few verses to where the chapter begins....

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. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.--1Cor.13:1-3

I read this and reflected upon my faith journey and my way of speaking about Christ to others.  If I did not have a sense of Jesus Christ as the one who has redeemed me, and given me freedom from oppression, then I would be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  But it is because I have had experiences of Christ, of God, of Holy Spirit, acting powerfully on me, through me, and in me, that I am able to speak with this "love."  Hopefully, I speak in ways in which those listening are able to hear something other than the condemnation that quite often seems to come at them from the mouths of "christians." 

I believe I have achieved this in some arenas.  When I made the video clip, "Queer vs. Christian" and showed that in the context of a Mickee Faust cabaret, the response to it was extremely positive.  And this is NOT the church-going, or even Christ-loving crowd!  There were those who loudly cheered at the punch line, and several of the Faustkateers thought it needed to go on YouTube.  Well, it did.  And it is the most watched video on the Mickee Faust Club's YouTube channel.  It also opened me to vilification.  Amazingly negative comments, many thumbs down, really vicious stuff.  A lot of people condemned it's pro-Christian message; and then there were the homophobes thrown in for good measure.  When the atheists and the homophobes are ganging up on you, you know that you've touched a nerve.  Admittedly, it has made me a bit leery of pressing forward with a one-woman show on my journey to be in relationship with God.  But more and more, I am thinking that I need to overcome the fear of rejection, and press on toward getting the thing written.  If I have love, what I say will be heard... if only by a few.

I really wish we wouldn't use that portion of 1 Corinthians at weddings.

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