Psalms 22; 148; 105; 130
I Corinthians 12:27-13:3
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
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.
Can this collection of biblical passages be reconciled? Psalm 22 oozes with pain, a man so “forsaken” that God “dost not answer,” he “groaning, a scorned “worm” whose heart is “like wax,” with “strength dried up.” In PS 130 the writer cries to the Lord “out of the depths,” pleading with God to pay attention to his “soul that waits for the Lord.” In Ps 148 we leap from a man writhing in the dust of depression to a hymn of such praise that everybody and everything from top to bottom shouts for joy – stars, trees and even “creeping things.” Citing Exodus, the equally buoyant psalmist in 105 sings “praises to him” for his “wonderful works!”
Eventually, one or more of life’s hurts – sickness, divorce, loss of job, death of loved one – will touch our lives. Few can escape a dark night of the soul. Equally we have been rendered breathless by the birth of a child, an orange-splattered sunset over the sea, our feet light with joy, praising.
So between these poles, what keeps us affirming, keeps us giving? Is it enough, the memory of God’s covenant with Israel, the recitation of good deeds? Perhaps. To me, Paul in I Corinthians brings us home: it is agape, moral love, friendship that delivers us out of loneliness, isolation, and a self-centered life to unity in Christ with fellow believers. To Paul, love succeeds when all else fails. This seems a less theoretical, distant love, but a more tangible love, a love mediated, nurtured and given in community, the church, the living body of Christ.
Lord, may I love and keep loving, knowing that God through the church will nurture, sustain, and propel such love.