Revised Common Lectionary--2007
For May-Aug, 2007 click here
Easter IV (Apr. 29)
Acts 13:15-16, 26ff.
Psalm 23 (I)
Psalm 23 (II)
Rev. 7:9-17 (I)
Rev. 7:9-17 (II)
Easter III (Apr. 22)
VT Killing Meditation
Acts 9:1-19a (I)
Acts 9:1-19a (II)
Easter II (Apr. 15)
Acts 5:12-32 (I)
Acts 5:12-32 (II)
Easter (Apr. 8)
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24
John 20:1-18 (I)
John 20:1-18 (II)
Lent VI (Apr. 1)
Psalm 22 (I)
Psalm 22 (II)
Lent V (Mar. 25)
Psalm 126 (I)
Psalm 126 (II)
John 12:1-8 (I)
John 12:1-8 (II)
Lent IV (Mar. 18)
Luke 15:11-32 (I)
Luke 15:11-32 (II)
II Cor. 5:16-21
Lent III (Mar. 11)
I Cor 10:1-13
Lent II (Mar. 4)
Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18
Luke 13:31-35 (I)
Luke 13:31-35 (II)
Lent I (Feb. 25)
Deut 26: 1-11
Luke 4:1-13 (I)
Luke 4:1-13 (II)
Rom 10: 5-13
Epiphany VII (2/18)
Gen. 45:1-15 (I)
Gen. 45:1-15 (II)
I Cor 15:35-38,42ff.
Epiphany VI(Feb 11)
Luke 6:17-26 I
Luke 6:17-26 II
I Cor 15:12-20
Epiphany V (Feb 4)
Is. 6 (The Senses I)
Is. 6 (The Senses II)
Luke 5:1-11 (II)
I Cor 15:1-11
I Cor 15:1-11 (II)
Epiphany IV (Jan 28)
Jer. 1:4-10 (II)
Luke 4:22-30 (I)
Luke 4:22-30 (II)
I Cor 13 (I)
Epiphany III(Jan 21)
I Cor 12:12-31
Epiphany II (Jan 14)
John 2:1-11 (I)
John 2:1-11 (II)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (I)
I Cor. 12:1-11 (II)
Baptism (Jan 7)
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Luke 3 (II)
Epiphany IV--Jan. 28, 2007
Bill Long 1/19/07
I Cor. 13 (II); Some Classic Love Poetry
This essay provides the text of two Shakespeare sonnets and one Browning poem to help you think through some of the aspects of love that are suggested in I Cor. 13. I will try to key each poem to one point from I Cor. 13. Paul's words, as I have argued, need to be understood in the context of his argument in that epistle but it also should be "freed" from its context and enter into the ocean of the worlds' great love poetry. These poems, thus, supplement I Cor. 13.
Love Gives Meaning to Life--Sonnet 29
The following sonnet by Shakespeare never fails to slow me down and make me reaffirm the basic value of love, of people, in this crazy and fast-paced world of ours. Here is is.
"When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings."
One really could comment on this sonnet for quite some time. We become self-focused, often to the exclusion of others, so easily in life. Heaven seems deaf to our concerns. Don't you love the phrase--our "bootless" cries? "Boot" is a very old word in English, but its root meaning is "good, advantage, profit, or use." It is from this basic meaning that the phrase "to boot" developed to mean that which is "thrown in" or "given in addition, to make up a deficiency of value." This is precisely how the term is used in tax law, were you to be interested in that! Thus, a "bootless" cry is a useless cry, one that carries no good or advantage to it. Yikes, now you see how Shakespeare can become an interpreter's garden. Returning to the sonnet: we focus on our abject condition and consider others' lives better than ours. We desire "this man's art and that man's scope." But then, when we come to our senses, we "think on thee," the beloved, and then we rise to heaven's gate. You can really savor the phrase, "For thy sweet love remember'd," and taste it for a good long time. What love do you remember? What love can you encourage others to remember? In this sonnet love is, for Shakespeare, the ground or meaning of life--our "point 1" for Paul.
Love Shapes Character--"How do I Love Thee?"
This poem, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is generally known only because of its first line. Well, here are all 14.
"How do I love thee ? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life !--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death."
This poem became the focus of two Christmas Day 2004 essays of mine. Rather than repeat those thoughts here, I link you to the essays. In the context of I Cor 13, you can emphasize the freedom, purity and passion of love which comes from this poem.
Love Never Ends--Sonnet 116
Paul also makes the point that love never ends. The following Shakespearean sonnet captures this sentiment perfectly.
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."
One aspect of Shakespeare's brilliance with words is his ability to use the noun and verb form of the same word in quick succession. The noun makes us think of the thing; the verb inspires us to action. He does so here. Love doesn't "alter when it alteration finds." What is love? "It is an ever fixed -mark." Like the north star to "every wandering bark," it never moves. It becomes both the light and guide for us in our peregrinatory ways. When Shakespeare says: "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom," who doesn't hear Paul say: "Love bears all things...love never ends"? I also am taken by the way Shakespeare ends the poem. He is ready to swear a blood oath, so to speak, on the truth of what he has just said. When we think that what he "writ" is probably the most signficant poetry and most moving words in the English language, to have him proved wrong here would be to wipe out a large chunk of our cultural memory. Will you, too, stake your life, as it were, on love?
We could go on forever. Let this be an encouragement to you to find some of your own love poetry, or write some. Shakespeare's Sonnets 18 and 86 also could get you started. Blessings on you in your teaching and preaching on love.