Our Epistle today–the love chapter of 1 Corinthians–is one of those bits of Bible, where, if we are not careful, we consign it to the realm of schmaltz. Most of us have heard it at more weddings than we care to admit, and in my own case, when hearing it at a wedding, I am often thinking, “You know, I really just want to get out of these clothes and put my t-shirt and blue jeans on.”
One of the ways I push myself to hear this reading with new ears is to ask myself which phrase is most speaking to me today, and today, what is jumping out is a phrase out of verse 12–”Now I know only in part.”
We human beings love to know things–curiosity is hardwired in our DNA. Many of us are a little prone to the idolatry of worshiping our knowledge or putting our trust in humankind’s ability to figure things out. Christian faith is countercultural because it requires us to step forward in our actions when we don’t know everything. We don’t know why the world is like it is. We don’t understand the evil things that happen in the world. We think we understand each other, especially our most intimate partners–but something always happens to remind us we really don’t. Yet we are commanded to love, when we don’t know all the answers, when we may not get the outcome we prefer, and we’re not even sure the fruits of our actions will ever be borne out in our lifetime.
Today’s Gospel refers to a character and an interaction that illustrates the whole business of moving forward when we don’t have all the answers–the widow at Zeraphath. (If you need to refresh your memory, check out 1 Kings 17:8-23.) Both she and Elijah were stepping out in faith, when the whole encounter didn’t seem like a great idea. God told Elijah to make a trip to Sidon–the heartland of Baal-worship country–with no information except, “Oh, there’s a widow who will feed you when you get there.” When he asks the widow to rustle up a little bread, she literally has to choose between granting this strange request and risking starvation, or refusing. We can’t help but wonder what it was about Elijah–this Hebrew stranger–that compelled her to grant his request. Yet she did, and not only did a feeding miracle occur, Elijah brings her dead son back to life. Someone she probably loves more than life itself is returned to her.
The intertwining of these two readings remind us that trust is a prerequisite to love. We simply cannot even begin to love what we cannot trust. When we begin to trust, even when it seems ill-advised, and even when it comes at the risk of being burned, we crack the door open ever so slightly for love, that amazing entity that can come rushing into our lives like the mighty whirlwind that took Elijah up to heaven. I have no idea how that happens, but it sure does.
When is a time in your life you trusted beyond what you knew, and love rushed in the door unexpectedly?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. You can also share her journey on her blog, Chapologist.
Image: public domain via Wikimedia Commons