A Delightfully Expansive Rendering

of 1 Corinthians 13 -- on Love! 

(easily adapted for non-Christian contexts)

by Reverend Dr. J. Bennett Guess, Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, offered at the interfaith service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, on the day in March, 2013, when many gathered in the sanctuary of that church before going to the Supreme Court to stand witness as the arguments about marriage raged inside the court. 

If I speak like I know everything, like the world revolves around my agenda, but I don’t love, I am nothing but a fool with a microphone.

If I can talk about The Scriptures, and preach better than all the other preachers, and get everybody and their sister coming back to church, but if I don’t embrace love, then I’m just a silly dude in a robe.

If I give away all my best stuff, and have all the “Rev. Dr. This and Thats” in front of my name, but I can’t recognize love, then I haven’t learned a thing.

Because love, she is amazing. Love is relentless.  Love is extra-generous.

Love looks out for the interests of other people, not just one’s own self.

Love doesn’t reserve rights and privileges just for some.  Love doesn’t promote hierarchies, to the expense of equality, because love just doesn’t think that way. Love doesn’t work that way. 

Love doesn’t hurt people.  And love never leaves people out.

No … Love goes all the way.  Love removes every obstacle.  Love appeals to the highest court in the land, when necessary.

Love gets up really early in the morning, after having stayed up really late the night before.

That’s how love is.  Love always does the right thing, even when it’s hard.  Love is fair and just, extravagant and wasteful.  Love can never be depleted.

Now long speeches and oral arguments and amicus briefs, they’ll play themselves out.  And fanatics can cry, ”Surely the world will come to an end!” and they, too, have their first amendment rights.  But all that, in the end, will pass away.  But your loved one’s embrace at the end of a hard day…  The dreams you share…  The plans you’ve made…  The inside jokes …   The kiss goodnight…  Till death do you part.  That will never pass away. 

Back when I was a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person, I thought and reasoned like a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person.  I thought this day could never come.  But I’ve put all that behind me, every limiting thought.

True, we don’t yet know how all this will turn out.  We’re trying to see outcomes, as if we were looking through murky water, trying to discern every 5 to 4; 6 to 3; 9-to-nothing scenario.  But the day is surely coming, when we will be seen, and see each other, as God sees us — through love, because God is love.

We have a lot of things to sustain us in this life.   There’s that quirky optimism that, with God, all things work together for good.  And there’s always hope, and hope never disappoints.  And that’s all nice.  But most importantly, we’ve got this big, expansive, inclusive love. 

Love!  And isn’t that the greatest thing?  Isn’t it?

"A Celebration of Love"

This is a beautiful evocation of love, by W. L. Wallace of Aotearoa New Zealand, found on pages 276-278, in Courage to Love: Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community, compiled by Geoffrey Duncan (Cleveland OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2002). We are writing for permission to reprint. 

This entire book contains much that is beautiful and useful in Christian worship, and much of it, like Wallace's "A Celebration of Love," is religiously non-specific. The book is available for $16.10 from the Pilgrim Press

We Remember

(for remembering all the brave witnesses for love in our lives, in our movement for equality, in the global and local movements for justice)

by Rabbi Heather Miller (shared with us by Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church)

In this piece of responsive liturgy, bolded text indicates that a section is to be read by many.

We pause now for moments of memory for those who came before us

The ones who personally stood up and were counted

and who thus made a difference for all of us today

 We remember you

Whether by combating an ugly word against another

Or through the personal act of coming out

Whether by challenging the system

or by changing it from within

Whether by actively sharing your ideas with broad audiences

or by quietly affecting individuals one at a time

Whether by looking outward to help others understand us

or by looking within to help make ours a better community

Through all of these courageous actions

and so many more, every time

You brought us forward

Even under the pressures

of physical pain and torture

of economic devastation or political failure

of social estrangement or worse

You braved it all

Each of you adding in your essence

Your talented endeavors

and elegant movements

Your clever words

And dignified existence

Your dedicated heart

and focused mind

Your infectious smile

Your quirky ways

In all, your persevering spirit brought others forward behind you

And moved us all a little closer

to a world that more fully celebrates love

Your contributions are remembered.

You are remembered.

And your memory is a blessing.