What is Love? Rehearing 1 Corinthians 13

A reflection on 1 Corinthians 13 by Lee McKenna

What is love?

I may have a gift for extemporaneous speech
and the poetic sermon that draws back the heavens –
but if my words do not come from a place of love,
I am an orchestra out of tune, singeing the ears,
the clanging racket of a collapsing display
of glass Xmas balls in Canadian Tire
on a Sunday morning.

If I know all things,
have plumbed the depths of all mysteries,
possess the wisdom of the prophet,
with faith enough to end wars
and climate change
and Kinder Morgan and the
election of Donald Trump —
and imagine that it can happen without LOVE, I am nothing.

I could liquidate all my assets so that my Syrian neighbours
never want for shelter and good food;
I could spend the rest of my life working in the slums of India.

It matters not a whit if what drives me is not love.


There needs to be another word to describe
how I feel about pizza and certain shades of orange
and the work of Meryl Streep – for it is so much more!

Love waits with patience and grace.
Love is kind – a generosity of spirit, the soft word.
Love has no room for envy.
Love sees no point in bragging or displays of hubris.

Love’s heart exacts no price of the other but seeks her good.
For Love, anger is saved for injustice.
Love tends to no balance sheets of good and bad behaviour.
Love holds on to what needs to be held;
lets go of what needs to released.

Love throws a party for truth, turns from enticements to falsehood.

Love bears the burdens of the Beloved.
Love occupies trust, is garbed in hope.

Love never gives up
even when it seems as if all possibilities are exhausted;
yet she searches on.

Love never lets you down.

All those great enduring monuments to human knowledge,
creativity and invention:
they will crumble.

Babel will fall silent.
All those things we cherish as ikons of our greatness;
they will pass away.

For what do we know?
We trade in known knowns,
purchase futures on unknown unknowns.

But the time will come when all the pieces,
fragmentary as they are,
will fall into place,
Dissipating all that is incomplete, limited and unfinished.

Sort of in the same way the once-partial nature of my
childhood speaking, knowing and thinking,
gave way to adulthood.

For the moment, yet clothed in frail flesh, my sight impaired,
what will be remains opaque, the glass dark.
But then face to face.
Then shall I know even as I am known.

All else withered in comparison, what remains,
well you knew this already, Beloved Brides,
three remain.

Faith. Yes.
Hope. Without ceasing.
Love. Love. Love.

Lee McKenna is the executive director of Partera International

Lee McKenna

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