Saturday, January 30, 2016

ἀγάπη



1 Corinthians 13 (RSV)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

ἀγάπη

love, benevolence, good will, esteem; kindness, thoughtfulness, consideration, generosity, respect, lovingkindness ... 

Ten and a dozen years ago, our theme for religious classes at Holy Nativity Episcopal School was agape. Love that is agape. Over a course of three years, our foundation was modern fantasy fiction stories, books, movies: The Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter. And after reading a Time magazine cover page article about teaching thirteen-year-olds, I started bringing a snack every day. Fresh, warm donuts, different kinds of fruit, popsicles and ice cream on a stick, sliced vegetables and dips, a round of something different each day. I identified the treats to them as agape, my love for them that was “love is not a feeling, it’s how you treat other people.” 

We adopted the NT Greek word ἀγάπη as our byword those years, the students learned the word and its meaning, middle-schoolers would rattle off definitions of ἀγάπη in class, in chapel. Every class session centered on recognizing agape in whatever we were reading or watching or discussing, and there was “homework” to recognize agape at home and wherever the students were, and for those who wanted to, to tell about it in class.

As we watched movies of the stories of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling, I would stop the film at the end of sequences or in the middle, and ask, “Where was God in that?” and “What was agape in that?” So that as well as enjoying the story, they were watching for what was important to us. 

Of all the things I have done in life, those years with those children, those students, stand out as the highlight. In all my years, nothing I have ever done has been as rewarding and gratifying to me. And even if those students, all of whom have now gone on through highschool, college, some married, into careers, even if they do not remember our class sessions and years as I do, my prayer is that there will always abide in each mind the knowledge of what love is. As I loved each of them dearly and even as my very own, I tried to show them and help them learn that love is kindness to each other and especially to those around the world whom they would never see, meet, know. All the way through life, Love is what matters.

ἀγάπη: loving your neighbor as yourself and respecting the dignity of every human being

Thos+
20160130 Sunrise from 7H

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