If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong.......Bong, bong, bong, bong. Bong, bong, bong, bong. Bong, bong, bong, bong. Bong, bong, bong, bong.
_ Look at me, look at me!
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong. Bong, bong, bong, bong. Bong, bong, bong, bong.
I have not love. Self centred, self-obsessed, narcissus that I am.
Bong, bong, bong, bong. Bong, bong, bong, bong.
Everything that I am and say and do, is suspect, tainted, poisoned by the anthem: “Look at me, look at me, look at me!”
And yet St Paul is right. Love is what it is all about. Love is the great priority. Not evangelism not purity of doctrine, not liturgy, full pews, full coffers, not stewardship, tithes and baked beans for Anglicare.
Love is the priority, the first and only imperative. Everything else is subsequent, consequent, falls automatically into place, comes naturally. If only love animates and dominates.
Traditionally there are two theological paths to belief in God. One is by way of what theologians call “natural theology”, the other by way of what they call “revealed theology”. Both these paths end with the word Love.
Love and nature’s tooth and claw
Natural theology involves the finding of God by way of nature, by looking around us, by looking at Creation. This might appear madness, nature is red in tooth and claw. Biologists and evolutionists are, more often than not, horrified out of belief by the sheer violence and brutality of nature. Everything in the natural world seems to live off and gobble down everything else. The whole evolutionary process is fuelled by conflict, not love.
Yet, if we look at our natural world, at Creation and human-kind in Creation, a case can still be made for God. It is not unreasonable to conclude that unless humankind lives in just such a world as this, that runs according to predictable and so inexorable laws, and therefore is open and prone to pain and suffering, as well as to joy and delight, our freedom as human beings would be impossible.
Imagine, for example, a world where everyone has everything they want and all that they desire, with no suffering, no struggle, no inexorable and therefore predictable rules of nature. We’d all be great bladders of lard, glutted, sated, self-regarding, self-sufficient slobs, rather than potentially noble and often loving, self-sacrificing human beings.
Unless our world and creation is much as it is, human freedom, as we know it, would be impossible and without our freedom, love too, of course, is impossible. Love to be love, demands the freedom and choice to love or not to love.
So looking at our world, we can say that it is as it is, surely, just so that free and loving creatures can evolve into being, and therefore behind it, responsible for it, there could well be a loving Creator God.
However although such a hypothesis is not altogether unreasonable, it is not enough, on its own, to convince us of a loving Creator. So we look beyond Natural Theology to Revealed Theology, to Revelation.
Love revealed in sacrifice
One Friday, on a cross, on a hill called Golgotha, a man died in agony. He died, it seems, for love of those he was close to. He had been demonstrating in his life for three years the nature of love, both in humanity and in God. Love of a deep and profound sort, with sacrifice at its heart. Love which manifests itself in forgiveness, in turning the cheek, in loving the other as much as the self, love that is courageous, and that doesn't, therefore, run from the enemy, but rather forgives him.
This love was put to the test in Gethsemane, and met the test. It didn't run away, it accepted and forgave, and was crucified. Very, very impressive, and moving, but utterly futile, for it was extinguished, snuffed, blotted out, killed.
And so this lovely Love, this sacrificing love, proved ultimately to be of no more significance or use than anything else. It ended, as does everything, in agony and then dust and so despair.
That is, until strange news began to circulate of a Resurrection. Impossible, absurd, but then, why not? Might this not be God's vindication of love, of sacrificial love, of the way of the Cross? Could it not be God saying that the way of the Cross, the way of Love is the way, his way, the Milky Way, to heaven and eternity itself?
And so what natural theology can only hypothesise is given confirmation, validation, vindication in revealed theology on Golgotha, and in a flower-filled, bees abuzzing garden beside an empty tomb one Sunday morning.
The language of heaven
Later the disciples came to realise that there was more to the Good News even than this. That it was somehow God himself who had loved and sacrificed in Jesus. That the Creator's hands, the very hands that hold us in existence are pierced with unimaginable nails. That it really is then, love that moves the heavenly spheres, love that animates and makes sense of all that is and that we exist to learn to love. That without love the universe is empty, is nothing. That love, sacrificial love, is what it is all about, that I exist to learn to love. Not to be the most successful priest Shepparton has ever had, not to become a bishop, not to show off in the pulpit, not to be rich, well thought, of a success, but simply, simply to die to self, in love for others and God. For love is the only language spoken in heaven, and unless we learn that language here, heaven will be an incomprehensible nightmare, and we'll opt for its opposite in relief.
Now you've heard all this before, because it is the Gospel, it is not original. It is not brilliant. It is simply the truth, and I believe it and I love it.
There was no bong, bong, bong bong while I was saying it. Though bong bong, bong, bong is more fun, selfishly speaking. “Look at me, look at me, look at me!” But “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love I am a noisy gong...” Bong, bong, bong, bong. Bong, bong, Bong, Bong.