The ending portion of a letter from Bishop Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida to his clergy, entitled, What Next?
It is an important message to hear during times of trouble when our tendency is to want resolutions now, because life is too stressful to wait, wait, and to wait some more. Yet, God tends to say to us – “be patient; be still and know that I am the Lord.”
Here is a portion of Bishop Howe’s letter:
I met with our clergy during Holy Week, and I told them (yet again) that I am committed to remaining both an Episcopalian and an Anglican as long as it is possible to do so. But ultimately, all of us may have to make choices. We will not all make the same choices, and we will not all make them at the same time. What is imperative is how we treat each other.
â€œBy this will everyone know that you are my disciples,â€ our Lord declared, â€œif you have love for one another.â€
It is not by all the sermons we preach, not by all the books we publish, not by the cathedrals we build, the missionaries we send out, the bold actions we take, or even the purity of our doctrine, but it is by the quality of our relationships with others who name the name of Christ that we will prove we truly belong to him.
We reflected together on what it means to â€œlove one another,â€ and I suggested we use as a template the great â€œlove chapter,â€ 1 Corinthians 13, and I shared four reflections with the clergy that I want to repeat today.
1) There is not a single â€œfeelingsâ€ word in all of 1 Corinthians 13. The kind of agape love that Jesus calls us to, and that St. Paul attempts to describe, is entirely a matter of attitude and behavior; it is a matter of choice. I donâ€™t have to feel a certain way toward you; I have to behave a certain way toward you. (There are a lot of feelings in eros; there are none in agape.)
2) The â€œlove chapterâ€ is a remarkable description of the Lord Jesus himself. You can actually substitute his name every time Paul uses the word â€œlove.â€ (â€œJesus is patient; Jesus is kind; Jesus is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things.â€) The corollary is that when I run out of my own supply of agape love for you, I can ask Jesus to love you through me!
3) There are sixteen synonyms or synonymous phrases in the chapter, and nine out of the sixteen are negative: Love is NOT envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable, resentful; it does NOT insist on its own way or rejoice in wrongdoing, and it never ends. Evidently, then, there are things I need to work on NOT doing toward you.
4) Notice how many of the synonyms are also synonyms for patience (or heavily dependent on it). You cannot be kind without being patient. You cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, without being patient. By my count at least eight of the sixteen words or phrases are synonymous with patience â€“ which is to say that extending agape love toward someone is at least half a matter of being patient with him or her. The old phrased, â€œPlease be patient, God isnâ€™t finished with me,â€ is really a plea for an expression of Jesusâ€™ agape love from each other!
I suggested that it is no accident that patience is the first word on the list; it is like getting the top button of your shirt right; if you donâ€™t all the other buttons will be wrong, as well.
So, I say to you, as I said to the clergy: please be patient. Letâ€™s trust the Lord. Letâ€™s see what comes out of the meetings of the â€œWindsor Bishopsâ€ and the House of Bishops. Letâ€™s hear what Archbishop Rowan has to say to us. And if and as we make difficult decisions, sometimes perhaps not in agreement with each other, let us do our very best to comply with our Lordâ€™s instructions.
Jesus shared his Last Supper with the one who would betray him and the others who would desert him, and then he went to the cross for them â€“ and us. And he said, â€œLove one another as I have loved you.â€
My love to all of you,
John W. Howe