In Memory of Hugh Williams

 

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Meditation on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Oct. 1, 2017

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

   13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

***

Linda and Hugh met while they were working for the City of Cocoa. Hugh was the assistant city manager. Linda worked across the hall from him as an administrative secretary in the building department. Linda kept bumping into him outside the office–by accident. One day, she was at a mall in Titusville and saw Hugh. She had heard it was his birthday, so she offered to take him out to eat. He said yes. They went out. Then Linda discovered she didn’t have any money with her. Hugh happily paid the bill.

On Oct. 19, 1997, they were married at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach. Hugh had 3 sons from a previous marriage. Linda, 2 daughters.

Hugh was a big man, with a big smile. Linda was his “Lovely Linda,” “Lady Linda,” and “Dollface.” He was an incurable romantic. Every week, he brought her flowers. He left love notes all over the house for her to find–in drawers, in the bathroom, in the closet, on the magazine rack– scrawled on tiny bits of notebook paper, folded up several times. “Good morning, Lovely Linda,” they might say. One day, he heard music playing when they were at a mall. He swooped her up and they danced down the aisle. He was a dancer. Fast dances. Slow dances. He knew all the old songs from the 40s and 50s. Sometimes, he packed a bottle of wine, two glasses, and a blanket, and they went to the beach to enjoy the sunset together. They enjoyed traveling. s

They planted flowers together–he took such pride in the yard. He loved mowing the lawn. He was good at fixing things, taking apart the lawn mower, the vacuum cleaner. He made Adirondack chairs and tables with his many, many tools in his workshop in the garage. He was a boater, not a fisherman.

They were active together for years in the Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach. Hugh was always volunteering. They hosted a Bible study in their home and the folks brought canoes so they could all go canoeing afterward.

Hugh was born in York, PA. He sold pretzels on the street as a boy. When he was young, he worked on a chicken farm. As a result, Linda never knew Hugh to eat poultry of any kind. Some of his family is Amish; others are Quakers. He liked bright pink and he used to say, “Real men wear pink.” He didn’t wear stripes or flowers.

He never yelled. He liked ice cream and had to eat it every day. Any flavor will do. He liked Moon Pies and whoopee pies, too.

He liked to golf and bought Linda her own set of clubs so she could play with him. Linda was bored to death with it, but she did it, anyway.

As Linda shared all these tiny, but important details with me last week, I thought, “That’s love. Knowing your spouse so well that you know all their likes and dislikes, their gift, talents, and hobbies. You have things you both enjoy and want to do together. And things that only your spouse likes, but you choose to go along, just to be with them, to make them happy.”

That’s love.

***

The First Corinthians reading, also known as the “Love Chapter,” is often read at weddings. But it is always appropriate to talk about love–what love is and what it isn’t, as Paul taught a community of faith, torn apart by divisions. The apostle had left the Corinthian community in relative harmony, but now he has learned, much to his dismay, that quarrels were splitting the church. Paul views these egotistical divisions, arguments over baptism and the Lord’s Supper, leadership, and the practical living out of one’s faith as scandalous. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” He has heard that they have become arrogant, and tells them in 1 Cor. 5:6, “Your boasting is not a good thing.” They have had grievances with one another and taken each other to court, rather than solve their own differences within the believing community. He cautions them against sexual immorality and the worship of idols. Everything you do, he tells the church, do to the glory of God. “Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Then, he talks about the spiritual gifts. They have been given to each member of the Body of Christ for the benefit of the Body. No gift, no member is more or less important than another. Except for the one gift that is given to all, the gift that without which, none of the other gifts have any value. Jesus tells us in John that this gift given to his disciples will be the mark of His followers, the sign for the world that they belong to Him. The gift is love.

The love Paul is talking about is the love of God. He tells us in 14:1, “Pursue love.” Isn’t that interesting? God’s love is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but it is also something we must intentionally pursue. This is a gift that we should request from the Lord every day. Wouldn’t the world be a very different place if everyone lived according to Paul’s teachings on love? Imagine, if everyone pursued love–seeking this most excellent gift from God– every day. The love of God is not: envious, boastful, arrogant, rude. It doesn’t insist on its own way or rejoice in wrongdoing; it’s not irritable or resentful. The love of God is patient and kind. It bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. It rejoices in the truth.

God’s love NEVER ends. You know, I have read this passage many times, but yesterday, when I read “love never ends,” I realized that Paul isn’t just talking about lasting over time, that it continues on forever. He also means that it never runs out; it is like the overflowing cup that David talks about in Psalm 23. The more you try to empty your cup of love, the more your cup fills up. The love that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts– flows on and on and on.

***

This unconditional, unending flow of love strengthens us to endure the trials of this world, which have a godly purpose. Paul says enduring suffering is a way to be like Christ–and to do it for his sake. Paul says (Philippians 3:8-11): “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

***

Hugh experienced physical and emotional pain in his lifetime. At the age of 15, he learned he was adopted by the man he thought was his birth father. The discovery shook him to the core. He felt as if he had been lied to, his life not what he thought it was. He learned that his mother had given birth to him out of wedlock. He never met his biological father but he did discover at the age of 65 that he had a half sister in Pennsylvania named Patricia. He contacted her. They visited one another and became close. Then she passed away 2 years ago.

About 5 years ago, Hugh was diagnosed with dementia. He wasn’t able to do many things that he was used to doing, that he liked to do. He was often discouraged, frustrated, sad, when he had not been a person given to bouts of sadness before. About 3 years ago, Linda needed more help with his care, and though it upset them to be apart, Hugh moved into an assisted living home. Linda had to adjust to living on their own. Linda found a new family of faith here at Merritt Island Presbyterian Church. Hugh went home to be with the Lord on the morning of Sept. 20. He would have been 84 next month.

It is because we love that we experience the pain of grief when our loved ones are not with us. But it is never wrong to love. It would be a mistake to stop seeking to make new friends. When you might be tempted to withdraw, and not allow yourself to be vulnerable again, remember that love is the most excellent spiritual gift, the one without which none of the other gifts have any value. God’s love compels us to keep on loving, more and more. God’s love is graciously and generously given to us so that we will share it with the world God so loves.

Love is patient. Love is kind. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

 

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