Autumn 1998
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1 Corinthians 13

A hollow gong-beat is my speech
If I have not love:
Both eternal angel-speak
And mortal Hebrew, Latin, Greek,
Are clashing cymbal, shrilling shriek
If I have not love.

Power, faith, knowledge: nothing are
If I have not love:
Worldly wisdom, spiritual sight;
Faith-filled, mountain-moving might,
Count for nothing, spread no light
If I have not love.

Nothing's gained by sacrifice
If I have not love.
Goods given away till none remain,
My body given to suffer pain
Would count for nothing, nothing gain
If I have not love.

For patient, kind and true is love,
Not jealous, proud or rude;
It bears no grudges, spurns all wrongs,
It hopes, believes, endures.

Only love will never end;
Speech, knowledge, work: all fade.
And all that now is partial will,
By love, complete be made.

Once, like a child I thought and spoke
But put those ways behind.
Through glass that's darkling now I see
A face that love will shine.

And now, faith, hope and love abide,
We celebrate these three:
In faith, God's source of strength we find,
In hope, God's plan we call to mind,
In love, God's truth to our hearts we bind,
But the greatest of these is love.


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We don't know who they are. Indeed, we are
Embarrassed to name them: angels. The thought
Of childish imaginings, they're on a par
With dragons Fitting, Michael, that you fought
And killed one with your pointy spear, and stood,
Youthful, athletic, with your wings outspread
In sculpture, showing evil slain by good,
Head tilted to make sure the beast was dead.
And Gabriel, in art you flutter along
On downy-feathered wings to speak with Mary.
Neat ribbons of Latin speech stream from your tongue
Toward her holy face. Wasn't she wary
Of this strange creature, bringing stranger news?
"Indeed she was perplexed, though not by me,
But by the words I brought: that God would use
Her to reveal his son for all to see."
Angels then surround us - yes - with care,
But where unquiet promptings stir
an angel voice is there.


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The creation's not just stuff, but what God does,
The action of his love, and we're portrayed
In his image, are made for loving, thus
Partake in that creation, called to aid
The maker in the making of the made.
      So when we love
The atoms in the cosmos dance in thrall,
And when we love
The trees burst out in leaf, then those leaves fall.
      Because we love
Torturer and victim, unseen, are brought to grace,
      If we but love
The hidden suffering God we will, one day, see face to face.


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The eye of God is wide enough to see
The greatest sinner and the holiest saint
As if they were identical. The taint
Of imperfection covers you and me
As surely as, when seen from outer space
Our jealous guarded frontiers melt, are gone,
And all our nations can be seen as one.
So our failures of love, our rejection of grace,
Form a single dark mass before God's holy face.
But God's eye is all seeing enough to perceive
Not only the acts that make His heart grieve
But even the tiniest action of love
And united with Christ's sacrifice, that's enough
To ensure that his love we receive.


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We plough the fields of children
Entrusted to our care,
The ground seems often stony
And not easy to prepare.
We sow our seeds of learning
And some shoots start to grow
But wild weeds of rebellion
Threaten to overthrow.

With care we tend and nurture
Those children bearing seed
And with some prudent pruning
Try to tame the wildest weeds.
We pray God's help to love them
Even when the task is hard
And for rich manure of laughter
In classroom and school yard.


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