Dream on Paul of Tarsus. Who are you kidding?
As I sat in a church in Barnes this afternoon, I listened in my usual distracted fashion to the sermon given at a wedding. I pondered sadly, or perhaps soberly, on the chances of survival of a marriage, any marriage. It ain’t easy; that at least the preacher man admitted.
I had been invited to sing at the service as part of a small choir and had accepted the chance with much enthusiasm. After mugging up on the divine music for a few days, while down on the rugged cliffs of north Devon, today was the big day. Works by Finzi and the glorious 15th Century composer Juan de Anchieta were sung, side by side with Handel and Welsh hymns.
As is not uncustomary, the young couple were exhorted to take to heart the wise words of St Paul and to live by those words in their marriage.
Love is all. The couple should be kind to each other, they should not envy. They should not be rude, selfish; they should think no evil. Hold no grudges, no fear.
Behave, in other words, in a way no human has ever done either before or after these words were written.
And to give him his due, the pastor reckoned such behavior was most unlikely. And then of course the crunch line. J.C. did behave like this; he was a great and good guy and came down to earth to save us all. He behaved perfectly and then pushed off for a couple of thousand years, hoping we would all be lead by his exemplary behavior.
Right. I’ll do the jokes.
Oddly enough, the sermon drew me back to my musings on Buddhism, which in general I find more to my taste than the sickly, sweet sugar of Acts.
My strong suspicion is that reincarnation and enlightenment are about as likely as leprechauns and the parousia, but at least re-incarnation would give us a chance to get it right next time round. And a bit better the time after that. Provided of course we had not been so naughty we were turned into a worm or a dog.
You see despite the fact our Jewish chum Paul appears to have wasted his time, he was nonetheless cruising along the right lines.
Even though none of us manage to behave well the whole time, that should not stop us trying. And it should not stop the Juju men from trying to keep us on the right track.
So yes, on occasion I am inclined to sigh with exasperation at the naivety of the religious, and yet without them there would be few to advance the ideal as something we should strive for.
1 Corinthians 13 is a magnificent piece of writing and a noble goal. I applaud that ancient Jew. My belief however is that until we re-engineer the human genome, such piety will remain pie in the sky. Until we can release ourselves from the shackles of our evolutionary inheritance, St Paul can whistle in the wind.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal resounding in the wind.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and can understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have faith, that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.