Martin B. Copenhaver
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." from 1 Corinthians 13
Early in my ministry I served First Congregational Church (UCC) in Burlington, Vermont. Every Wednesday morning for nine years, I led a Bible study with a group made up largely of women in their seventies and eighties. They had been meeting each week for longer than they could remember, which means, for some of them, since before I was born.
At first I prepared my lessons with meticulous care, brandishing all of the historical-critical methods of scholarship that I had learned in seminary. They would ask follow-up questions, which I took to be something like asking for an encore performance.
Over time, however, the members began gently to redirect the conversation to the ways in which the Bible was speaking to what was going on in their lives. And our time of prayer began to stretch as they lovingly brooded over the congregation with their intercessions.
My first winter there the first big snow storm happened on a Wednesday morning. I couldn't get out of my driveway. Not yet accustomed to life in Vermont, I was surprised that, when I called the church office, someone was there to answer the phone. I said, "Quite a storm, isn't it? Obviously, we won't be having Bible study today." The person on the other end of the line replied, "Well, I'll go tell the ladies… they'll be so disappointed."
Sure enough, they were all there, with Bibles open, waiting dutifully for their new young minister to show up. They never teased me about it directly, but conversation did turn to weather conditions with suspicious frequency after that.
I am reminded that the word "endure" has two meanings: to last and to put up with a lot. Gratefully, that Wednesday morning Bible study endured in both senses of the word.
God, may my love of your people endure - truly last - even though that means I will need to put up with a lot.
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor of Village Church, United Church of Christ, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. A new edition of his book, Living Faith While Holding Doubts has just been published by Pilgrim Press.