I Corinthians `12: 27-13:3
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
3If 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.
This is not the usual way of presenting the famous words of chapter 13, but there is method in the Lectionary’s apparent madness. The “beautiful” words about love are intended as the conclusion of an argumnet about the superiority of faith, love and community over knowledge, carelessness and individualism. Paul has attacked the estimate of “speaking in tongues” as the greatest spiritual gift, and emphasised the shared gifts of everybody in the faith community. Now he specifically names love as the gift wich goes beyond any kind of ecstatic speaking. Without love, all other gifts are useless. Time and again religious people have to be recalled from valuing some “religious” capability over the practice of love. All the most dreadful failures of religion could have been prvented by listening to these words of Paul.