Sermon – 02-03-19 – Epiphany IV – Cycle C
Scriptures – Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
Sermon Title – “What Kind of Love is This?”
I am looking in the mirror. I am thinking that this is a poor mirror. I can’t see myself clearly. Of course, that is merciful. But I am looking for reality – the real image – the truth. I want to know what other people see when they look at me. This is all vanity. What God wants me to be examining is the condition of my heart. Yes siree! My love quotient is what God sees and wants me to see. How kind am I? Is it a surface kind of veneer? Or is it a deep-down first-impulse reaction to be helpful, to be uplifting, to be reassuring, to be a silent companion no matter how many hours is needed? Or, even the kind of love that confronts a person who has slipped off the path with a vengeance.
Last week we focused on the gifts which God instilled in each of us when we were conceived. Today our lesson from I Corinthians 13 says that no matter to what grandness we have nurtured our gift, it is of no consequence if love is not the base and the glue. Paul, the writer of this passage is explaining to us, that faith is good, hope is good, but they do not have the power of love.
How can love have power? This question possibly brings to mind many ways that you have seen love work. As a starter, once I was very annoyed with my mail delivery person. My first reaction was to prepare a speech for the post master. But God intervened and reminded me that love would be a better approach. I realized that I had been receiving service from this post office but I was not giving in return. Because our designated post office is out of our way, I was buying stamps and having packages weighed in post offices which I pass regularly. God managed to convince me that I should start buying stamps with my own post office and to start writing thank you notes to my mail delivery person. Things changed. Service improved and I passed into a new place in how things can be changed through love.
Have you thought of a time when you saw love have power? Oh, yes, I have another example. It is a family setting where the members had not learned to speak in loving ways. They existed with each other. But contentment, and a safe feeling were not there. Then one of the members – could have been one of the children – heard or saw an example of how loving speech, loving attitudes can bring the atmosphere in a home to a 180º change. Through this one person, seeing how kindness and love work, became an example to the rest of the family. Father, mother, children, father-in-law all gradually felt inclined to support each other, to compliment each other, to think of the happiness and the fairness for every person in that home, including the dog. Oh, and the bird started to sing!
What is God calling each of us to do, as our circles widen, to influence the environment where we work or spend whole days in a classroom or when we shop? What do you think of this image? We could imagine that we are wearing a life preserver of love. So wherever we go, we are walking with this band of love pushing the environment around us. This life preserver of love can work inward as well as outward. In our Corinthians passage today, we heard what real love is supposed to be. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Wow! This life preserver of love is mighty powerful if it can change me to match these characteristics. You see, living into that kind of love takes a lifetime. This life preserver saves us as we are in the act of becoming.
You may not need as much saving as some of us do. I have noticed that God creates some people to be filled with his kind of love from the very beginning. People who take a chance of losing his or her life by diving into water to save someone else, or run into a burning house to save a person or even a pet or put aside his or her schedule for the day to be a companion to someone in grief or worry or illness.
Then there are the people whom God calls to be his spokespersons. Does a call from God have anything to do with love? Where is the love? Think Abraham and Moses, think Jeremiah, think Jesus! Fear seems to be the prevailing feeling. Where is the love? Why do we have these three particular scripture passages today. The Corinthians passage about ultimate love is matched with Jeremiah’s call and with Jesus telling his relatives and neighbors that he can’t heal them.
How do they fit together? Where is this ultimate love? What kind of love makes Jesus talk so ruthlessly to his friends and relatives? I am getting this understanding. It is one kind of love to care for and be kind to the people around us. Surely, there are plenty of people in arm’s reach who need this deep level of love, who need our care, who need our understanding, who need our sacrificial companionship and skill.
But Jeremiah was informed by God that he is being appointed over nations and kingdoms, not his neighborhood. Would Jeremiah be filled with love or fear with such an assignment? And Jesus? Jesus is telling his relatives and neighbors about the people in previous times who were sent by God to outsiders, not to stay with the insiders. Being outside the comfort zone, for sure! Fear of the unknown! But remember, God’s people are privileged to be wearing the life preserver of love. I am focusing on the word “life” now. When we are serving the Lord, fear has a way of appearing in our path. But, our faith and hope in God can make us oblivious to fear. If we take one step at a time, it is the love of God that draws us toward the goal, whatever the current assigned goal.
Love is an all-encompassing blanket. Love can blow us through a wind tunnel to find a new bonding with the people who were blown with us. Love is letting someone we love listen to God’s calling without our interfering. Love permits people to go – to serve God wherever God calls. Fear is inevitable, but the Love of God meets our love for God and the kingdom moves on alive and well.
For 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. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.