The Gift of Love
THE GIFT OF LOVE
September 5, 2021
Scripture: I Corinthians 13: 1-13
Sermon: “The Way of Love”
I feel like there is so much happening in our lives today, that I want to focus today on what God has to say to us about LOVE. It’s not the lectionary text given for Sunday, September 5th. But it’s a Word we need, even so. Many of you know I’ve been travelling across the US moving our oldest son to college, and then seeing my parents. When we drove across the border into the US, the border patrol asked us if we’d be leaving anything behind in the US during our stay? My husband replied, “um, well, yeah…our firstborn son.”
While we were away much has changed…both in Canada and while I was in the US. News regarding vaccines, passports, masks and more. While in Texas, though, my parents enjoyed getting out old photo albums and reminiscing of earlier days. My sons asked me what I used to do back in my high school days of San Angelo, Texas. I explained…we loved to two-step. I won’t demonstrate, but when you take two steps in one direction, you then take one back. You can get creative and turn around with your partner, while you are two-stepping, and eventually you’ll circle around the entire dance floor. I feel like we’re Texas two-stepping here. We’ve been taking steps forward, eager for Phase 4, and yet, we also are taking a step back, as we press on twirling and moving forward, however we can.
Paul writes to the Corinthians (way back in biblical times), yet, these words were given for us today, in these pandemic times. LOVE. This Scripture is one that you most often hear in weddings. I shared this one when Dave and Rachelle married—what a beautiful day that was, by the way! We managed to share in a safely gathered outdoor wedding. I love reading this passage, and to have couples insert their own names in place of LOVE in this particular Scripture. I’ll use my own as an example: “Jaylynn is patient…Jaylynn does not insist on her own way. Jaylynn is not irritable or resentful.” Now ask Jason, my spouse, how true those statements are!
Paul is not writing here in the context of a wedding ceremony. He’s writing to everyone—and it’s not just for the “in love,” but also for those who struggle to love one another! Paul was speaking to a group of people who had been fighting—guess what they were fighting over? Whose spiritual gifts were better!
Honestly, I kind of wish I could rewind to a day where we were just fighting about spiritual gifts! But what they were doing in Paul’s day, unfortunately still translates to our current times. They were ranking themselves against each other—they were claiming what they had was better than the other—that they knew best. Paul reels them back in, and then reminds them that these ‘gifts’ they speak of—the ones that they are claiming so much credit for, are gifts called to service. Then Paul gives the closer—your gifts mean absolutely nothing…unless you have love!
I posted a tweet the other day about my travels. It’s true—I travelled across multiple US cities, airlines, and airports…and I never once saw anyone defiant to the mask rules, nor displaying any disruptive behavior. Not once. And trust me, there was loads of people travelling!
A Rabbi friend of mine retweeted it and said “preaching the good news!” It’s also true, that my husband drove across the country and had a very different experience. We all know that the stories are out there---I read about an all-time low pandemic behavior this week that is so disappointing, I’m not even going to repeat it here. But, there is good news out there. There is a new way to respond. And we’re human, we really, really do need Jesus’s example to show us the way forward.
Think again about inserting your name into the Scripture as I mentioned using my own. “You” are not irritable, “you” are patient, etc. Would you accurately able to make those statements using your own self as an example. No. None of us can. We’re not LOVE. Only God is. God is patient. God is kind. God is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. God does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth! Now, God is not just all those things to those who adore him (thinking glowing brides or spell-bound grooms). God is all those things to the very people who despise him. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” GOD is love. And the way we can know love, or even the way of love, is to follow him. We will fall short eventually, and we will need to turn back to God to be reminded of the way of love and need for love and the reason for love.
Some of you know that my oldest brother is in need of a kidney transplant. Myself and my family members are diligently trying to find out all the information we can in order to help—including talking to the donor clinic in Texas. While in Texas last Friday, I phoned a number to ask as many questions as I could to learn how to help my brother. I was told only particular nurse could answer those questions. I left multiple messages, was told she’d call back. I left a message on her personal extension. I called one more time just before they closed, only to learn I had just missed her. I was certainly frustrated. Others thought, “we should complain about this!”
On Monday, she phoned first thing. I mentioned how we had both struggled in reaching one another by phone. She corrected me. “No, I am the one who was difficult to reach.” Then she said, “Thank you for not being angry or yelling at me…thank you for being kind.” She said we only have 4 nurses now—all others have been pulled to work on covid floors. “There are 4 of us doing the full time work of 11 nurses.” I was stilled in the moment. Because, on Friday I actually wasn’t patient. I was irriated. I felt like she should respond to my messages. I was resentful. I, I, I…. Never once did it occur to me what the other end of that phone line might be experiencing.
We are human, and this isn’t easy for any of us. The capacity to love in a way that is kind, patient, and bearing all things…is a love that we learn from the One who loved us in that way. Our capacity to love at all, is because Jesus Christ died that we might know him more fully, in this life that we now live.
Paul was speaking to the Corinthians about love, for sure. But not just loving things or people they choose to love (like their spouse, or their puppy!). But actually loving the very people they didn’t want to love. Sometimes even the people they disliked the most.
The Corinthians wanted to talk about all of their spiritual gifts. Paul wanted to talk about love. We can have all the spiritual gifts in the world, but not have love. And Paul is teaching us that love is the absolute thing we need. This isn’t just for each of us individually, but for the church, as well.
You may have heard the ending to this Scripture a handful of times in different contexts…”And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three: and the greatest of these is love.
Notice, it doesn’t say the best. That’s not what this Scripture means. It means that love will never end. When we are with Jesus eternally, we no longer need faith. Faith is what you need when you can’t see or prove it, you simply have faith in it. And hope only exists when you don’t have what you’re hoping for. In heaven, eternally, you have it! But love, love doesn’t pass away. Love remains. Love never ends.
Dr. Richard Hays writes that “love is a way…a manner of life within which all the gifts are to find their proper place.”
Love is not just being good Love is anchored in the very person of God. One scholar writes “above all, Paul declares that love keeps faith alive and generates hope.” Love is the life of God in us.
The very next words of Chapter 14 after this Corinthians love Chapter 13 are the words “Pursue Love.” Pursue all the things that define love: long suffering and kind, rejoicing over truth, generating hope, unquenchable! Long after that kind of love. Pursue it. And, also…receive it.
Our daily lives are marked by the health ministers and protocols. We don’t deny that, and we need their expertise and instruction. But as we go, and in the midst of these very trying times, let’s commit to our daily lives being marked by love, as well. And not just any love…but the love that comes from Christ. The love that suffered that we might live life differently—with patience, with kindess, without being resentful, without being arrogant or boastful. A life lived intentionally without being rude, or insisting on our own way. May our lives be lived marked with the love of Christ—bearing all things, believing all things, hoping in all things, and enduring in all things. This pandemic will end. Love never will. Thanks be to God. Amen.