1 Corinthians 13:1-13

(sermon note: 05-05 sermon note)

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And 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. If 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.

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. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 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.

                This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a son who approached his dad out in the garage one day. With a big smile on his face, he said, “Dad, I fell in love and want to date this awesome girl.” “Oh yeah?” his dad responded, not even looking up from his project. “Who is she?” “It’s Sandra, the neighbor’s daughter.” “Ooohhh, I wish you hadn’t said that son! I have to tell you something, but you must promise not to tell your mother.” “Sure dad, whatever.” “Sandra is actually your sister,” dad sheepishly said. The boy is naturally bummed out. A couple months pass and the son again approached his dad in the garage. And again, dad didn’t even look up from his magazine. “Dad, I fell in love again and she is even hotter!” “Interesting. Who is she, son?” “It’s Angela, the other neighbor’s daughter.” His dad shook his head. “Oooohhh, I wish you hadn’t said that son! Angela is also your sister.” This went on a few more times, and finally the son was so mad, he went straight to his mom crying. “Mom, I’m so mad at dad! I fell in love with six girls, and I can’t date any of them because dad is their father!” The mom walked over to her son, hugged him affectionately, and calmly said, “You can date whoever you want, son. He isn’t your father.”

In my mere 15 years of marriage, I’ve come to realize that wives/moms invariably get the last strike in a feuding relationship. I might think I’ve gotten the last strike in only to realize down the line that I was foolishly mistaken. A good wife/mom always wins in the end! Trust me, fellas! Poor, unsuspecting dad thought his infidelity was a secret, didn’t even suspect the infidelity of his wife. Don’t be surprised by the cheating of your partner if you are prone to cheating yourself. As they say in that old adage, all’s fair in love and war…

Of course, the “love” shared by that son’s parents is a far cry from the love expounded on by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. If only they had reflected on the wisdom of Paul’s words, then perhaps they wouldn’t have gotten themselves into such a broken marriage. Love is a powerful gift from God, surely the greatest of his three gifts of faith, hope, and love. Why? Because faith and hope are only temporary gifts. Faith is only necessary in times of uncertainty when we don’t know what lies ahead. As mysteries unfold and wisdom is revealed, faith gradually becomes unnecessary. Similarly, hope is only necessary in times of dismay and dissatisfaction. Hope gives us courage and perseverance to withstand such times but again, once those times dissipate then there really is no need for hope. But love, love is a gift for all times and never disappears if it is properly tended to and cared for. Love never ends, as Paul so distinctly tells us in our reading for this morning. And who would want it to go away?! ”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. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Who would ever want love to go away?! Only a fool has no need for love in their life! Love is what makes living worthwhile. In love is found pure joy. And love holds all things together. It’s all that holds our world together! Not gravity nor magnetism nor fear nor any other type of pressure…love is all that keeps this world going ‘round! There is no other reason for our existence than to experience God’s love and share that love with the world around us. Love is the driving force behind all of life in this world. I could go on and on about love, much the same way artists have been going on about it since the beginning of time, but I think we get the idea.

Paul clearly understood the importance of love and wanted the good people of Corinth to understand it too. After all, they were more concerned with arguing with each other over the principles of Christianity and a variety of other religions. Yes, arguing has a purpose primarily to determine the best principles that will bring people together, not divide them. Arguing to perpetuate division serves the wrong purpose. God wants us to have the same mind and the same spirit as we heard Paul tell us at the start of his letter to the Corinthians. In order to reach such oneness, we must have love for each other. It’s no wonder that Paul goes on to say later in his letter, “let all that you do be done in love.” (16:14) Love is the key to all fruitful relationships. If we are to bear fruit, we must first and foremost love each other.

The Corinthian church wasn’t the only church to struggle over loving each other. The Galatian church also struggled with its members not loving each other. We hear Paul encourage them in his letter, “for you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:13-14) The Galatians didn’t quite connect freedom of faith with the calling to serve and be in right relationships with others. Through love, we are naturally inclined to serve those around us.

And Paul wasn’t the only one who stressed the importance of love in his preaching. Peter also encouraged love and loving relationships. He says, “above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Peter adds an additional quality of love that leads to forgiveness. If we love each other, then we’re more inclined to forgive each other’s failings and wrongdoings. We’re ALL sinners and we ALL need forgiveness and love allows for that forgiveness.

Too bad that some of us don’t fully appreciate the gift of love. Too bad that some of us take advantage of the love of others as that opening joke suggests. Love is a great gift from God as both Paul and Peter explain. Let us fully appreciate the love of God and share that love with others. Jesus taught and preached and healed and died and rose again because of his great love for us. Let us share that love with the world and rejoice in it. Thanks be to God!             In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.