Wednesday, February 06, 2019

1 Corinthians 13:8-13; The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany; February 3, 2019;

1 Corinthians 13:8-13; The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany; February 3, 2019;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:8–13, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today we are doing things the way we always to them. We are singing hymns about what God has done for us. And today the text urges us to talk a lot about God’s great love. We are, just like usual, hearing God’s word read to us today. In a few moments we’ll be praying, just like usual, giving our gifts to our Lord in response to his great love for us, and  we’ll be celebrating Holy Communion. It is all the things we expect to do on any typical given Sunday, in this place. We do them because that’s what Children of God do when we gather together. We sing to, and about God. We pray about our problems. We listen to God’s voice in his word. And we respond with our gifts. Today will also respond with our gifts through the collection plate. So this is an ordinary Sunday at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr.
But, there is one thing that we do, that I haven’t mentioned yet. And according to Paul, (according to God), it’s the greatest thing we can do. Of course I’m talking about Love.
“Look,” Paul said to the Corinthian Church, “Love it the key thing. What you do that’s built on love will last, because love never ends.” Paul is drawing a strong comparison here to what God said to Isaiah,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV)
It does what is promised. Just as God’s Word never falls to the ground ineffective, Christian love will remain in its important place for all time. “I know you’ve been given some important gifts,” Paul continues, “prophecy, tongues, and knowledge. And right now these are important. But, remember that these are only for ‘right now.’ When Jesus comes again, when we see him face to face, these things will be unnecessary. God’s love for us and our love for him will take over everything.”
I remember when I was little. I had a lot of ideas. Ideas about the world and how things worked. In the same way that I chuckled when my kids were little and they said something ‘cute’. I’m sure both of my parents had quite a few chuckles over me. But, to me they were pretty important ideas. Ideas like, cats were female dogs, and horses were female cows. I don’t remember when I realized that that wasn’t true, but it was a life changing event. When I was young I knew that my parents loved me, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that I learned what kind of love it really is. St. Paul is talking about that kind of a change here in the First Letter to the Corinthians. He says,
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)
Paul isn’t saying that prophecy, and knowledge weren’t important. On the contrary he is saying that they were very important to the building up of the church. But, he says, when the last day dawns, these things, will be no longer necessary. “Because the sun rises all lights are extinguished.” (K. Barth) Similarly, I’m not saying that what we do here isn’t important. It’s vital to our Christian growth. But, to use Paul’s words, they are only part. Like the things of a child’s understanding. As great a Christ’s Holy Supper is, it is only a foretaste of the feast to come. The difference between what we have now and what we shall have is unimaginable.
Of all of the things we do, God says, through Paul, that love is the greatest. We can sing about God all day long, but if we do it without love, it is a terrible noise indeed. We can pray for people all over the world, but without love, its just noise in our ears. You see love is the most important gift that God gives us, and no matter what we do, at work, at home, at school, and even at church… if we do it without love, it is nothing.
Paul wants the Corinthian church, and us, to stay focused on what is important, on the things that endure, eagerly anticipating what is coming for all Christians. “When that which is complete comes,” he says, “that which is partial will be superseded.” When Jesus returns again even the most important things in life will lack any value because the all lack permanence. Even the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge.
But, love endures. We see it especially the love given to us in Jesus. It is the perfect explanation of enduring love. From eternity, God made a plan to save us from our sins. His love for us was so great that Jesus was given to be our Savior, even though it meant his death. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. And Jesus demonstrated the greatest love of all, when he laid down his life on the cross for us. It is love that endures the test of time, love that reaches right down to us here in this place. Because of what Jesus did for us, we have in our hearts the greatest thing in the world—love.  We love, because he first loved us.
And now, dear Christian friends, it is time to show our love for Jesus Christ. I’m not talking only about singing, praying and talking about what Jesus did for us. I’m talking about showing it, acting it, and living it. I’m not just talking about giving cash to help meet the church budget, although that is important. I’m talking about inviting our neighbors and friends to hear about the love of God in Christ. Do you realize that 50% of the people who live in Iowa are un-churched? It is even true of our little corner of the Minnesota Arrowhead here. Weather you realize it our not; you mingle with people every day who are going to hell. You talk with them, you laugh with them, and you even eat with them. Maybe you’ve told yourself that everyone around here belongs to a church, but the truth is, that it just isn’t so. There are people living in this very town who don’t know about the love of God. There are people very near to us who don’t know about Jesus Christ. I’m not saying that we need to walk down main street here with a sandwich board that says, “Repent! The end is near!” What is important is that we show them the love of God. It’s also important to find ways of telling them about the love of God for them.
We have a wonderful thing going here at Life in Christ Lutheran Church. Every week we come here and experience the love of God. A love that was so great for Jesus, that it meant his death on the cross. Always remember that it’s because of his love, that love is the greatest thing for us. Jesus lives in us, and he shows his love through us. That’s what makes everything different, especially on a special day, like today. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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