SERMON for February, 14
Happy Valentine's Day! Sorry that frigid temps kept us from gathering in person this Sunday. Nonetheless, here's the sermon that I wrote this week for you.
May God bless and keep you and all those that you love, in these days. Amen. Pastor Kathy
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the languages of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Love is patient, love is kind …
On one popular TV trivia show, when the contestants were asked, they could not name where these verses are written in the Bible … but they recognized the words.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres …
You and I have heard these verses recited in many wedding ceremonies. We have seen them written on Valentine’s Day cards.
Love never fails …
Because we have heard 1 Corinthians 13 so often…do you think that those words have lost their meaning? This scripture has been quoted so much people might think:
“Yeah, yeah, ok. ‘Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.’
I know. I’ve heard it all before.”
Maybe someone said “I love you,” to you but a happy ending didn’t follow.
For others of you, the word “love” may have been exhausted.
On Valentine’s Day—whether we are single, married, divorced, separated, or any other sort of status– that is good news. As people of faith we can connect to the best kind of love: God’s love.
We come this day to be remined about the love of God: agape love, everlasting love, unconditional love, unselfish love.
We come this day to be reminded that God’s love is wide open. His love is available to any people who will yield their hearts and lives to Him.
We come to reminded that God does not line people up, inspect them, and then reject the ones He doesn’t like because that is not what real love does.
Sometimes cultural expressions and ideas about love are so warped, so shallow, that it’s almost impossible to fathom, in contrast, the wonderful extent of God’s love.
Last week Pastor Katie preached a fine sermon on the Good Samaritan. She spoke about how we are called to reach out to others however and wherever we are able. Katie’s sermon reminded me of a story that I once heard about a soldier that was finally returning from serving in the Vietnam War. The soldier called his parents from San Francisco.
“Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I have a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me. “Sure,” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.”
“There’s something you should know,” the son continued, “he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”
“No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.”
“Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”
At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. Many months later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide.
The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror, they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
The Bible teaches us that “Love always believes. Always hopes. Always perseveres. Love never fails.” But here’s the deal: life is messy, isn’t it? Every day I have moments where I struggle to believe. Moments when I lose hope. I give up. I lie awake at night, my failures looming before me like a heavy granite wall. I find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but I avoid people who inconvenience me or make me feel uncomfortable[kv1] . At church council this month, Katie shared in her devotion how she had decided that this year she decided to do something nice for someone that will not be expecting it on Valentine’s Day. She said: “I haven’t decided what I will do yet, but I’m looking forward to figuring it out.” Great advice. I asked Katie if she would post it on our church website. Inspired by her example, Monday I sat down and wrote out 30 valentines to people in my life, that are special to me. And then I realized two days later that I had failed to send a card to some of my family members. You don’t need to hear what it was they did or didn’t do. It’s complicated. Nevertheless, I have a few people that also deserved to receive a greeting. It is NOT easy to admit is it? You and I --we would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, faithful, gifted, young, or WHATEVER…as we are. Thankfully, there’s someone who won’t treat us that way. Someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are.
I am so grateful to our confirmation youth for taking the time to make valentines for our elders. Our youth made a homemade card and tucked it in a colorful bag along with some chocolates plus a single serving of bread and wine. Others of you took the time to deliver this creative gesture of “meals on wheels”. Thank you.
Oh, dear People of God, our Heavenly Father knows us very well, and He loves us. God knows our strengths and weaknesses, our secret sins and personal joys. His love gives us a second chance. And really-- more chances than we deserve.
Billy Graham would regularly close his crusades with these words:
“No matter what sin you have committed, no matter how dirty, shameful or terrible it may be, God loves you. You may be at the very gate of hell itself, but God loves you with an everlasting love.”
1 Corinthians 13 challenges us to do everything out of love, specifically the kind of love that God has shown through Jesus. That means loving friends, enemies, neighbors, co-workers, spouses, children, parents, and even strangers with the merciful and selfless love that comes from God.
What a great challenge!
While Valentine’s Day focuses, for the most part, on romantic love, there is so much more to that four-letter word.
Indeed, This Valentine’s day will come and go.
Hear the Good News: you and I have been given a lifetime of days - to connect to God, the Source of love, who teaches us, by example, to “figure it out” --
and to love with patience, faith, generosity, wisdom, and grace.
Thanks be to God. Amen.