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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Feb. 3, 2019 | Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

    (After church today, someone suggested this Carrie Underwood song
    would go well with the sermon. She was right.)

    Love Is the Greatest Gift
    1 Corinthians 13:1–13

     A H, THE “WEDDING TEXT.” So sweet and lovey-dovey. Probably read at weddings more often than in worship. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

    The irony is that this text has little to do with the love that is associated with marriage. This is not about romantic love, at all. Paul tries to get through the thick skulls of the Corinthians a radical communal love that enables them to live in a community where unity and difference can coexist.

     † † † 

    PAUL IS STRESSING a point. There’s no sentimentality in his voice. And no over-romanticizing as he puts these words on paper. It’s more like yelling. It would be ALL CAPS in a text message.

    The Corinthian Christians have lots of problems:

    Damaged relationships — such things as rival factions within the church, lawsuits between believers, disregard toward the poor among them, and a failure to minister to the poor in Jerusalem.

    Misconduct in worship — mistreatment of the poor during the Lord’s Supper; gender roles; the use of spiritual gifts; and meat sacrificed to idols.

     † † † 

    PAUL HAS JUST GONE through a list of the many gifts present in the members of First Presbyterian Corinth — prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation, healing, the gift if wisdom and knowledge. He praises them but also challenges them because some (all?) of them think their gift is better. Theirs is more important. And they boast about it, brag about it, put others down about it. And Paul’s had enough.

    What is wrong with you people?
    You people think that your gift is so great.
    You say, “My gift is better than yours. I have the gift of healing; you only have the gift of tongues.”
    It’s not. No gift is better than another.

    Then he goes off on them.

    (yells) Love is more important than your gift.
    Love is patient!!
    Love is kind!
    Love does not envy!
    I don’t see that lived out in you.

     † † † 

    LOVE IS NOT an emotion. Love is not a feeling. Love is work — hard work.

    Paul describes what love does rather than what love is. “To be patient,” “to be kind,” “to rejoice in the truth,” “to bear all things,” “to believe all things,” “to hope all things,” and “to endure all things.” Then he goes off on what love should not do: “Not to envy,” “not to boast,” “not to be arrogant,” “not to be rude,” “not to seek its own way,” “not to be irritable,” “not to be resentful,” and “not to rejoice in wrongdoing.”

    St. Paul says, “I gain nothing if there is no love.”
    Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles says, “All we need is love. Love is all we need.”

    (yelled) It doesn’t matter what your gift is if you don’t have love!
    Prophecy ends. Love doesn’t.
    Wisdom has its limitations. Love doesn’t.
    Gifts will cease.
    What you’ve got will not last into eternity. Don’t get so caught up in them.
    Your gifts will end.

    (calm) Love never ends.

     † † † 

    FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE endure. Greatest is love. Nothing is more important than love. Love wins. Love trumps. Love endures. So, choose love.

     † † † 

    WHAT BRINGS PAUL to make such a claim? The event of Jesus Christ. God’s love for us. God, who is love, comes to us in love through his Son, Jesus Christ. He loves us with sacrificial love. He calls us to love him and each other with this same love. This then has to be embodied in community.

    All we have to sustain us is love. Without love, it does not matter what budgets we have. Without love it doesn’t matter how nice our buildings are. Our vision for the church. Our mission strategies are irrelevant without love. We may pursue various forms of spirituality, or proper doctrine, or activism in the name of justice. However, in our pursuit of these otherwise fine things, we must not forget that the church is called to be a community that practices love. Love for people inside the church. Love for people outside the church. Love for people with whom we disagree. Love for people who irritate us to no end.

     † † † 

    IT IS IN THE DIFFICULT REALITIES of relationships and communities that love needs to be lived out in costly ways. That’s what life is all about: love.

    It’s about love, love, love. From the moment you are born until the moment you die; and every second and every minute and every hour and every day and every month and every year and every decade, the purpose of life is God giving you and me the time to learn how to love as God loves. The purpose of time, of every moment and every day and every year is that God is teaching us what it means to be truly loving people. That’s what it is all about. That is what it has always been about. That’s the greatest gift, directly from the heart of God.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «The purpose of life is God giving you and me
    the time to learn how to love as God loves.
    »

    Scripture for the day

    1 Corinthians 13:1–13
    Holy Bible, New International Version


    13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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 do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 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. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 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 the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a 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.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    — The Word of God for the people of God.
    — Thanks be to God.


    Footnotes:

    a. Corinthians 13:1  Or languages
    b. Corinthians 13:3  Some manuscripts body to the flames


    More sermon texts from Swift Presbyterian Church:

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    23208 Swift Church Road
    Foley, AL 36535
    Phone: (251) 943-8367
    email: swiftpc@gulftel.com