Questions and Reflections

February 2019

One the Level: God's Woe/Woah

[Jesus] came down with [the Twelve] and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Luke 6:17-26

Pastor Marc's sermon for 5th Sunday after Epiphnay (February 17, 2019) on Luke 6:17-26. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 

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Woe.

 

Woe is one of those words we don’t hear very often. In my social circle, I usually hear the other word that sounds exactly like it but that’s used to express a sense of awe and wonder by people like Keanu Reeves and Joey Lawrence. It’s easier to say “woah” when we see something amazing and unexpected. But I find it much harder to use “woe” like Jesus did. This “woe” wasn’t meant to be awesome; it’s meant as a warning. Jesus told those with enough wealth and food and good cheer and who were admired by their peers to “watch out.” Now, our instinct might be to try and distance ourselves from Jesus’ “woe” groups because we, culturally, like to focus on what we lack. We all can point to someone who is richer than us and we might have that friend on instagram who always looks amazing and whose children seem incredibly well behaved at all times. It’s easy to believe that we don’t have enough, giving ourselves permission to run away from Jesus’ words. But let’s not do that. Instead, let’s sit with the “woe” and notice what Jesus’ words are doing to us. If you’re feeling a little squirmy or if you’re trying to pass these woes on to someone else, hold that. Don’t rush pass it. And if you are hurting, if you have no idea how to pay your bills or if it feels like you’ve forgotten what it’s like to laugh, let Jesus’ woes speak to you. Grab onto whatever you’re experiencing right now and hold onto it. Because I know we are a community filled with all kinds of people, including people who have enough, who are suffering, who are indifferent to the suffering of others, and with lots of us somewhere in between. These words from Jesus are meant for each of us. And none of us are supposed to experience Jesus’ words in the exact same way. Instead, we’re here to hear Jesus. And that means holding onto exactly what Jesus is doing to us, right now.

This reading from the gospel according to Luke is a reading we haven’t heard in church in awhile. Since the date for Easter changes every year and we follow a 3 year cycle of bible readings for Sunday morning, there are weeks when our readings from Luke are cut off because Easter comes too early. The last time this text was read on a regular Sunday morning was in February, 2004. For almost 15 years, we didn’t spend much time with Jesus’ woes. But this text might have reminded us of something we’ve heard before. In Matthew’s version of this story, Jesus was also followed by a large crowd. He needed to take a bit of a break so he went up a mountain and was followed by his disciples. He began his great Sermon on the Mount with, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth; Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3-6) These words from Matthew are similar to what Luke wrote but did you notice the differences? For me, Jesus’ words in Luke feel more personal. He’s wasn’t talking about “those” or “them”; instead, he talked about “you.” And this you wasn’t only for people who were poor in spirit. Jesus named those who were economically poor, truly hungry, in tears, and who were being excluded. Matthew’s version can sometimes be spiritualized to the point where its connection to our everyday life melts away. But we can’t do that with Luke. Jesus saw the poor and named them. He saw the hungry and promised they will be filled. Jesus did not rush past the sufferings and joys that are part of our everyday life. Instead, he came down from the mountain and walked into them. The diverse crowd that surrounded him came from everywhere. They were sick, suffering, and longing for his words. Jesus did more than just heal them; he offered them a vision of what God wanted life to be. Jesus didn’t run away from the parts of life where suffering, or our indifference to suffering, caused us to look away. Instead, Jesus chose to be there. And while in the middle of the sick, the suffering, and those whom society usually stands against, Jesus knelt to offer blessings and to announce God’s woes.

So, are you still holding onto your experience of Jesus’ words from earlier in the sermon? I hope so. Because I want you to look down and see Jesus looking up at you. Not only were the words Jesus used in Luke more personal; but as we read in verse 20, Jesus didn’t look down on his disciples. We can imagine that Jesus knelt to touch someone who was sick or to hold someone who couldn’t walk. And while getting his hands dirty in the mess of everyday suffering, Jesus looked up. In the words of Thomas Frank, Jesus looked up, “as if to say, what are you doing right this minute? People are sick and dying right here, tormented by spirits. They have come from all over the land, from the coast to the river, from south to north as far as you can go in a few days’ journey. Will you get down here with me and help?” (Feasting on the Gospels, Luke volume 1, page 160). Jesus’s words are an invitation for us to join in with what Jesus is already doing. Because Jesus not only knows the poor, the hungry, and those who are weeping. Jesus also knows you. He knows your hurts and fears. He knows the last time you laughed and he knows what gives you your biggest smile. Jesus knows that, even if you don’t have enough, you are enough. And he also knows that if you do have enough, you can follow Jesus into the crowd and participate in the work he’s already doing. There are times in our lives when we might find ourselves relatively at peace and feeling satisfied. But there will be other moments when we need a warning from God to stop us from assuming that our privilege defines the worth and meaning of our’s, and others’, lives. It’s in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, where we discover that God has already decided that the world, and its people, have value. And when we notice the different ways we run from Jesus’ words, we are, I believe, seeing how Jesus is already transforming our lives. By holding onto our honest experiences, we can follow Jesus through them and into a place where God’s values, rooted in God’s justice, becomes our own. Now, this holding onto is a struggle and one we will have our entire lives. We will often want to run away and rush pass whatever we’re experiencing. But when we don’t, when we hold onto our experiences of Jesus’ words, we discover not only God’s calling for our lives but we also finally see God’s view of the world and God’s view of us. It’s these kinds of moments that give us a sense of awe and wonder at the amazing gift of God’s love; and we are left with nothing else to say except: whoa.

 

Amen.

 



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Reflection: How Can You Say?

We're at the point in our Confirmation class where we invite our 7th and 8th graders to ask themselves: what do I believe? We frame this through the Apostles' Creed. A creed is a list of things that a community of faith teaches. They can be short (like the Shema Yisrael for Jews which is only 1 verse long) or long (the Athanasius Creed, which we don't recite often, is pages long). We spend each class period going through one section of the Apostles' Creed. We spend time with God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier (aka Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and how these statements of faith help frame all the questions we might ask. The Apostles' Creed isn't, I think, designed to provide us answers. Instead, it's a framework to help us see how our faith is central to who we are and where we are going.


Paul's text from 1st Corinthians 15:12-20 today is part of that wider question of "who we are" Rarely do we, I think, spend time thinking about the Resurrection of Jesus. We name it, celebrate it, point to it at funerals, and use trumpets to announce it at Easter. But do we, in our everyday life, think about what the Resurrection means to us? For Paul, the act of Resurrection is fundamental to what it means to follow Christ. Without it, we are merely listening to the words of some beloved teacher. With the Resurrection, we see the beginning of a new creation that God is bringing about. The Resurrection is more than just what happens after we die. The Resurrection is God's way of saying that a new life is possible right now. Even though we will die, we will be embraced by an endless God and an endless love that will not leave us. And, we will be joined together with all who are caught up in that love. Without the Resurrection, Jesus is a good man who was executed for what he believed. With it, we see that God acted through Jesus to create a new world that invites us to see God's love that's all around us.



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Reflection: Send Me?

One thing I do when I read Scripture is imagine the story as it unfolds. I like to see, in my mind, the entire scene, filling in the details as I go along. Our reading from Isaiah 6:1-13 today is one of those stories we think we already know. In seminary, this story was so central to our identity, the school gave out t-shirts quoting verse 8. Isaiah received a vision of an over-the-top God. God, sitting on the throne, is high above Isaiah and wearing a long robe. The robe is so large; the Temple can only hold its hem. Isaiah was so overwhelmed by this vision of God; he could only confess who he truly was. God's presence was a mirror for Isaiah, showcasing how far from perfect Isaiah was. God, however, had a plan for Isaiah and didn't let Isaiah's imperfection stop Isaiah from spreading God's word. God transformed Isaiah, touching his lips with a burning piece of coal. After God did this, God asked, "Whom shall I send?" And Isaiah responded, enthusiastically, "Send me!"

Or did he? Our translation gives us an exclamation mark at the end of Isaiah's statement because, I think, we want Isaiah's response to be enthusiastic. We want to believe that experiencing God's presence will make us want to say a big "yes" to God. But, as you were imaging this scene, how many other people were in the Temple with Isaiah? We have seraphs flying around, the hem of God's robe, Isaiah... and that's it. In this vision of God, there is no one else present. So when God asked the question, there's no one else who could answer. We could imagine this scene with Isaiah looking around, noticing he's by himself, and saying, "Here am I...send me?" And God, whether Isaiah was enthusiastic or not, still commissioned him to bring God's word to all people.

I honestly believe that we want an experience of God to propel us into a new Christ-like way of life. We want to meet God face-to-face and, without thinking, shout out, "send me!" We want this so badly, we end up using this desire as an excuse to do nothing. If we don't feel this kind of enthusiasm, we assume we haven't met God. Or, if we do meet God but we're left doubting, confused, or worried, then we assume we haven't had an authentic "God-moment." We end up believing that God will always have an exclamation point. Yet we know that's not, necessarily, how God works. God comes to us when we need God. And that experience can feel like a lightning bolt or be so subtle, it could feel like a little wine on our lips and a crumb of bread in our belly. We are called to be aware of the God who is always with us. And since God is always with us, we are also called to bring God's word to all people, whether we're enthusiastic about it or not.



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Go Away: the Imperfect Disciple [Sermon Manuscript]

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.​

Luke 5:1-11

Pastor Marc's sermon for 5th Sunday after Epiphnay (February 10, 2019) on Luke 5:1-11. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 

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Some days a superficial reading of Scripture is the best we can do. And it sounds a bit weird to admit that. When we gather together to worship, we want to take this moment seriously. We want to be ready to experience God and to see Jesus in God’s own words. But there are some Sundays when we’re a tad more zonked out than we’d like to be. As we sit in our pew, listening to these texts from the Bible, we might find it hard to follow a long. A big yawn, a crying family member, or thinking about all those things we need to do later today - on days like these, we only hear every third or fourth word. Or maybe there’s something else going on in our lives and just being here is really the best we can do. We pray that the Holy Spirit will, somehow, break through to us, overcoming everything that is stopping us from being fully present right now. But when that doesn’t happen, that doesn’t mean God is ignoring us. It just means we’re tired, exhausted, distracted, and wrapped up in a situation that is taking up all the space available in our brain. On those kinds of Sundays, we’re being exactly who we are. And that’s okay. God’s Word is still for us even when we’re not in the mental, emotional, or spiritual state to discover some deep theological meaning about Jesus telling Simon Peter where to fish. We can, instead, do what we’re able and that might mean only noticing a rough outline of the story itself. Jesus started our reading from the gospel according to Luke surrounded by a large crowd, pressing in on him. But by the end of it, that crowd was replaced by a band of 3. And those 3 didn’t press in on Jesus. They left everything and followed him.

On one level, it’s a bit disappointing to start with a crowd and end up with 3. That’s not usually a recipe for success. Rarely, in the church, do we celebrate those programs or events or moments that, at first, bring in a ton of people but eventually peters out at the end. We remember the initial crowd and we assume we have to hold onto that. Because when we do anything, we want the numbers to validate why it should exist. A faith-filled ministry that’s exactly what were supposed to be doing doesn’t seem worth it if the numbers don’t back it up. We try to tell ourselves that numbers don’t matter but the reality is that they do because we are culturally ingrained to quantify success. We have no problem sitting on the shore, remembering the crowd, seeing the 3, and wondering what just happened.

But there is one system we’re used to where the winnowing of a crowd down to a small number makes sense. And we can see this process most easily in sports, where millions of young kids run onto their local soccer fields but, by the time they’re adults, only a very few end up playing in the World Cup. We like to imagine that the narrowing of the crowd through competition and challenges is how we, together, find the most skilled among us. Yet this winnowing process is never as objective and fair as we would like it to be because there are systems embedded in our society that limit who has an opportunity to compete in the first place. When we watch Jesus being confronted by the crowd on the lakeshore, we assume some process of shrinking is being used by him to chose his disciples. Since Simon Peter is named and we would later identify him as one of Jesus’ original apostles, we assume Jesus used some kind of process to determine why Simon Peter would be one of the “best” disciples for him. Even though the text doesn’t identify any competition between Simon and the rest of the people in the crowd, we might subconsciously add some in. In fact, we use his little excursion with Jesus out into the water as the test to why he was chosen in the first place. And we see the amount of fish that he caught as a quantifiable sign of the kinds of special gifts Simon Peter had. We narrow the crowd to 3 through a competition of our own making because that’s how we can turn Jesus’ moment at the lake of Gennesaret into some kind of success. He came surrounded by a crowd but ended up with 3. And we say that’s okay because those three were, compared to the rest, the very best three there could be.

Except there’s nothing in the text that resembles a competition. In fact, when we consciously or unconsciously insert that experience into this story, we’re no longer doing a superficial reading of the text. We’re reading our experiences into Jesus instead of letting the experience of Jesus read into us. Jesus didn’t ask for Simon Peter to compete for his attention. Jesus just called him. He told Simon Peter to go out into deeper waters. And even though Simon Peter grumbled, he did it anyways. The amazing number of fish wasn’t a sign of the amazing skills Peter had; it was a sign, instead, of what Jesus was about to do. The person Jesus called as his disciple, this Simon Peter, was not really the kind of disciple most of us would like to have. As we will hear in the rest of Luke and throughout the book of Acts, Simon Peter was the kind of disciple who grumbled, who called Jesus a liar to his face, and the one who even denied knowing Jesus during Jesus’ greatest hour of need. Simon Peter was the type of person who always spoke before he thought and he let his personal expectations of Jesus confront the Jesus he actually knew. Simon Peter was the kind of disciple we wouldn’t mind leaving in the crowd and who, if we look at his whole story, we couldn’t imagine as being in our final 3.

And yet Jesus called him anyways. This man who complained to Jesus about having to go and fish is the same disciple who spent the rest of his life giving Jesus to others. Simon Peter was an imperfect disciple which might be exactly why he was chosen because none of us can follow Jesus as perfectly as we would like. There are days when we’re zonked out, preferring to stay in the crowd, and hoping that we don’t have a starring role on Jesus’ dream team. Yet, through your baptism and through your faith, you have exactly that. If Jesus wanted perfect disciples, he never would have called Simon Peter and he never would have called you and me. Yet, Jesus did. Because he knows, through him, you can be the faith-filled success you don’t realize you can be. Success, for Jesus, isn’t measured by numbers. Instead, success is always about love. We are his because he first called us and he knows that we can love others just like he loves us. When we, through faith, finally discover whose we are, we will no longer be limited by our definition of success. Instead, we can leave that all behind and truly follow him.

 

Amen.

 



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Who You Are: Breaking Entitlements [Sermon Manuscript]

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Luke 4:14-30

Pastor Marc's sermon for 4th Sunday after Epiphnay (February 3, 2019) on Luke 4:14-30. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 

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One of the difficult things about reading scripture is knowing when to pause. Our translations try to help by including periods and commas and other kinds of punctuation. But that doesn’t mean we always get it right. In fact our experience of Scripture can sometimes get in its own way. When Luke, with the work of the Holy Spirit, compiled his version of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, he expected people to interact with his words via their ears. The Christian community, at that time, was only two or three generations removed from Jesus’ public ministry. And small assemblies, of maybe a few dozen people, were scattered around the Mediterranean sea. On Sunday mornings, these groups would meet in a private house to pray, to talk about Jesus, and to eat. When they worshipped, someone was usually elected to read a piece of text from either a book or a letter or a scroll - out loud. No one else, in that gathering, would have those words in front of them. Instead, everyone would listen. Now, this pattern for worship is something we continue to this day. But our context has changed. We, in this church, pretty much expect everyone around us to know how to read. We print everything we need for worship in our bulletin, in a font size we hope you can see. And when someone at our church reads Scripture out loud, we can physically see each others’ heads and eyes bounce from one word to the next as we follow along. Our experience of Scripture in this place, and in other areas of our lives, happens via reading. And we have, as a community, become somewhat bound to how we read this written word. When we come to the end of a sentence, we hurry to the start of the next. And if we don’t run into a paragraph break, one where we have to physically shift our eyes down and to the left, we end up zooming through pauses that we’re not supposed to miss. When we read through Scripture, trying to get to the end of the text, we sometimes miss seeing those gaps of drama where we discover the long pause of new life that Jesus gives to all of us.

Now I already gave a hint of where I think the pauses matter in our gospel reading today. And those pauses bookend the second half of Jesus’ sermon. As we heard last week, this text is Luke’s version of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. After gaining a positive reputation while preaching around Galilee, Jesus headed back to his hometown of Nazareth and visited the synagogue he grew up in. While there, he was handed a scroll from the book of Isaiah to read out loud. So Jesus unrolled it, found a few verses from different chapters in Isaiah, merged the texts together, and summed everything up with a one sentence declaration. Everyone in the synagaoe was pretty impressed and they started to say really good things about him. But after a few moments, at the end of the verse 22, there’s this odd little pause and what the people thought they heard started to change. It’s as if the weight of Jesus’ words, after having a moment to linger in the ears of those who heard them, started to work on them in a different sort of way. No longer did they only hear the good things they thought they were entitled to. Instead, they realized that Jesus’ words were also convictng them. Jesus kept that energy going, upending their unspoken desire for him to make good on everything he said since he was the hometown kid. Instead, he pointed to examples in Scripture where God’s love went to places it wasn’t expected. Jesus brought up the prophet Elijah who traveled across the border, into a hostile and non-Jewish land, to bring healing to a non-Jewish woman and her family while the rest of the people of Israel suffered. And then, Jesus named another prophet, Elisha, who met up with Naamen the Syrian, a successful general who regularly won battles against the people of Israel and Judah. Neither the widow nor the general were seen as the ones who should receive the Lord’s favor. And yet that widow was fed in a time of famine and that general was restored to wholeness. Each of them were given a new opportunity to thrive while still participating in a non-Jewish way of life that challenged God. The king Naamen served and the kingdom where the widow lived would be a thorn in the side of the Israelites for generations to come. And yet God’s love went out to them, to a place and to a people where God’s love wasn’t supposed to be found.

So the community got mad because they felt entitled to a promise that Jesus knew was bigger than them. They heard about captives being freed, the oppressed being liberated, and good news being given to the poor but they missed how these promises undercut any sense of entitlement they thought they had. These promises weren’t theirs only because of who they imagined themselves to be. Instead, God’s promises always begin, and end, in what God does. And what God does is love which means the sense of entitlement found in Jesus’ hometown and the sense of entitlement found even in the church cannot limit what’s possible with God. When Jesus said, “today this scripture has been fulfilled,” he meant it. And a promise of good news for the poor does not mean that the financially secure will somehow get off scot free. Jesus isn’t interested in defining his life by what we think we, or others, deserve. He, instead, is our Savior which means the entitlements we articulate and those we silently hold onto don’t stand a chance. When we define our relationships to each other, our neighbors, and our world by what we think we deserve because of what we’ve done or because of whatever opinion we happen to hold, we suddenly find Jesus on the other side of that border we created, serving the widow we refused to see. Everytime we believe we are entitled to Jesus, Jesus pauses, giving us the space to get out of our own way so that we can see what God’s unentitled love actually does.

And that, I think, is what the second pause in our text gives us. At the end of verse 29, the crowd should have thrown Jesus off the clift. But they don’t. Instead, there’s this pause where, I think, the full weight of Jesus’ words became real to them. Because even though good news for the poor isn’t, initially, good news for the rich, Jesus’ words challenge all of us towards a way of life where even those who don’t expect God’s love actually receive it. Jesus isn’t bound to whatever entitlements, words, or experiences we find ourselves wrapped up in. Instead, we, through our baptism and through our faith, are offered a pause from our way of life and, instead, gifted his. Through his words, his presence, and his story, we discover a Savior who isn’t interested in what we think we’re entitled to. But rather, he’s much more interested in giving us a new way of love where the poor are entitled to good news, where the oppressed are entitled to freedom, and where all people, including a widow, a general, a member of his hometown synagogue, and even you and me are gifted a new life that finds its fullness, when we, like God, just love.

Amen.

 



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Reflection: Love Does

To understand 1 Corinthians 13, we need to read 1 Corinthians 12:31: "But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." Paul, in this passage, is getting in touch with his inner Bill and Ted. He is showing the community a way for them to be more "excellent" together. And that "excellence" is centered in love. We have to remember that love in the Bible is never a noun; love is a verb. Love does something and that love always has someone it interacts with. Love is the one thing (compared to faith and hope) that we can't do on our own. For Paul, love needs a beloved or else love isn't present. That is probably why we read this passage often in weddings. But when Paul wrote this text, he wasn't thinking about two people getting married. He was writing to a community in conflict. He was showing them how to love and take care of each other. I wrote last week that Paul understood faith as a team sport. We need each other to fully believe in the God who is already with us. But a team that can't love each other is a team that cannot feed the faith God gives us. A community is a life-giving community when it loves. And when it can't, faith and hope fade away.

When we read 1 Corinthians 13 today, remember that love isn't a noun. Paul isn't writing about what love is; Paul wrote about what love does. Love practices patience. Love isn't rude. Love doesn't assume it is the only expert in the room. Love works with others. Love is open to possibilities. And it's love that helps us serve, listen, and carry each other's burdens together.

Love, then, is the foundation for the life of a community. As followers of Jesus Christ, our faith is what makes us distinctive. Without our faith and without our hope in a God who keeps promises, we are not Christians. But we can't be Christians unless we have a community that loves. The community is called to love us and we are called to love each other in our community. This does not mean that we'll always like each other. But we can promise to hold each other in prayer, to help each other thrive, and to be a Christ to one another. The more we love each other, the more we can love the world. And the more we can love the world, the more we can discover the Jesus Christ who has saved it and us.



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