I Corinthians 13:1-7
Heartland Presbyterian Church
D. Mark Davis
I don’t know about you, but every time I hear a reading from I Corinthians 13, I feel like there ought to be two people standing up front getting ready to make vows to one another. (Anyone out there feel like getting married this morning? No? Okay, let’s move on.) So many people have read these words from the Apostle Paul to the church in
Yes, it makes a lot of sense for two people who are stepping into a commitment with one another to ask someone to read this portion of Paul’s letter to the church in
However, Paul did not write this letter to a couple who were about to wed one another, to describe the kind of deep commitment that it takes for marriage to work. He wrote it to a church. Paul wrote these letters to a real church, made up of folks like you and me, to describe the kind of deep commitment that it takes for a church to be the body of Christ in the world. This is ultimately not a letter about happy marriages, but a letter about a church that is an exhibition of the Reign of God to the world. To be that kind of church, to live as a witness to the gospel in our words and in our actions, there is something that is required that lies deeper than both our words and our actions. To be the body of Christ in the world, there is something that is more original than what we say or what we do. And that is who we are. To be the body of Christ in the world is to be a people captivated by God’s love in a way that it becomes our own way of being in the world.
We notice that this portion of Paul’s letter is not filled with imperatives. There are no “you must” or even “thou shalt not” phrases in here. It is entirely declarative: “This is what love is and this is the most excellent way.” And that is because love is not ultimately the things that we declare to one another – although love finds a way to express itself in words rightly given. And love is not ultimately the things that we do to one another – although will express itself in our actions. Love is ultimately a gift. And to love is primarily to be captivated by a love that is patient, kind, and rejoices in truth.
Many of you have read the ten-year ministry vision that we have here at Heartland. Each part of that ten-year ministry vision is an attempt to name what a community, that is captivated by the love of God in Christ, looks like in a world that is often unloving. Joyful worship, as well as broken and tearful worship, are hallmarks of a people captivated by the love of God made known in Christ, living in a world where we are often “envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude.” Service and mission are hallmarks of a people captivated by the love of God in Christ, yet living in a world marked by “insisting on our own way.” Education into the steadfast love of God and into the life, teachings, and meaning of Jesus Christ is a hallmark of a people captivated by the love of God in Christ, yet living in a world that often “rejoices in wrongdoing.” And building community is a hallmark of a people captivated by the love of God in Christ, when we overcome our tendencies to be “irritable or resentful.”
The vision that is driving our building plans and our capital campaign is a vision that is rooted in nothing less than seeing the love of God being made flesh in this community. If our openness or inclusion makes us a laughingstock, so be it. We would rather be ridiculed as dreaming idealists than to let go of the love of God. If our drive for worship with integrity and relevance makes us too stuffy for some or too touchy-feely for others, then so be it. We would rather be dismissed than to let go of authentic worship. What our building plans are all about is not an edifice of pride and joy. It is the creation of a gathering place where worship, community, and disciple-making takes place; and a sending place where service and mission result. What our capital campaign is all about, is not raising money for a new construction of block and wood. It is about investing in a vision for seeing the love of God made flesh right here in this community.
Perhaps it is best to focus on one specific comment that the Apostle Paul so wisely included in this treatise on love. “If I give away all my possessions … but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I am asking you this morning to make a deliberate, generous, and sacrificial investment in love. I am inviting you to jump in with both feet into this vision of seeing the love of God in Christ continue being made flesh through this community – the body of Christ in the world. Amen.