Sermon Date: January 27th, 2022
By Pastor Elaine Boone
Paul’s ode to love
Our second reading today is a continuation of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. We have heard over the past few weeks that there was trouble in Corinth. There was disunity and disagreement and the community was fractured over the issue of spiritual gifts. And Paul was not going to let this happen to the community!
The conflict in Corinth was real. Paul is telling them that what love is they are not and what they are not is love. I can imagine that they were not pleased to hear this rebuke. Paul was calling them to account for their behaviour.
I chose to preach on this reading this morning because it continues the theme from the 16th of January, concerning spiritual gifts. Paul wrote that all gifts are good, all gifts are equal, all gifts come from God and all gifts are to be used for the common good. Paul’s emphasis on unity builds to this section.
The passage we read this morning may be one of the most familiar in the New Testament. It is a favourite at weddings, all sorts of weddings!
Paul might be shocked at that! In fact Paul would probably be very shocked that his “ode to love” has come to be interpreted and used for romantic love. Paul was not talking about love between a couple.
Paul was talking about a love that is referred to as agape. This type of love is for the whole community. It is the type of love that puts the needs of the other before oneself. Paul is reminding the people of Corinth that although there are many many good gifts that have come thru the Holy Spirit behind each is love. Paul says I am nothing if I do not have love. Paul proclaims that it is through self-sacrifice that the word of God is revealed.
We cannot separate out this passage and have it stand alone. To do so means that we miss out on a deeper meaning . It means that we miss a chance to think about love in a deeper way. The context was conflict.
Paul was dealing with a pastoral crisis. The Corinthian Christians were abusing their freedom, refusing to share, scorning their neighbours spiritual gifts, boasting in their own gifts, seeking recognition for themselves and jockeying for position in the Church.
Paul writes this section of his letter to show the people of Corinth what the nature and practice of Christian love should be - can be - must be.
Paul gives them a clear message. Practice love. Love is not another of the spiritual gifts - it is the way God intends us to practice all our gifts.
The love we call agape. This is not a feeling, it is an action. Paul is not describing something sentimental. It is active, tough, resilient and long suffering. Its not an easy love. It takes work and it takes practice.
Paul spends some time in this section talking about the endurance of love. He reminds us that what we create will not last, that our spiritual gifts will end and that we will die. What will last is love. The one thing in our lives that will last is what we give away - love.
The standard of love that Paul talks about is high. It has to be - its Paul’s ode to God’s love in Christ. It is a standard set by God. We all have room to grow in this type of love. That is why Paul is urging the people of Corinth to practice love. We are challenged to try to practice this type of love.
Are we doing things in love?
How can we do things with more love?
What do we do well as a congregation? And how can we enhance these things with more love?
How do we make love the guiding force in our lives?
The faithful life is one that shows in what we say and what we do the primacy of love, the character of love and the endurance of love.
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