Sermon January 31, 2016
I Corinthians 3, Jeremiah 1:4-10
“Love is a Verb”
There is nothing like feeling like we are in over our head to bring out some excuses. Human beings excel in excuses. There is a policeman in Pendleton, Oregon who will let you off the hook if you can tell him an excuse he’s never heard. I’m interested in the creativity that accompanies some excuses:
- There was a spider in my bathroom so I couldn’t get dressed.
- I think the apocalypse might be today.
- I misused some super glue.
- I’m having a bad hair day.
- My cat is stuck in the dashboard of my car.
I’m not sure if I am more disturbed by these excuses or by the 58 million hits I got when I googled “best excuses”. I’m guessing we could open it up this morning and create quite a list of excuses.
Jeremiah had a really good excuse when God called him. “I’m too young. I’m not qualified for this job and I don’t know what I’m doing.” He’s not the first one to have a good excuse for God’s impossible call. But God never seems satisfied with our excuses. God always has a comeback. God says to Jeremiah, “Don’t worry. I’ll put the words in your mouth. Besides, I’ll be with you.” God always says, “I will be with you.” It’s the only guarantee we get. While it may not seem like much, it is more than enough.
I remember preparing to go before the Board of Ordained Ministry 20 years ago. I had worked hard to prepare for ordination. I had fulfilled all the criteria. My call was strong. I am not sure what it is, but everyone is terrified to go before the Board of Ordained Ministry. We are all afraid that they will find some fatal flaw and that will be the end or they will ask some question that shows we really are inadequate. I was telling my spiritual director about my fear and she said to me, “Do you really believe that God would bring you this far to abandon you now?” That stopped me in my tracks and reminded me that it was God who had called me and God who would be with me in this.
As I reflected on her promise that God was with me, I remembered Bobby McFerin’s 23rd Psalm and I listened to it over and over, bathing in the words. I want you to experience the power of this promise too. Close your eyes and drink it in…
Sometimes what we need more than anything is to be reminded that we are not alone.
This same God who calls us and promises to be with us asks us to do only one thing. Remember when Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was. His answer was love. Period. Love God and love each other. We can sum up the reading from Corinthians today in one word: Love.
The season of Valentines is coming and the commercial world tells us that love is flowers and chocolate and champagne. For a few weeks, we see love portrayed as romance. The Corinthians text is often read at weddings so when we hear these words, we think of them as a command for a couple. And it is a powerful reminder that love is patient and kind. It is not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Father Michael Renninger tells a story about his grandparents. His grandmother played bingo every day and gained the name the “Bingo Queen” and his grandfather watched sports religiously. He would yell at his beloved Phillies as they lost yet another game. His grandfather had a stroke and was paralyzed on his left side. He was unable to swallow, he could not speak, and could not care for himself. The hospital staff told his grandmother that she should put him in a nursing home. She refused. They replaced the recliner that his grandfather used to watch the Phillies with a hospital bed and his grandmother learned to care for her husband at home.
One day, Michael stopped by to see his grandparents. He was in college. He walked in and knew something was wrong. As his eyes adjusted to the light in the room, he saw his grandfather gesturing with his right hand clearly flustered. His grandmother was very upset and Michael saw that there was some issue with the feeding tube and there was green liquid everywhere. Michael was a nineteen-year-old boy and he didn’t know what to do. He decided to back out the door before they spotted him, but he forgot that the screen door squeaked. His grandmother looked up and saw him and said, “Don’t you dare leave because sometimes love looks like this.
While it is most often heard at weddings, it was actually written for the Corinthian Church. They had become focused on power and had lost their way. In this passage, Paul is reminding them that love is what matters and he talks in great detail about love. Love is essential. Maybe another way to say it is “Love each other. No excuses!”
Paul wanted the community to know that they have only one task: to love. Our mission as a congregation is to “live God’s love, justice, and inclusion”. Living love means “doing love” not just having sweet thoughts or feelings. Love is a verb that comes to life in action. It is not easy to define love or pin it down, but we know it when we see it. We know when we are acting in love. One of the most powerful ways God shows love to us is being present no matter what. What is the most beautiful example of love that you have ever seen?
- · Is it the care you have witnessed someone showing another who is vulnerable?
- · Is it giving the last dollar you have to someone who needs it more than you?
- · Is it someone accepting you when you thought you had done something that was beyond love?
Ram Dass “We’re all just walking each other home.” I keep thinking of that and the text from Corinthians. If we are walking each other home, don’t we want to walk in love? Don’t we want our actions to be steeped in love? I think that means choosing to act in ways that are loving even if we aren’t feeling love. I think it means hanging in there with one another when it might be easier to give up and walk away.
Today, we welcome new members into our community. We welcome them in love and we know that we will disappoint each other, but we keep showing up and being love and eventually, we will find our way home together.