Grace, Mercy and Peace to you in Jesus Name, Amen.
Our Sermon text for this 4th Sunday in Epiphany comes from the Epistle lesson just read.
What’s love? To many, it’s a sensation that is magically generated when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. To others its affiliated with chocolate, a favorite sports team, a certain style of music or clothing. Still others determine Loves presence or absence depending on sensations, warm feelings or thoughts, and others use love as a reason to excuse great sin and vice; but my friends the definition St. Paul gives us today refutes all these points.
St. Paul speaks about love as something that’s there whether Mr. or Mrs right is or is not, Paul mentions something that is given to all, especially those who have not earned or deserved it. He doesn’t mention chocolate, an NFL, NHL or MLB team and he doesn’t mention skinny jeans or that we are to turn a blind eye to sins that will lead to an eternity of weeping and gnashing of teeth. To God love is not a feeling at all. And so through Paul God affixes verbs (actions), both positive and negative to the noun love to tell us what it is and what it is not. God, through Paul, explains love as something that has an object, something that was for that wicked, deceitful and sinful congregation of Corinthian Christians, Paul explains the Love that is for us and indeed for all.
Unfortunately, as most of you know this text is often used as a typical wedding verse often used as a list of do’s and don’ts for husbands and wives to follow. But these verses really have no business in the matrimonial ceremony, for these words in their truest sense apply to all so that we may know what true Love actually is. Our Epistle today is not prescriptive at all, there is no law in this definition of Love instead Paul writes about a perfect love a love that exemplifies all of the qualities Paul writes about 100% of the time to 100% of the people that it touches. What Paul writes about today finds its culmination in St. John’s first epistle chapter 4 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And so it is with this definition that we must again go through our Epistle today from 1 Corinthians to understand, not what Paul is writing about but rather, WHO, Paul is writing about. And so we go back. My friends, take your bulletins and cross out every instance of the word Love and replace it with a simple substitute, The only Substitute, Christ. For when you do so, this text ceases to be a law filled check list and instead can be seen as the very Gospel promises of Christ for us. When you do so you begin to see not tasks that you are to complete but rather the things that have already been completed for you and as a result we can apprehend that “We love because He (Christ) first loved us.” Go ahead, Try it out. Look at Verse 4 and 5; Christ is patient and kind; Christ does not envy or boast; Christ is not arrogant or rude. Christ does not insist on His own way; Christ is not irritable or resentful; Christ does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Christ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Christ never ends.
Dear brother’s and sister’s we live in an unprecedented time, a time when words like Awesome, Epic and Love are thrown around with reckless abandon. We live in a world filled with treachery and treason, lies and deceit not just on the temporal plain but in the spiritual and eternal realms. Timeless, God ordained institutions are crumbling around us, marriage, man to a woman is a farce in our day and age, unborn children are robbed of life for the sake of freedom of an individual, men have exchanged natural relations for unnatural relations and women engage in the same and in the face of this we, Children of the King, heirs of the Almighty, are told to accept these things for the sake of Love. My friends if you are lead to believe that tolerance of wrong doing, support of treachery and treason in the eyes of God is permissible then you have failed to grasp what Paul says to us today, “Love does not rejoice in wrong doing.” My friends we live in a world where we are lied to and to the extent that you continue to support such treason you are as subject to the punishments for such high crimes against Your King. For He who has been patient, kind, modest, polite, who has given up all with no resentment toward you and your hard-heartedness, who cannot rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth, He who has borne all things (even your sins to the cross) and believed all things and endured all things for you not so that you could continue in the audacity of your pride, fear and unbelief but rather so that you might be made to be heirs, children of God, royalty, free to worship Him without fear, set free from the bondage of your sin, the wicked ways of this world and the lies that are peddled as truth in this present age. You have been set free from these things.
My friends, True Love, the Love written about by your Lord, for you, is not to look the other way as those whom Christ has lived and died for sell their eternal inheritance for a life of pleasure, power and manipulation. Do not be deceived dear friends, for there is nothing more that the Evil One desires than for you and I, indeed for all who have been bought and paid for by the precious blood of Christ, to sell our eternal inheritances for a temporal heaven now.
Dear Children of the King, Your Lord sacrificed everything, reputation, livelihood, and yes, His own life that you might be set free from sin, if you continue to embrace the sins of this world you make Him who Has loved you to be a liar, you mock the Lord who hung on a cross for you and for your brothers and sisters who perish without ever knowing forgiveness for their sins, you mock the blood of martyrs who died at the stake burned and tortured for their faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Dear friends, we do not judge because we are the arbiters or right and wrong, but the truth has been revealed to you, this truth shall set you free but we continue to sell the truth, indeed our souls, to the lies of the evil one who would have us believe that love consists of silent tolerance rather than in the bestowing of eternal life that comes in the forgiveness of sins.
My friends your King reminds you today “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” Behold dear heirs of the King, your King has come and is coming, the perfect has come and is coming. Think not as little children, speak not as little children who have no understanding of what your King has given you by His bloody death and triumphant resurrection, reason not that your King turns away from sin, for your King has faced all sin and has put it to death with Him on the Cross and it is exactly this that your King reminds you of in our Gospel: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Behold your Kings decree has come and it is His words you hear today through the mouth of the man you asked Him to send two and half years ago, a sinner, forgiven by the same bloody death by which you were saved. Your King speaks to you today with the same authority that He spoke when He cast demons and sickness out, His power is from the Father, His authority is ordained from the Father of all that has been, is and shall be. He is the power… for your King, Jesus the Christ is the Word made flesh. Cease your sin, Repent and receive the forgiveness of sins.
It is so very difficult to see this now, I know. It is so very difficult to stand against those things which our world says we should accept, tolerate and embrace. And by your senses, by your intellect, by the standards of this world the things of God; confession, repentance and forgiveness, are folly, foolish, crutches and fall-backs for those who lack self-sufficiency, independence and higher understandings in this world. But dear friends hear what Paul starts his letter to the Corinthians with; “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”( 1 Corinthians 1:26b-29)
You are foolish, in the eyes of this world, to believe what you do, you and I are foolish to believe that God has ordained Marriage and Children and Families and Church not just for your benefit but for the benefit of His creation. But by faith, faith that comes by the Word, preached and taught, simply, Words, the Word that goes from my mouth to your ears and to your heart that faith is worked in order that you might be able to see dimly now what you have been promised to see in the end face to face. And in the face of this hostile world, like Jeremiah, you say “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak.” Of course you do not, but the Lord who before He formed you in the womb knew you, has delivered you, He shall put His words in your mouth, to destroy and overthrow the evils of this world by the truth of the forgiveness of sins that has been won for you and for all. Your King, in whom you take refuge, shall never let you be put to shame, He shall incline His ear to you! Dear brother’s and sister’s, He has saved you! And He on Whom you lean, the rock of refuge, the one who took you from your mother’s womb, your Almighty King shall be your One Faith, your One Hope, your one Love.