3 February 2013
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All spoke well of Jesus.
That is, until they didn’t . . . and which didn’t take them very long.
Oh, they loved the idea of this God-in-Jesus being good to them, of this God-in-Jesus being on their side. They weren’t, however, so hot on the idea that God-in-Jesus just might be good to the outsider, just might be good to the outsiders they just couldn’t stand. But of course we’re not like that and certainly not like the folks of Nazareth. We’re progressive. We love the outsiders. It’s certain of the insiders we just can’t stand.
“Listen, I come to church so that I can be forgiven. What I can’t stand is the notion of so-and-so across the aisle being forgiven – that so-and-so who insulted me, that so-and-so who did such-and-such, that so-and-so who promised this and then did that. Look at her, look at him over there, looking oh so good and pious. If only people knew the sort of things she says, doesn’t say, does, and doesn’t do. If others were only aware of all the crap he’s pulled . . . and I have a high mind to let everyone know too what she’s been up to. I can hardly stand to be in the same room as she is, as he is.”
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing.”
Yup, they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
“Just look at the way those other people in church behave . . . they’re all so arrogant . . . and rude . . . and always wanting to have it their own way. Hypocrites. They don’t really know how to be Christians. They don’t understand what Church is for.”
So then, what is a Christian; and what is Church for?
“When the people 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.”
Well, why didn’t Jesus do something? Why didn’t he unleash a plague on these unbelievers like Moses did with Pharaoh and the Egyptians? Why didn’t Jesus turn the tables and send those hypocrite church people off the edge of the cliff? Why didn’t he at least tell them that if they didn’t shape up, they would never be loved by God. Oh – I know: I bet he was waiting for a more opportune time to show them who’s boss.
“Love is patient; love is kind . . . It does not insist on its own way . . . it bears all thing, believes all thing, hopes, all things, endures all things.”
“Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate . . . and Pilate said to them . . . ‘I have not found this man guilty . . .’ But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him . . .’ So Pilate handed Jesus over as they wished . . . When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus . . . Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing . . .’ And the people stood by watching and the leaders scoffed at him saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, God’s chosen one!’ . . . The soldiers also mocked him . . . saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
OK, Jesus, we maybe understand why you didn’t throw the people of Nazareth off the cliff they intended to throw you off of. But why on this hill in this city, why didn’t you strike back? Why didn’t you show the strength of your arm and scatter the proud in their conceit? If it had been us, we would have mowed down all those people who killed you.
“Love is patient; love is kind . . . it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
It is not we who come here this day to greet God with our love or our politics or our good works – for we never know what we are doing. Instead, God comes down to earth and meets us at our worst -- in the brutal murder-messiness of the cross, in the brutal murder-messiness of the church. There, here, we are all most offensively forgiven and loved. There, here, the very people who annoy us the most are forgiven and loved too – and that love and forgiveness never end.
So why don’t we get it? Why can’t we shape up? Why can’t we be a bit more loving and kind and decent? “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.”
These three: gifts from the God who is all three . . . but now we know only in part . . . but when we see God face to face, then we will know fully, even as we have been fully known. Until then, we are beggars all, with no faith, hope, or love of our own to offer, needing to come and to receive daily those gifts from God. And when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. And until then, they’ll know we are Christians by our empty . . . begging . . . hands.