Body of Christ: United in Love
Pastor Leta Arndt Behrens
Sermon Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, John 4:21-30
I gave the rainbow pin to my children when they were about in 6th and 3rd grade. I wanted them to know that even a small action of wearing a pin could make a difference not only to someone else, but to us too as we are reminded of our call to love. It was the year that Pastor Michael and I wrote our coming out letter stating that we are in support of the welcome and the rights of all persons and in particular those who are LGBTQ. It was the year the some of the council wore the rainbow pins every week and we handed them out like candy to anyone who wanted one. It was a way in which we were being active in education, in opening up the conversation with one another, and in taking action, even in a small way, taking action that was tied to the love that we are given through God and called to live into by God in big broad ways and in ways that are in particular at times.
That in particular was and still is important just like the other in particulars that need to be stated in our world today. Yes, God’s grace is for all AND God’s grace is for those who in particular need to be enfolded in that message and whom we in particular need to remember that our love needs to be a love of action not only words. My children put the pins on their backpacks and wore them at times. They were asked the very particular question–what does that pin mean? Their answer, one that we talked about at home, was to say this pin means that God loves all people and our church especially wants people who are treated unfairly to know that is not true about God. Also sometimes we would just say cause God loves everybody, because really that’s easier to say.
Which is how this letter, this part specifically in chapter 13 that Paul has written to the Corinthians can seem, quite easy to say. It’s pretty. It has a lulling quality to it that makes us think of the sweet lullabies we heard as a child or the ones we sing at night to our own small ones. It is one of the most often quoted scripture passages and it is certainly one of the easiest to put out there as a Christian. This may be why it is a very popular wedding scripture– who had this at their wedding (raise hands, say I certainly did). I have even read this text at weddings I have lead for those who were in a multi faith blending of families. It is that good–something we can all get on board with no matter how complicated or diverse our relationships may be. We can feel this love, hope for this love, and desire for this love to be a part of who we are in so many aspects of life.
And yet… let’s remember what has lead up to this chapter… Paul is writing to a group of people who are arguing. They are fighting over who has the best gifts and how to use those gifts and who should get to be leader and who gets to put their stuff where and who gets the best seat and who in particular is worthy to be upheld as prominent in this system of early Christianity. These words were not written to a couple nor were they were written in particular about marriage or familial relationships. Paul was writing to them as a community, as a group of people who didn’t always like each other and who probably didn’t always see the need to be open or broaden their outlook. Paul even knowing this community and their troubles was still full of hope for them and in God. Paul ends chapter 12, where he has described to us the body of Christ, that all the gifts are needed in this body, with these words that lead us into chapter 13: But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Paul was full of hope precisely because he knew of love. This more excellent way is a way that takes all those gifts in particular and declares that none have any meaning without the basis of love. Love is not a gift that is only for some, in fact love is not so much a gift for one to possess but a truth of being and living in particular as a part of the story of God. This love is not romantic, it’s not lulling, it’s not a nice way to describe us, it is not one of the virtues in a list, Love is the condition for all the rest to exist. Love is not our lullaby, it is our call to action, our marching orders as a community. Love is the very particular thing God comes to give, to show, and to send through us to the world.
There actually is no easy way out. Jesus in the gospel today speaks a word of truth, a truth that says he has come to fulfill the word and promises of God for all–but in particular for those who have been outcast, those who have not been included, those who are on the margins. This declaration of God’s truth makes the people want to throw him off the cliff. This declaration of who God is and how we are called in particular to the hurting, the outcast, the marginalized is not easy to hear or do or see but it is the love that Paul speaks of–love in action.
It can be easy to say the words God loves all and it can be very difficult to live them out. It can make people want to leave a community or argue or throw us off a cliff. And yet striving for this call of love in our lives is the struggle that the Holy Spirit was sent to walk with us in. It is the more excellent way that Paul talks about, a way that leads us to know one another and to know one another in particular in love. It is important that we name the particulars of love in our world; that we love lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, black, latino, homeless, unemployed, sick, mentally ill, abused, addicted, workaholics, unemployed, runaways and brokenhearted. It is important that we name all the outcast as loved because then we as a community see the in particulars of who we all are and whose we all are and in that identity we can love in action. ACtion of writing letters to our congress, action of feeding those who are hungry, the action of sheltering the homeless, the action of printing a welcome statement in our bulletin every week, the action of handing someone a warm cup of coffee, the action of listening to where the spirit tugs at our hearts and moves us closer to God.
I gave my children the pin and the children here today as well because i also have hope. Hope that they and we will continue to grow in this love that we are called to and that we will see rainbows and colors and diversity as a gift where we can use our voices to speak up and our lives to show this love.
Paul’s words bring us around to the core of the love of God. He writes: 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.
Paul knew this hope and wrote in faith that with this promise and this love from God, all things are possible. We have been given this word of hope and knowledge of faith as well. Faith and hope and love all abide in you and the greatest of these is a love that does not leave.
This is grace. God knows you fully. Every part. Not just the dim reflection that others see or that you see yourself, but the full being of who you are and God’s response to knowing you this well in particular is ….love. The source of the love is God’s own heart. God’s own spirit. God’s own gift. And so when we fail to love. When we don’t see or we turn away or we just can’t seem to know in particular how to use our gifts or live into love in action. The source of the promises remains. God’s love will not fail. God’s love will endure all things, believe all things, hope all things. God’s love will be there for the community and for each one in particular. God’s love will not end.