First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Kent H. Little
February 16, 2020
Wisdom Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:27 – 13:1-13, Buddhism. Nagarjuna, Precious Garland 12:13
Message: “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
1 Corinthians 12:27 – 13:1-13
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
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 things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 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.
Buddhism. Nagarjuna, Precious Garland 12:13
Compassion is a mind that savors only mercy and love for all sentient beings.
MESSAGE: “What’s Love Got to Do with it?”
As some of you are aware, after the Special Called General Conference in February 2019 to try and find a way forward regarding full inclusion of LGBTQIA persons in the life of the church, there has been a great deal of resistance. A large group of persons opposed to the Traditional Plan passed at that conference recommended a “Season of Resistance” leading up to the next General Conference this coming May. Each month from January through May there is a theme of resistance.
February’s theme is love. And as many of you know the current state of our denomination believes only certain expressions of love should be blessed in the church and by our clergy. However, here at First United Methodist we believe any and all just and loving relationships should be blessed and honored. So, today in the midst of our time together, immediately following the sermon, we will be blessing all relationships. You will be invited to come and receive a prayer of blessing for the relationships that have made up your life, and by all I mean all. Husbands and husbands, wives and wives, husbands and wives, families; moms, dads, sons, and daughters, best friends, even if you want to come by yourself and be blessed because of all the relationships you have had and had. All are welcome.
I confess in my life I have wandered a meandering path dealing with Valentine’s Day… a path caught in a tension of enjoying the intent of what we do when we share our love for one another and the disdain of the commercialism and consumerism to which it has long been captive.
There is a tension between my memory of exchanging Valentine’s with my elementary school classmates and the expectation of culture and society of spending money on cards and chocolate one day out of the year. Of course, expressions of love should be shared with those we care about year-round, not just on February 14th. There is a picture of St. Valentine making its rounds on Facebook over the past many years. It is an icon of the saint with the words,
“I was beaten with clubs, beheaded, buried under the cover of darkness, disinterred by my followers, and you commemorate my martyrdom by sending each other chocolates?”
All this being said, I enjoy Valentine’s Day. I enjoy going to the store and picking out a card for TruDee, though I told her the other day it is getting increasingly difficult to find a good Valentine card when the two choices seem to be ever narrowing… either syrupy sweet and gushy or just dumb… I said to her why don’t they make a Valentine card that simply says… “I Love You.” I am sure they are out there… just not at the store where I was shopping… okay, rant over… I enjoy getting a card, a small gift and perhaps her favorite candy… for me, it’s not too much to ask to take a moment on February 14th to remember to say I Love You.
Though for me it is something I think we should say numerous times a day, every day. However, while it is important to share this love with one another, it is important that partners, lovers, spouses, significant others, husbands and husbands, wives and wives, husbands and wives, those who live and love together unmarried… and all the forms of romantic love between consenting adults… it is not just this love we speak of on this particular Sunday closest to Valentine’s Day, for us here at FUMC on this day it is about how we care for all those we love… all of them.
In the texts of our tradition from Greek there are three different understandings, three different words for love…
Philios – a love defined by our love for our friends, our family, a bond between those we care about, yet not in a romantic sense.
Eros – a loved defined by romantic love, between partners, spouses, and those for which we have a sexual attraction.
Agape – unconditional love. Perhaps the ideal of all three, there would be something to say about having unconditional love for our friends and family, our lovers and partners, and… love for God and God’s love for us… Agape… unconditional.
All this love talk is about building and sustaining relationships. Relationships is what Paul is writing of when he pens his now famous words to the church in Corinth. Though it may have felt like we read the whole letter we didn’t, we only read chapter 13. Chapter 12 of his letter sets up his famous love chapter by building the Body of Christ, the church, and laying out the various gifts and talents needed to carry out the ministry of Jesus in the world… He is writing about building relationships… And after he defines these gifts that come together in relationship… he moves toward the 13th chapter and I have long appreciated the language he uses to get us there…
“And I will show you a still more excellent way.” A beautiful segue I believe… all these relationships… all these gifts… and here is what hold them together… here is the glue, the Spirit, the one thing that matters above all else… the one thing, if we do not have… all the gifts are for naught. …If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 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 things. Love never ends. …faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
It is relationships grounded and founded in love we celebrate on this day. It is relationships that make us who we are. We are the culmination of all the relationships we have had to this point in our lives. They are so formative because creating relationships held together by love is about being vulnerable. And a vulnerable relationship… vulnerable love… true love be it Philio, Eros, or Agape… can fill our cup to overflowing and it can break our hearts to the point where we do not know if we can go on.
However, it is these relationships… friends, family, lovers, partners, self, and God… that give us the strength to carry on reminding us who and whose we are. It is these relationships we honor today… some are representative here with us today… some we can only hold in our hearts… but present nonetheless.
What’s Love God to Do with It?
Let it inspire you when life is too difficult…
Let it inspire you when you are ready to give up…
Let it inspire you when all seems lost…
Let it inspire you when you think it is over…
Let it inspire you when you have lost hope…
Food for Journey…
Strength for the Journey….
It is relationship… Images, reminders of how much you are loved… how much you have loved … that transforms… into participants in the kindom… Making Justice Happen, Loving as God Loves, and being the very reflection of God in the world.
I carry with me a great number of relationships that inspire, feed, nurture, and nourish, motivate, and give me strength for the journey. and when things get difficult… I remember those on my own journey… who renew my faith and walk…Colleagues, Friends, Family, my Partner…. I think we all have those relationships, perhaps you are thinking of those persons now?
Relationships…. Relationship… is the very image of God we are told in which we are created. Our story tells us God said… “It is not good that humankind is alone…” and, we are not.
On this Sunday nearest Valentine’s Day… our church, our community, we have come together to celebrate love… celebrate relationships…But it isn’t just the sentimental, hearts and chocolates kind of thing… because here… as it should be everywhere… Love and relationship is expressed in so many different ways…In the church… it is how love should be celebrated… the love that speaks through all kinds of just, right, compassionate, and loving relationships.
These relationships… Transform us and hold us together and remind us we are not alone on this journey. And so, this morning, Mark is going to play a little traveling music, and for those of you who wish… I invite you to come… singles and couples alike, Friends, Partners, Spouses, Family, Self, God, Spirit, … connection…… to come up and share in a short prayer of blessing, and celebration of those relationships we have that inspire us and pick us up when we have fallen… those relationships that help make us better and the world better around us. Love is the way. Come as you will and are able…