“But have not love...”
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (KJV)
t. Paul is reminding us that even if we are intelligent persons who can speak many of the world’s languages, and if we also donate to charity and pay our tithe, but do not love other people then we are not a shining representative of Christ. That means that any words we attempt to say for Christ go over like a lead balloon. Even if we make a big show of giving away lots of money, it profits us nothing in spiritual terms. The idea is to give in secret and express genuine love and concern for others with humility. If we love others, others will know it.
Neither do self appointed spiritual giants come off well in today’s familiar text. Just as none of us appreciate television commercials that promise us wonderful results from the use of their product, such as prescription medicine ads: “The latest guaranteed miracle to take twenty pounds and twenty years off of our appearance. We cannot trust the ads exuberant inauthentic façade. This is how false religious bragging sounds to the real world.
C. S. Lewis recommended that the way we can learn to love is to act like we already do love and in time we will find that we have come to love more. Christian love is more of a matter of the will than of feelings. God wants to help us will to love both Him and others.
The spiritual life thrives on love. Life without love is never full: Even if we keep off that twenty-pounds and twenty years. Young people who do not make friends usually end up like Ebenezer Scrooge in old age. Young couples sometime get so enthralled in their love for each other, and their children, that they seemingly hide behind the picket fence. One of the good things that church does is that it gets us in classes and doing stuff for others outside of the home.
Epiphany is a time to emphasize the coming of light to all people. The Wise Men followed a light, which has brought us universal brotherhood. This means that a “Christian Nation” should be an example of respect and concern for all nations in a bond of mutual kindness. We have an opportunity to model Christ in becoming friends to all.
Epiphany can also describe our having a new idea coming to light in our minds. Jesus also used the term New Birth to describe how a Hebrew Scholar like Nicodemus who came to Jesus in the dark to discover a “New Birth,” a new Epiphany, a new plan to make friends and show a Christian example.
To the woman of Samaria, whom Jesus met at the town well, he prescribed “Living Water,” water that would be a symbol of her being made clean from her sin, with the result being that no longer was she a loner. She joined with the others who had been made new by Jesus.
This means that we who have had a meaningful change in their lives through a church will love their church, and its people. We are one in having had some kind of epiphany in our hearts by our oneness here. Or, perhaps this is it!
Typically, preachers make some mention of the four Greek words used in the writing of the New Testament. Actually, “Eros,” love between a husband and wife is not used at all. “Storge,” refers to natural family love that happens when there is mutual love for Christ. “Philia,” as in the City of Philidelphia, means friendship, or brotherly love extended to the larger group. We are capable of these three distinctions of love. However the fourth love is strictly religious, “Agape,” love is God’s love and humans are incapable of producing it alone. God shares Agape love with us as a part of being numbered among the children of God.
Of course, we must accept Agape. Some folks turn it down because they have become accustomed to their own ways. This means that folks will tolerate you but you will never be able to uncover your invisible protective shield.
Is anyone hearing this as an Epiphany and you suddenly desire to become a team player? We will welcome you into the club. The password is “Yes, Jesus Loves Me, and I am doing the best I can!”
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor