Epiphany 4 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 30, 2022
Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13, Luke 4:31-44


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            Love is in the air this time of year.  As you peruse the aisles of your local supermarket or discount store you will be bombarded with a sea of red, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate along with an endless variety of Valentine’s Day cards and gifts. So much emphasis on love.

            The Bible speaks a lot about love.  The five word summary of the 10 Commandments is love God, love your neighbor.  It all comes down to love.  John 3:16 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  1 John 4:10 (ESV) 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

            Love.  This is a word that we use so much and can mean so many different things that I fear it can become almost meaningless.  What is love? In our Epistle reading today St. Paul clarifies what love is.  1 Corinthians 13 is a popular text at weddings and that makes sense; weddings are about love.  But the text is not about marriage -- it is about living together as the Church; the Body of Christ.

            I love pepperoni pizza.  What does this mean?  I really enjoy the taste of pepperoni pizza and I really enjoy eating it.  Me loving pizza is all about what pizza does for me; how pizza makes me feel.  Love is the feeling that I get when I eat pizza.  This is confusing because real love is not about how someone makes you feel; real love is what you do for someone. 

            Far too often we think of love as a noun, a feeling. I am “in love.”  I have the feeling of love.  This other person makes me feel this way.  But true love is not a noun.  True love is a verb.  It is a choice.  It is an action.  Saying, “I love you”, is a commitment to action.  Love is what you do.  You love your spouse in your actions.  You love your children in what you do.  You love your neighbor by serving them.  That doesn’t mean you don’t tell your spouse and children and others that you love them, of course you tell them.  But saying “I love you,” is not just words; it is a commitment to action. 

            As a baptized child of God you live in the pure love of God flowing to you through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus shows His love by serving you in the ultimate sacrifice of His Body on the cross for you. Jesus shows His love for you by giving everything for you.  Jesus loves you so much that He takes your sin and gives you His holiness.  Jesus declares you to be a saint.  The Church is the gathering of the saints in Christ. 

            You are a saint of God, but you are, at the same time, still infected with original sin, and because of sin you can start to believe that you are better than others.  There is a great temptation to believe that some folks in church are more important than others.  You can start to believe that you are more vital than that other person who does not seem to know as much, or care as much, or do as much as you do.  Paul is writing to the church in Corinth.  The church in Corinth is full of people with spiritual gifts. Over the last couple of weeks we have read in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 about their spiritual gifts and about the church being a body that is made up of many and various parts.  In our lesson today from 1 Corinthians 13 Paul puts these spiritual gifts in context. 

            Spiritual gifts are good, but they are temporary and incomplete.  They are good, but they are not excellent.  1 Corinthians 12:31–13:3 (ESV)  31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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 have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Spiritual gifts without love are nothing. 

            What is love?  Paul tells us what love is and tells us what love is not.

            1 Corinthians 13:4–6 (ESV)  4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

            Love is patient.  Patience…why did it have to be patience?  Love remains calm even when the stresses of life are piling up.  Love drives the car gently and safely even when running late.  Love pauses and counts to three so as to not yell at the kids.  Love thinks before speaking or texting or posting.  Love does not take the strain of life out on others. 

            Love is kind.  Love helps others even without being asked.  Love takes out the garbage.  Love empties the dishwasher and folds the laundry.  Love cooks dinner.  Love does the dishes.  Love puts the shopping cart back in the cart corral. 

            Love is patient.  Love is kind.  That is what love is; what is love not.  Love does not envy or boast.  Love rejoices with another’s success and does not need “one up” someone else.  Love is humble.  Love does not brag. 

Love is not arrogant or rude.  It is very easy to develop an attitude of superiority that looks down on others.  You can start to think that you are better than that person over there.  You can fall into the bad habit of saying things like, “I might be a sinner, but at least I am not as bad as that guy or those people.”  Love does not climb up on a pedestal to look down on others.  Love knows we are all sinners who need Jesus. 

Love does not insist on its own way.  Love does not think that it is “My way or the highway.”  Love listens to other’s ideas and suggestions and allows others to take charge of things even if their way is different. 

Love is not irritable or resentful.  Love does not get offended easily.  In our world where “That offends me!” is the constant cry of so many; love chooses its battles wisely and does not resent every possible offense that occurs.  

            This is the love that you will have perfectly for others on the last day in the Heavenly Kingdom of New Jerusalem.  You will perfectly love and you will be perfectly loved.  

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.  Our world too often celebrates sin.  There is an avalanche of music and movies and Tik Tok videos in which people brag about their sin and glory in their immorality.  People throw conferences and festivals and parades to celebrate wrongdoing.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.  Love rejoices with the truth.  Love uses God’s Biblical truth to be the guide for life instead of using feelings to show the way.  Love teaches God’s truth to others around them. 

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV) 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This translation here can be misleading. It sounds like love blindly believes anything.  A better translation is that love is without limits.  Love supports without limits, trusts without limits, hopes without limits, never gives up.  This is the love that you are called to.  It is a perfect love.  It is God’s love.

            This is the love that you will have perfectly for others on the last day in the Heavenly Kingdom of New Jerusalem.  You will perfectly love and you will be perfectly loved.  This is the love that you will struggle to achieve in this life.  This is the love you will never achieve in this life.  This is the love that has already been completed in Jesus’ love for you.

            1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)  12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  It is hard to be a Christian in the world.  You cannot fully see the pure love Jesus has for you.  You cannot purely love others like Jesus loves you. Love anyway.  In your love for each other you see the shadow of the pure love that is coming on the last day.  In your love for each other you get a glimpse of the Lord’s love for you. 

            So, for now, waiting for Jesus to return, live each day in Jesus’ love for you and let that love flow out from you to those around you.  Love never ends. 

            Let’s do an aspirational repeat after me knowing you are called to love like Jesus.  “I am patient and kind – I do not envy or boast – I am not arrogant or rude – I do not insist on my own way – I am not irritable or resentful -- I do not rejoice at wrongdoing -- I rejoice with the truth. -- I support without limits – I trust without limits – I hope without limits – I never give up. 

            Love is a tricky word.  It really does not mean what we think it means.  Love is not about your feelings and how something or someone makes you feel.  Love is about what God does for you in Jesus and loves is what you do for others in response.   Love God by loving your neighbor because Jesus first loves you.  Tell each other that you love them.  And then live out that love.  Amen.