Monday, February 10, 2014

Sermon 2/9/14 United Church of Beloit. All You Need is Love

Our Favorite Verses-All You Need is Love  

A Psalm for giving thanks.

100 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

1 Corinthians 13 (NRSV)

The Gift of Love

13 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. 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 do not have love, I am nothing. 3 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.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 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. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 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. 12 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, as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Our passage today is a favorite of B.. It was a favorite of her grandmother, who passed her love onto her family. It's a beautiful passage, one that we often hear at weddings! For a wedding is when we really celebrate love. Weddings and Valentine's day...which is this week....Gentlemen? Valentine's Day is have now been reminded :)

I paired the Corinthians text with Psalm 100, because this (and many other) psalms remind us of the steadfast nature of God's love. That God is eternal and eternally loving. That is why we worship, why we come to sing and praise God.

Our NT lesson from 1 Corinthians...the Apostle Paul wrote to many churches, the church in Corinth was sort of “his wild child”. Corinth was a large port city, with all the troubles that a large port city can develop in a society in which there is a lot of variety of people, ideas and disciplines...or lack thereof. (sound familiar?) So Paul wrote this and another letter to the church there to remind them of the basics, to help them get back on track.

This is chapter 13. the chapter immediately preceding is about how we are one Body in Christ and we have different gifts, each gift is valuable to serve the body. Then here in Ch. 13, Paul talks about Love.

This is a description of perfect love, of Divine Love. This is the love of God. We, humans, can aspire to this sort of love. This is part of how we follow Our Lord Jesus aspiring to His love.

The intro in one study bible says that this letter “is marked by 3 outstanding segments, the absense of any one of which would leave us remarkably poorer. The first has to do with the Lord's Supper..(ch11, “for I share with you as it was given to me...”) ...the second is the great hymn of love in which Paul states that all of the gifts of the {Corinthian} church shink into insignificance if love is missing. … No matter what we do, if we are doing it for any reason that is not love, we are nothing without the love of God.

I was reading about some of the Olympic athletes. One is a hockey player named Anne Schleper-- From St. Cloud, MN
Anne has been stalwart in her hockey career at U-Minn.. she played a record setting 158 games, often battling thru injuries in order to never miss a game. She not only is extremely talented athlete, but mentors less experienced players as well, knowing from her own experience how important that can be.
Schleper points to her experience with a group called Athletes in Action as the time when the religion of her childhood became a personal faith. Schleper now leads a Bible study at Team USA training camps. "Any time you get in the athletic environment, it's challenging as a Christian. It's easy to have an 'it's about me' attitude," she says. "That's why it's important to be around other Christians who can lift you up and pray for you. It's good to stay connected, and that's where I've seen those Bible studies at camps be so huge...”

yes, it's good to stay connected! To be with others., that's what a life of faith is all about. That;s what living in the Love of Christ is about...staying connected, forming new connections, reaching out in love, to check on others, to care for others. That's how we spread the Light of Christ.

That is why THIS church is called into being. 1st Pres and 2nd Cong are both 'daughter' churches of the very first church in Beloit, 1st Cong. The people who formed that church, back in the 1830s when the new community of Beloit was forming, consisted of Congregationalists and Presbyterians. There was a paragraph in the charter of that first church that the Presbyterian members could, at any time form a new Presbyterian church. (sort of a “no fault” clause)
They chose to do so in 1849. the catalyst for that decision was the issue of the abolition of slavery. Second Cong was founded 10 years later when there was development on the west side of Rock river. A nice wooden bridge had been constructed about where Grand avenue is now, and businesses and homes were springing up. The Second Cong. charter was signed in mid-February 1859. I suspect that folks were tired of slip-sliding across a snowy, icy bridge on Sunday mornings.

Our individual churches were founded in love and practicality. To maintain a beloved denominational identity and take action for a cause; and to have a church home closer to work and home.

We came together because of love and practicality. One group realized their building was in too much disrepair, yet a commitment was made to stay together as a church, as the body of Christ. that is remarkable. As we explored options together, spent time together, we realized that both our churches have that 'family feeling' and we enjoy each other's company. The merger was a LOT of work. And we find ourselves working hard again now to find a new Sr Minister, and some of us are feeling a bit lost. But our core values are intact. When there is a need in the neighborhood or the community, you all step up so fast, I can hardly keep up! A few weeks ago we had ribbons for MLK Day, the ribbons were a fundraiser for a scholarship. $1 got you a nice ribbon to wear sunday and monday. I ordered 30 ribbons, and when I turned them back in, there were a few left in the envelope. But there was also $70!! SEVENTY dollars, for about 25 ribbons. That's the love of Our Lord at work right here. I have a dozen stories like that, our Book Bag Bash, Hands of Faith, we average 45-50 volunteers every session that we host. And we will have even more opportunities this coming year, with a new pastor, with a bigger Book Bag Bash, with Vacation Bible School, more chances to reach out love.

The intro in my study bible says that this letter “is marked by 3 outstanding segments, ... The first has to do with the Lord's Supper..the second is the great hymn of love --

The third is the magnificent defense for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. (chap 15).
Jesus lived out God's Love. Jesus, born to a working class family in a non-descript town, lived and loved and taught. He told stories, healed people, sometimes showed a bit of frustration, “how much longer do I have to put up with you?” but I suspect it was said with a twinkle in his eyes!! Jesus is the embodiment of this perfect love described in our passage! Jesus, purely out of love, went to the cross for each of us, and was raised from the show the power of love is greater than any other power on earth!

Years ago, a Johns Hopkins professor gave a group of graduate students this assignment: Go to the {inner city} Take 200 boys, between the ages of 12 and 16, and investigate their background and environment. Then predict their chances for the future.

The students, after consulting social statistics, talking to the boys and compiling much data, concluded that 90 percent of the boys would spend some time in jail.
Twenty-five years later, another group of graduate students was given the job of testing the prediction. They went back to the same area. Some of the boys - by then men - were still there, a few had died, some had moved away, but they got in touch with 180 of the original 200. They found that only four of the group had ever been sent to jail.

Why was it that these men, who had lived in a breeding place of crime, had such a surprisingly good record? The researchers were continually told: "Well, there was a teacher ..."

They pressed further and found that in 75 percent of the cases it was the same woman. The researchers went to this teacher, now living in a home for retired teachers. How had she exerted this remarkable influence over that group of children? Could she give them any reason why these boys should have remembered her?

"No," she said, "no, I really couldn't." And then, thinking back
over the years, she said musingly, more to herself than to the researchers: "I loved those boys. ..."

there has never been a time when LOVE is needed like now. The LOVE of God, expressed in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is all you need. When we are loved so well, when we comprehend that love, we have no choice but to reach out and share it. That is our calling as individuals, and as a church. Let's live that love today!! THIS is the love to live and celebrate! The Love of our Lord. 

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