Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13’ Category

All You Need is Love!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Epiphany 4C, February 3, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“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 known.” [1 Corinthians 13:12]

The song you just heard, “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles will serve as our mental hook this morning.  While our baptized nature would give a hearty AMEN to the title of that song, our old nature, that is our sinful, physical nature, would rather agree with Tina Turner and say, “What’s love got to do with it.   What’s love but a second hand emotion?  Who needs a heart, when a heart can be broken?!”

Yes, it is true, there is a battle of perspectives going on within each of us; each of us sees things dimly right now, as if we are looking through a dirty window.  But the time will come one day soon, when Jesus will greet us face to face.  Now we know things only partially, but soon we will know fully, even as we have been known.

Only two people really know you; God and yourself.  You know yourself just as thoroughly as I know myself, and we can agree and thank God that no one else really knows us.  They would be repulsed by our inward secret thoughts and maybe even some of our actions that we think we do in secret.  But as I said, there is another who knows; another who sees all things clearly.  God knows you because He created you.  Listen to Him speak to you this morning in our Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 1:4–19).  He says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you”. [Jeremiah 4:5]  Do you hear that?  In your mother’s womb you were not just a lump of unformed flesh or even just a zygote, you were you, and God knew you intimately!

God knew that if He left you alone, that is without His loving care you would be nothing more than a clanging cymbal.  If the natural talents that He programed within you were not sanctified, that is set apart as holy and effective according to His will, you would be nothing.  God knew that on your own, even those gifts that the world calls good and pleasing, would in truth be self-serving.  What things?  Well how about giving away your time, talent, and treasure, to help others.  Remember now, God sees and knows you in a way that no one else but you knows, so you must agree with Him.  Agree with what?  That even if you gave away everything you owned, or even if you sacrificed your life for another person, say by dying in a fire for them, in the end, that is apart from the hand that formed you in the womb, it would be entirely self-serving; it would be about you leaving behind a legacy; your legacy!

This morning, God is asking you to look deeply into the mirror of His Word and find your sinful nature in that Word.  Now I know that it is hard to look at, but that is one of the reasons that this mirror is dim and foggy; God is simply giving you a glimpse at the real you so that He can give you another vision.  And that other vision is someone who is patient and kind; someone who never has an envious or boastful spirit; someone who has never been arrogant or rude.  God wants you to see someone who has never insisted on their own way and would never speak to another person in an irritable or resentful manner.  God wants you to see someone who would consider it unthinkable to celebrate sin or to profit from wrongdoing, and someone who only celebrates with truth.  God wants you to understand that the truth that you must celebrate is love!  Love bears all things, do you?  Love believes all things are possible, even in the darkest moments, do you?  Love always has hope in something perfect and endures all trials and temptations without anger or a grumbling spirit, do you?

Now wait, as I told you do not let this terrifying image of who you are in the flesh leave you hopeless, because there is hope, and our hope comes by looking even more intently into this mirror that is dim and fogged.  Look with me now even deeper into this mirror, this Word of God and let your hope, faith, and yes your love be strengthened.  “This is love, not that we love God, but that He first loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” [1 John 4:10]  And, this is love, the truth that declares that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]

Do you see a little more clearly now?  Do you see the truth that declares that from outside of you comes your champion; from God Himself comes His Son, who is your Savior.  He who knew no sin became your sin; that is He took on your sins.  Do you see Jesus?  This is love; it is the kind of love that completely fulfills all of God’s description of true love.  It is the kind of love that the world could never attain, because it is completely lost in its self; that is in its sin.  It is a heavenly quality of love that can only come from a God who is love.

Our sinful world would have us believe that love, that is their idea of love is god, but the very Word of God says that “He (alone) is love.” [1 John 4:16] If we want true love, we can only receive it from the source, and that source has come to us.

God loves the world.  It is a vile world that reeks of sin, yet He loves it.  If He left the world as it was, he could never embrace it because of all of its foulness, which permeates it’s very nature.  But God wanted to love the world because that is His nature, so He sacrificed Himself so that He could love the loveless and self-centered sinners; so that He could love you.  How did He sacrifice Himself?  He sent His Son along with a message, the gospel!  It is that message which proclaims that our God of love has made a way for you and all sinful mankind to return to Him.

This message of love proclaims God’s intent for you and all of mankind.  God made a decision that you would be saved.  God chose life and forgiveness at the expense of pain and suffering for His Son.  When I say that God chose and God decided I am saying that all of God who exists in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, agreed that this must be done.  The Son of God was obedient to His Father’s will, because it was His will, the will of God.  But it was Jesus, the Son of God, who alone stepped away from the treasures of Heaven and took on human flesh, and delivered up His body to be crucified.  He did this because He is God, and God is love.  He gained nothing by His death and lost so much; He did it for you.

Jesus alone was patient and kind, even when they ridiculed Him, spat upon Him and beat Him.  Even as He was on the cross suffering and dying He was patient and kind, praying that His father would forgive them, because they did not know what they were doing; because they did not yet understand the gospel.  God’s love bears all things and endures all things and it does it for a purpose, for a reason.

That purpose and the reason Christ suffered and died was not to leave a legacy, and it wasn’t to prove a point; that is Jesus did not die upon the cross to make God look great and powerful and leave you feeling guilty, although this maybe what you are feeling right now.   No, Jesus died upon the cross to show you how much God loves you.  He died upon the cross so that you would not have to forfeit your life as payment for your sins.  He died upon the cross so that your true enemies, sin, death, and the devil would once and for all be destroyed.  But He also died upon the cross so that He could take His life back up again and return to His Heavenly Home at the right hand of the Father, so that you would see Him and hear Him call to you, and be assured that where He is, you shall one day join Him.

Where does Jesus call out to us from?  How do we see Him as He truly is?  Well, in the mirror dimly lit of course!  It’s in His Holy Word, the gospel message of love, where we see and hear Him.  In the washing of this Word along with simple water, the Spirit of God gives us eyes of faith; spiritual eyes that hope in nothing else but Jesus and His righteousness.  In His Word, we cling to Jesus as our new baptized nature comes alive and is daily strengthened with something that only God can give us… love.

This love of God is strong and indwelling.  It grows and every day recreates us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.  Every day, it reminds us of the truth of our gospel lesson (Luke 4:31-44),  that just as Jesus once walked among us in the flesh, driving out demons, curing the sick and raising the dead, He is still with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, casting out demons, healing divisions and bringing peace within His body, the church.  In simple things like human words, water, bread, and wine, His real presence is among us forgiving, imparting life, sanctifying our time, talents, and treasures, and advancing His kingdom of grace.

Can you love with God’s love?  On your own, never, but with Jesus presence always with you, not only can you love, but you will love stronger and better each day as you trust in His real presence.  Each day, God invites you to follow Him, to stay in His Word and allow Him to strengthen your faith, your hope, and your love.  You do this as you trust Him to love the unlovable through you, to teach you to forgive even the unrepentant sinners, and to help you learn to sacrifice yourself as He asks, setting aside all manner of resentment and anger.  It’s this spirit of love that He has given you that teaches you to keep believing in the hope of change for people who seem to be unchangeable.

In this world of imperfection, God’s perfection has come to you and saved you, but more than that it has done the unthinkable; it has declared you… sinful you, holy perfect, and righteous.  You don’t see it now, because you are looking through that dim fogged up mirror, but soon and very soon you will see all things clearly; you will see Jesus face to face as He embraces you and welcomes you home with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  And then only one thing will remain; it will not be hope or faith because the object of your hope and faith will be right in front of you.  No, the one thing that will remain forever is love; God’s love for you and your love for Him and all that He has created.  Then you will be able to answer Tina Turner’s question, “What’s love got to do with it?” with this answer: “Love has everything to do with who we are.  All we truly ever needed was God’s love, and now we have it forever.”

Now may the peace of God and the love of Christ keep our hearts and minds forever… AMEN!