February 10, 2019 1 Corinthians 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. 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.
THE MESSAGE All you need is love Pastor Susan
All you need is love, la da da da da,
All you need is love, la da da da da.
All you need is love, love,
Love is all you need.
Remember that song? Wanna sing it with me? Let’s try it. (repeat verse) When I was 13 I was madly in love with the Beatles - Ringo in particular. About the same time I also loved (in no particular order) chocolate, my parents, family, scalloped potatoes, Tom Jackson, my girl friends, and Peter O’Toole (although he may have come later).
How would you fill in this blank today: I love ___. (solicit answers)
We love all kinds of things - and people. But your love of ice cream is not the same love as your love of your child. The English language is somewhat deficient when it comes to the word “love.” We only have one word, L O V E. The Greeks broke it down into categories. They have four words, and we’re going to hear testimonials to all four today.
The most familiar is probably Eros. It’s where we get the word erotica. It refers to sexual, romantic love. Storge is the love that binds members of a family together. Phillia is our love of friends, but it’s also that impulse to offer an elderly person your seat on a crowded bus. It’s caring for others.
In 1st Corinthians 13 Paul uses another Greek word for love - Agape, unconditional love. It’s considered the highest form of love - and the most difficult to live by. It’s what Jesus is talking about when he tells us to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and our neighbor as our self. And he doesn’t mean just our friendly neighbors. No, he’s including the ones we can’t stand - even those we think of as enemies.
Frederick Buechner describes Agape as an act of the will. It’s not primarily an emotion, although that might enter in. He writes: “When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors he is not telling us to love them in the sense of responding to them with a cozy emotional feeling. You can as easily produce a cozy emotional feeling on demand as a yawn or sneeze. On the contrary, he is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our own well-being to that end...”
So, true love, (agape) is something we are to give away freely and extravagantly to others - even when it’s not returned. Agape is not easy to practice.
The spiritual leader and author Ram Dass, talks about a time when he couldn’t stand our secretary of defense at the time, Casper Weinberger, and the decisions he was making for our country. So to overcome these feelings he put a picture of Weinberger on his prayer table along with his spiritual heroes, Jesus, Buddha and others. During morning prayer he would light incense and honor those beings, feeling waves of love and appreciation toward his gurus. When he got to Weinberger he would feel his heart constrict. He would struggle with his emotions. Wasn’t he another face of God? Could he hate his actions and still keep his heart open to him? So he continued in his practice until he felt his negative emotions slowly diminish. You might try that with a photo of someone you can’t stand right now.
In this way love is a choice, and it’s our choices that define us.
Now, think about this. It has been observed that “If you place two living heart cells from different people in a Petrie dish, they will in time find and maintain a third and common beat.” (Molly Vass)
Mark Nepo, one of my spiritual mentors, speaks to this phenomenon. “This biological fact holds the secret of all relationship. It is cellular proof that beneath any resistance we might pose and beyond all our attempts to fall short, there is in the very nature of life itself some essential joining force. This inborn ability to find and enliven a common beat is the miracle of love.”
This force is what makes compassion possible, even probable. For if two cells can find the common pulse beneath everything, how much more can full hearts feel when all excuses fall away?
So I asked you: Where does this love that ties us all together come from? - God. The Hebrew scriptures talk about God’s steadfast love of God’s people. The New Testament tells us that God is love.
William Sloan Coffin, for years the pastor at our Riverside Church in N.Y. once preached, “Of God’s love we can say two things; it is poured out universally for everyone. And secondly, God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement.”
If we are to believe Sloan Coffin, then it is God’s love that fills us and binds us all together, like one beating heart. We are told by our wisdom teachers that we are to return that love to God, and I would propose that we do that by opening ourselves to that love and being a channel for it to others and to this beautiful universe we live in. So this morning we will hear from five of our members who will talk about eros, storge and phillia.
Robert and Nadja will talk about eros, romantic love.
Austin and Elizabeth will talk about storage, love that binds family together.
Patrick will talk about phillia, love of friends.