Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 05, 2024

Posted on May 6, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

May 05, 2024

Sixth Sunday of Easter

1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Psalm 139:1-18
Mark 12:38-31

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

At the congregation I served in Phoenix, [like here], it was my practice to greet people as they came in for worship and wish them well when they left. And as they were leaving, most of them were going into the fellowship hall for coffee and adult ed. So, I stood by that door. And that time took a while, because people shared how their week had gone or what was coming up for them.

One Sunday, as I was talking with people, someone quickly walked over to me from the hall and said, “Pastor, you better get in there! Madaline and Nancy are fighting and it’s bad!!”

Madaline and Nancy were old enough that I wasn’t too worried. I also knew they both had strong personalities, they’d known each other for at least 50 years, and it wasn’t unusual for them to disagree on things. So, I asked, “What are they fighting about?”

“How to cut the birthday cake for Nancy’s mom.” And I said, “I need to finish here. I’ll get over there when I can.”

And by the time I got there, the cake was cut and everything was fine. Nothing had been thrown, no one was bleeding. Madaline and Nancy were sitting with their families at their usual tables. And on Tuesday morning, they sat next to each other at Bible study like nothing had ever happened.

When we think about church and Christian community, the common misperception is that we all get along all the time. [Right? Pastor Mark talked about that last week.] And that’s how it should be.

But we’re human. We each have our own ideas about how things should be, about what’s more important than something else. And sometimes that gets the better of us and causes some deep divisions in the church. To the point that it harms the community.

That’s why Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. The divisions in the Christian community at that time were really bad. They went way beyond how to cut a birthday cake.

At that time in Greece, and because of the Roman government, there were political and social divisions that created a caste system in society. Very clear levels of hierarchy that should not have existed in the church, but they did. And it was made worse as people began to develop spiritual gifts and believed that some were better than others.

So, Paul got angry. And in this letter, he reminds them that each one of them had been given a gift and that God’s Spirit was at work in each person.

And that because God’s Spirit was at work in each of them, they were connected to God and to each other as one body, the body of Christ. It didn’t mean they were going to get along or agree with each other all the time.

But because of their connection in Christ, the expectation was that they lift each other up and take care of each other. Their ability to do that came from God’s love – agape – working through them. Paul explained that they could be as good as they wanted to be at whatever, but if they didn’t act from a place of agape it didn’t matter.

Because agape isn’t an emotion or feeling. It’s love that acts on behalf of another, that does things for the sake of another. And, as Paul explains, it does a lot.

Starting with v4 and going through the first part of v8, “love” – agape – is the subject of 16 verbs in a row. Reading it in English, it sounds like a series of adjectives. But other languages capture it better and get closer to what Paul was talking about because they describe what it means to have love.

So – to have love means to support, to be kind, to not have envy, to not be presumptuous or proud or rude or selfish; to not be angry or hold onto resentment. To have love is to sustain all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. Agape never ceases to exist.

God’s love is a busy, active love that is always at work finding ways to express itself for the good of others. That’s what Paul needed the church in Corinth to understand. Because without God’s love, they were just a group of people making a bunch of noise.

In the church today, God’s love is the foundation of who we are and what we do. It’s what anchors us and holds us together as a community when we disagree or fight or even when we just don’t like each other on a given day.

Because being in community isn’t always easy – even when it’s a community of faith, the body of Christ. So, we need something greater than ourselves to keep us together, and that’s what God’s love does.

Having this love is a way of being. It’s a way of living that treats others with dignity and respect in the face of our differences. Because it recognizes each other’s value as a beloved child of God and member of the body of Christ.

And what that means, is that any way of being or living that causes harm is not love. Whether the harm is physical, emotional, or sexual – if the way another person treats you causes you harm, it is not love. It’s abuse. No matter what the other person tells you.

The love that God calls us to have for each other is always actively finding ways to express itself for the good of others. That is what love does. And there are times when it’s exhausting and feels like an incredibly heavy burden.

But we’re able to have this love, we’re able to act out of God’s love, because God knows us fully and loves us. And God’s love works through us to make our lives and our communities look more like this active love.

It isn’t a once-and-done thing. God doesn’t wave a magic wand and say, “Presto! You are a community that embodies my love 100% of the time!” If only, right? It’s a process that takes work, and it’s something we practice throughout our lives.

And as we do, we discover that God’s agape love draws us in and remakes us and holds us together as a community when it’d be easier to just leave.

No matter where we go and who we are, there is and always will be division. We’re human. It’s going to happen. But the answer isn’t to erase it or pretend it doesn’t exist or hope it’ll eventually go away. But instead to figure out how to live into it and among it and with it in love.

It’s a process that takes work, probably a lifetime. But God knows that about us, because God knows us fully and loves us. Alleluia! Amen.