Luke 4:14-30; I Corinthians 13:1-13
Today’s Gospel reading begins in a strange way. Listen again. “Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” Well – what Scripture? Jesus is referring to a reading from the prophet Isaiah announcing what the arrival of the Messiah or the Christ will be like. This actually is a continuation from last weekend’s reading, so let me read that Isaiah passage that Jesus is referring to again to you.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
When Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” he’s saying, “That’s me. I am the Christ. I am the promised Messiah.”
Now, you need to know that Jesus is in a town called Nazareth. We sometimes we all Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the town he grew up in. So all the folks in Nazareth have known him from the time he was a boy. They’ve watched him grow up. They know who he is. He lets them know that his message is Good News – and his ministry is all about grace.
– in other words God’s undeserved love and favor.
– It’s about compassion.
– It’s about caring for the hungry and the thirsty, and for those in prison.
– Its’ a ministry that calls men and women to live their lives differently.
Up to this point, they like what he has to say. But then he says something to change all that. He goes on to tell them – in essence – that his ministry – his word of God’s love and grace and forgiveness – is for all people. Not just for the people of Nazareth. Not just for the Jewish nation. But for all people – including Gentiles – in other words, people outside of the Jewish faith.
Now up until that point – he has them in the palm of his hand. After that – well, they are so outraged at even the hint – of a possibility – that God might be even on the side of Gentiles – even the hated Romans – that they grab him to take him to throw him over the side of a cliff that is just outside the town limits. But somehow – don’t know how, but somehow – Jesus passes through them and goes on his way. He can do this because – well, after all – He is Jesus.
The townspeople don’t like what they hear – and they have their own special way of dealing with things they don’t want to hear. Wouldn’t be our choice, I’m sure. Not us good Lutherans! Throwing people off a cliff because you disagree with them – or they disagree with you – or they say something to offend you – is probably not our first choice. You might feel like doing that – but I am sure that’s not your first choice. So may I suggest to you that there is a better way? What the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians calls, “… a still more excellent way.”?
One of our readings today is from I Corinthians, chapter 13. And it is called the love chapter. Now – most of you are familiar with the words in this passage because – I suspect – many of you had this read at your weddings – or you have been at weddings where this passage – or portions of it – have been read.
So let’s talk about love life. I think that’s better than talking about throwing Jesus off the side of a cliff. When you see those two words together – you can see them in three ways. Number one, when I say, “Love life,” – it can be a reflection of my attitude towards life itself. “Luvvve life.” I love life. The second way, “Love life,” usually refers to the romantic side of things – between two people who love each other.
Now, I don’t want to get into trouble be asking, “How’s your love life?” and I know Valentine’s Day is just two weeks away. And guys? That’s just a friendly reminder. We cool with that?
Actually, I do want to ask, “How’s your love life?” Because today – when I use the phrase “love life” I want us to think about its use in a third way – the love life that we as disciples of Jesus Christ have for God – for other believers – AND for the non-believer as well. For our purposes today – that’s our love life.
Again, I’ve said this to you before. You can be the best Christian you can possibly be – say all the right things – do all the right things – and say and do them all in the right way – but if you do not have love – love for God and for others – no matter who those others might be – then you’ve missed the whole point of what it means to be a Christian.
And that’s why I really – love – this 13th chapter of First Corinthians. Now, I want you to see that St. Paul – the author of this letter to the Corinthians – is putting some meat on the teaching of Jesus when Jesus taught us to “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” And just so you don’t forget that – not only is it our mission statement – but it’s been awhile since I put those words into that sing-songy way that will helps us remember it.
If you know how it goes, do it with me. You gotta get your fingers snapping. “Love God – and love your neighbor as yourself.” (said in a rap style, repeat several times.) There’s the longer version that works just as well. “Love God, with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor, love your neighbor as yourself.”
Yeah. You know those words. You remember what Jesus has to say about how important loving God and loving each other really are. And if you didn’t know that before now – well, now you do! So Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbor, and Paul tells us what that love looks like. Which is why I really like what Paul has to say about love especially in verses 4-8. Listen:
4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; – do I need to repeat that one? – it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never ends.
Folks – I’m going to go out on a limb here and say – if you say you’re a disciple of Jesus Christ – but if you’re not also committed to a life of love – a love life – then you’ve missed the whole message of the gospel. You’ve heard me say this before: Being a Christian is more than just going to church on Saturday/Sunday. Being a Christian is more than just hoping to go to heaven some day. Being a Christian is both of those things – but if we don’t have love – as Jesus describes it – as Paul describes it – then our church going and our hopes for heaven – well, they’re kind of hollow, don’t you think? – IF we don’t also have love for God and for each other. They all go together. It’s a package deal.
Elsewhere Jesus says that people will know that you are truly my disciples if you have love for one another. You know what that tells me? Love is the central task of the Christian. It’s more than just a feeling. Love is a verb. It’s what we do. If this is how people will know that we are followers of Jesus, then true – genuine love – for God and for others – is the central Christian task.
So before you feel like throwing someone off a cliff, let me ask you – how’s your love life? Is there somebody in your life that you need to say, “I’m sorry,” to? Or are you waiting for somebody to apologize to you? Are you willing to be the one to take that first step?
Are you having a disagreement with someone? Heck – let’s call it a feud. What can you do – to the extent that it depends on you – to show love to that other person? Now I know – I know, I know, I know – that some people are just difficult to love. I get that. This is that sometimes not so easy part of being a Christian. And if you’ve done all that you can do – if you’ve done all that you can do – well then – that’s OK. Sometimes it’s OK to just let it go.
And by the way, if you’re in an abusive situation – get out. No one needs to stay in an abusive situation. That is not love!
If reconciliation is all but impossible – let me suggest that you can still pray for them. Maybe even find a way to speak well of them. Because – you know – that you can’t stay angry at someone for too long – if you’re praying for them – or saying kind things about them.
And when I say pray for them – I don’t mean, “Lord – help them to see things my way.” No. Just pray for them. And while you’re at it, pray that the Lord will give you – would give all of us – a heart to remember that,
4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never ends.
Folks – let me repeat – if you’re not committed to a life of love – a love life –then you’ve missed the message of the gospel. If you’re having trouble with that – just look to Jesus. He gave us the greatest example of what it means to love. Remember? “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son . . .” (John 3:16).
And then – in 1John 4:19 – we are told that “We love because He first loved us.” So let me ask you once again. How’s your love life?