“… faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.”
This is probably the most famous line written by Paul, found in 1 Corinthians 13:13. It was the source for my sermon on Sunday and has been a source of inspiration for thousands of years. It is probably the most popular scripture read at weddings and although it is not inappropriate to put an emphasis on love at a wedding, Paul is not talking about romantic love. Paul is writing to a church at Corinth that has an “economic problem.” Not only was there discrepancies in the socio-economic status of its fellowship (see the example of the abuses at the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 11:17-22, where the rich got drunk and the poor went away hungry), but there was also discrepancies in their perception of their “spiritual-economic status.” You see, some of them were saying that their having the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophetic insights, strong faith, and acts of piety demonstrated their superiority in Christ. Paul will have none of it and says that he can have all these things, but “do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2) or “I gain nothing.” (1Cor. 13:3).
Love is the source because God is love (1 John 4:16 – “So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”) Paul is quick not to dismiss faith and hope, but when compared to love, they pale in comparison because they both simply point to and support the mission and nature of love, God’s self.
Trying to organize my time and priories as a pastor is challenging. Given the ministries and the physical plant of our campus, there is a lot going on in the background that I have to keep an eye on. Faith is like that, in the background of where we are today. It tells the story of where we came from and why God is trustworthy. Faith looks back upon generations of faithful people endeavoring to grow be the salt and light of the world and build upon their faith.
I also need to focus on the foreground of my vocation, the hopes and dreams that I believe God has in store for our congregation and community. I spend a few hours each week, dreaming and re-imaging the possibilities and opportunities that God is setting before us. Hope is also in the foreground of our lives. Hope looks forward to a time of reunion with God. Hope also looks forward to enacting this reality in the here and now as the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven. Hopeful are the people of faith.
But the most important thing a pastor does is being on the ground, with their congregation, sharing in their joys and sorrows – that’s love. That’s right now. Love is not some romantic or sentimental notion, but grounded in the caring for the needs (physical and spiritual) of my neighbor. Love is, as they say: a verb. Love is in motion. My goal is not for you to remember my sermons word for word for theological nuance, but where you can leave the service feeling encouraged and inspired to step further into a real and ready relationship with the Creator of all things! Messages offered from these ancient texts should come alive and be relevant, awakening us in the midst of our daily routines, life pressures, and COVID fatigue to new possibilities of God’s dreams for us. When we feel like the Valley of Dry Bones, in Ezekiel 37, God’s creative love and compassion can fill us with a new breath and a new life. That is love. That is God. That is the greatest of all things. So remember:
Faith is our background.
Hope is in our foreground
But Love is being on the ground
Check out the sermon here!
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)