4th Sunday Epiphany C 13

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1 May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. (Called to service.) These verses from Jeremiah are some of my many favorite verses. Theses verses are classic and typical of a conversation between God and many of the prophets He called into service in the Old Testament. Many prophets from Elijah to Elisha, from Isaiah to Jeremiah had reservations about being called by God. The conversation usually went as we heard in our reading from Jeremiah. God calls a prophet, an objection is made, God refutes the objection and overcomes it then the prophet, the called one is sent out to serve with a purpose. God calls to Jeremiah, - Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Then Jeremiah said, Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy. But the LORD said to me, Do not say, I am only a boy ; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. Jeremiah objected to his calling as a prophet of God. Not sure he had the skills, the knowledge, the understanding or the ability to perform the duties expected of him. Jeremiah understood, even as a young man, the testing and the difficulties that would come to a prophet of God. For it required the prophet to stand and speak against the king, against other prophets or priests and often against culture itself. 1

2 God s calling prophets and servants into service did not stop in the Old Testament or at the coming of Jesus but continues to this day. Many pastors own call stories, our own path into ministry are similar to that of Jeremiah. We did not believe we were being called, that we had the necessary skills or ability. Many including myself who enter the ministry after being in some other line of work have witnessed the pitfalls and dangers inherent in being a proclaimer of the word and speaking the truth to others. Tell part of the story of my calling into ministry. (Called to speak) Yet we are called to speak the truth and to proclaim the Good News of Christ to a world not always ready to hear it. For us as modern day prophets, we look to the founders, to the apostles and disciples of Jesus for guidance when trouble arises. How did they handle the situations and the controversy and even the reluctance to go and serve where God was sending us. In the gospel reading it is early in Jesus ministry yet in a moment the people of his hometown were ready to kill him. They should have been among his earliest and biggest supporters. That was until Jesus reminded them He came not just for the people of Nazareth, or just for the Israelites but to the rich and poor alike, to the Gentile as well as the Jew, to the wealthy and the outsiders, so all might come to know God s love. (Called to serve and speak in Love) This is the exact argument which Paul has been making throughout the first 12 chapters in his letter to the church of Corinth. Paul has been exhorting them to take time and reflect upon their calling as the people of God, as the body of Christ and to their role in speaking and serving others using the spiritual gifts they have already received. 2

3 For Paul the common point, the central message which ties all of these gifts together is love. This chapter is many times the one read and reflected on at weddings. As I often tell the bride and groom as well as all those gathered, what Paul is writing about is love, the reason why they are gathered yet love is so much more. For Paul, love is what binds the community together in spite of their individual desires toward self importance and being the top dog as it were. This point is clear by the one verse which we skipped over in our readings. The last verse of chapter 12 says this; but strive for the greater gifts and I will show you a still more excellent way. A more excellent way; a reminder that we are all called on this journey together with the community the Body of Christ. In order for the community to function, to grow and to flourish each were given gifts of the Spirit for the benefit of the common good. Yet as we humans tend to do, it does not take long for us to start making divisions and assigning importance to the different gifts so we might determine who is best or greatest or the least among us according to the gifts. So often the gift of tongues was one that was raised to a higher level. Having the gift of speaking tongues gave that person special powers, hidden knowledge over what was to be said. To others it was the gift of knowledge or wisdom which ruled over the other gifts. Still others it was the gift of healing, or of generosity. To this Paul says, strive for the greater gifts and I will show you a still more excellent way. Chapter 13 can really be broken into 3 sections as Paul works to make his point. Often times we read this in a nice voice during a wedding service. Yet it seems to me it would be better in more of a scolding tone as Paul is trying to make his point. 1 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. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove 3

4 mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 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. For it is love which ties all things together, which lifts up and makes whole all who have been called into community for this common journey of speaking and service in the name of Christ Jesus. When I use this text during weddings it is this next section on which I focus my thoughts. I remind them this part does apply to relationships, either that between a man and a woman in marriage, but also to the community as a whole. This section speaks directly to what love is and is not. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. Everything hinges on and begins with love. It is love which binds all things together, between individuals like a husband and wife, groups of people as in a congregation, and even between those groups which distrust and dislike each other. Love is and will always be the one common thread which links us all together in our calling to service. Yet often in our context the word love gets in our way of understanding the point Paul is trying to make. So one suggestion which is helpful to better understand these two sections of chapter 13 is to take out the word love and insert the word God. God is patient, God is kind, God is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. God does not insist on his own way, God does not rejoice in wrongdoing but God rejoices in the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. God never ends. 4

5 For after all God is love. Love is the difference between that which is perfect and imperfect, between that which is partially known to being fully known, between seeing dimly in a mirror and seeing face to face. It is Love, which speaks to us saying, I knew you before I formed you, I consecrated you and called to you service. God in love gives us the words to speak and guides us to the places we are to serve. From God we have received the gifts of faith and hope and love. So we might accomplish all things together in love. AMEN T.G.B.T.G. Pastor Michael 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NRSV) 1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 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. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 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. 12 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. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 5

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