Love, the Best Gift (020313 Sermon)

Love, the Best Gift

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Five year old Johnny Quinn loved his big brother, Tommy.
The doctor told Johnny that his brother was very sick and needed a blood
transfusion, and the doctor asked: “Johnny, would you be willing to give some
of your blood to your brother?” Johnny gulped hard, his eyes got big, but after
only a moment’s hesitation he said, “Sure, Doctor.” The doctor took the blood
and Johnny was resting quietly on the table. A few minutes later, Johnny looked
up at the doctor and said, “When do I die, Doctor? Am I dying now?” It was only
then that the doctor fully appreciated the extent of this little boy’s love for
his brother.

Love is a word used too lightly and loosely today.
Sometimes, it is so used and abused that it has lost clear meaning. We love our
cat, our car, chocolate cake, money, and almost anything else you can name.

And yet the whole of the Christian life rests on
love. Jesus said, “As God has loved me, so I also have loved you. As I have
loved you, so also you must love one another.” I believe that Johnny probably
had a grasp of what love means.

Today, we read one of the most beautiful chapters of
literature the world has ever known. “Though I speak in the tongues of men and
of angels and have not love, I am as a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…. Love
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all
things…. Love never ends.”

This chapter is the heart of Paul’s teaching on spiritual
gifts and Christian life. In this chapter, the apostle shows that divine love
is the greatest of all gifts. Divine love is supreme, and is the “more excellent
way” to a Christian life.

Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth in
response to reports of sharp dissension among the believers. Situated in one of
the most important cities of Greece in the time of the early Roman Empire, the
young congregation was undoubtedly made up of persons from a variety of
sub-cultures- Jews and Greeks, slaves, freedmen, and a few of noble birth, the
powerful as well as the weak, the wise as well as the simple. The surrounding
culture was certain to have been reflected in the conflicts troubling the
congregation. Sources of disruption had to include sociological, political, and
religious factors, as well as personal and theological differences. Paul
detected the conflicts from these differences and wrote to evoke and build up
the sense of community as the body of Christ. What he first did was to present
the various Spiritual gifts the Corinthians had and pointed out that all the
spiritual gifts are grounded in love. Love is the power which holds the gifts
and their recipients to the common good of the community. The flow of love is
like the blood which sustains the human body, which is absolutely necessary for
the life it feeds. Love is the power of this world. To be a member of Christ’s
body is to be bound up in this love.

However, love very often makes us face challenges or
even unhappiness. As a baptismal community, we confess that we love God as God
loves us. Today, I would like to invite you to reexamine your love for God.
Have you kept loving God without any doubts or criticism? For me, No! I have

In the relationship with God, sometimes I question, “Why
did you do this to me? I don’t understand why.” Whenever I get into trouble, I
ask God, “Is it true that you love me?” I have many questions and criticism
about the course of my life.

I know a person who did the same as I have done. He
wrote a poem to express his feelings about the relationship with God. I heard
this poem a few years ago and it has resonated in my mind.

Here is the poem and its title is “Ode to the Church.”

[How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you!

You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to
anyone.  I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.

You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand
holiness.  Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, and yet I have never touched
anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful.

Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face and yet, every
night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!   No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one
with you, even if not completely you.

Then to where would I go?  To build another church?

But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects.  And again, if I were to build another church,
it would be my church, not Christ’s church.
No, I am old enough.  I know better!]

The poem was written by Carlo Carretto. He is an
Italian spiritual writer in his old age. It really states how he feels about
and how he struggles with his faith in God. It is almost a love-hate
relationship. Sometimes, he criticized and blamed God and doubted God’s love
for him. However, at the same time, he found how much he loves God, how much he
needs God’s presence. His spiritual journey was not straight. His faith was up
and down. However, when he was getting old, he came to know better and better
the love of God. He came to feel God’s presence in his life. He came to realize
how precious and important the loving relationship with God has been in his

I believe that you share these feelings that Carlo
Carretto had in his spiritual journey. For 2013, I pray that we can go through
this spiritual journey together. I pray that we can come to a deeper
understanding of God’s love and presence in our lives. And I pray that through
this journey, we will grow in the incredible love of God and share it with the
people living around us.

Let us look at Jesus’ life beloved by God. Even
though God loved Jesus, God did not save him from suffering, temptation, and
human limitation. He was not even saved from the experience of feeling
abandoned by God, or the experience of death. However, he believed that he was
beloved of God and this truth freed him up to be Jesus. The faith that Jesus
had freed him up to eat with sinners, touch lepers and befriend women.
Moreover, the faith made Jesus face the challenges, such as suffering and
death. The faith about God’s love made him courageous and powerful.

Love empowers all Christians to struggle for
self-affirmation in relationship with God and with the world. Also, to love God
and the people around us means to be patient, believe all things, hope all
things, and endure all things.

Let’s wrap up today’s sermon. There are three most
important spiritual gifts given to us; faith, hope, and love. These three gifts
abide in us due to the Spirit. Paul clearly says, of the three, the greatest is

Let us try to build our community believing that we
have the most important gift, love. Let us love ourselves and our neighbors.
Then, we will see God working within our community and our daily lives.
Let us pray,

Loving God, we give thanks to you for your
never-ending love. You gave us the best gift, love. Bless us to use this gift
and bless us to be a community sharing the gift with the people around us. In
your name, we pray. Amen.

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