Plymouth First United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Byron W. Kaiser
January 30, 2022
1 Corinthians 13
Your love is patient, Lord. We give you thanks for all those who have been patient with us and have taught and cared for us; and we pray for the patience to love others as you have loved us.
Your love is kind, Lord. Give us the courage to be kind to others and to serve those with patience who are so often unkind, rude, difficult to love, or our enemies. They are your children and our sisters and brothers and they were made in your image.
Your love is not pompous, Lord. Give us insight to speak the truth in love and for the sake of your kingdom and not out of a need to appear clever or right and in all our relationships give us the wisdom to listen far more than we speak.
Your love does not seek its own interests, Lord. We thank you and pray for those who serve the poor and those in need, who give tirelessly of themselves and who have much to do and little time for themselves.
Your love is not quick-tempered, Lord. We pray for those who are angry and for the violent and their victims; for children who fear, elders who are abused, and people trapped in relationships that injure and harm.
Your love bears all things, Lord. We remember before you those with heavy burdens, many cares, much stress, and too little comfort and help. Open our eyes to those around us and their needs and give us the wisdom to offer help without any prying or sense of superiority.
Your love never fails, Lord. Even death does not trespass on the breadth and depth of your love. We thank you for those we have loved in this life and who now dwell in the peace and joy of your presence and let your comfort settle on those who are bereaved or who are lonely this day. In the name of Jesus, we pray.
I love “love” when it looks like a young couple walking hand in hand at the county fair.
I love “love” when I see a mom holding a newborn baby.
I love “love” when I see teachers engaging students in new learning.
I love “love” when I see people donating time to serve a meal.
I love “love” when I see a couple married for fifty years holding hands not to steady themselves but because they genuinely love each other.
I love “love” when love is at its best. Love can be the brotherly, sisterly, love that draws friends and neighbors to the coffee shop, to the bowling alley, or to the pickleball court. Love can be the sacrificial love that motivates a group of doctors to travel to foreign and chaotic lands, or a group of churchgoers to build homes in tornado-destroyed counties. Love can be the romantic love that draws people together to make commitments.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite writers, puts it this way in his book Wishful Thinking,
THE FIRST STAGE is to believe that there is only one kind of love. The middle stage is to believe that there are many kinds of love and that the Greeks had a different word for each of them. The last stage is to believe that there is only one kind of love.
The unabashed eros of lovers, the sympathetic philia of friends, agape giving itself away freely no less for the murderer than for his victim—these are all varied manifestations of a single reality. To lose yourself in another's arms, or in another's company, or in suffering for all [men] who suffer, including the ones who inflict suffering upon you—to lose yourself in such ways is to find yourself. Is what it's all about. Is what love is.
Think with me about those work teams that go to build homes. The air is hot and moist. The mosquitos swarm into your mouth when you take a breath. The stench of human waste from a broken septic system gurgle up from the soil where you stand to hold a 2 by 4. You must scrape the nates off the water cooler before getting a drink. Think for a minute about the medical staff that serves in the outposts of human dignity risking being kidnapped, bombed or worse. We intuitively know that not all love is equal. Love costs something. We pay a price to love. We pay a price with our decisions.
Love is a decision. You and I wake up and we decide to do what is right and generous. We choose to have compassion. We choose to be inclusive. We choose to give attention to the outcast. We choose to forgive. We choose to pattern our life after what we have experienced from Jesus.
As we recall the Gospel story from last week. Jesus spoke in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. The people of Nazareth choose the opposite. The people in the hometown did not want God’s love to look right or generous or compassionate. People did not want God’s love to give attention to the outcast or to forgive. They very much wanted God’s love to look like their love. They did not want to pay a price for love.
They wanted God’s love to play favorites. They wanted God’s love to be exclusive. They wanted God’s love to be unfeeling. They wanted God’s love to be transactional: I give you something God; now, you give me something. People in Jesus’ hometown did not want God’s love to look like Jesus.
We don’t want God’s love to look like the hometown crowds’, we don’t want Jesus’ love to look like that.
“Don’t you dare leave! Sometimes love looks like this!” Michael Renninger’s grandmother told him, as his paralyzed grandfather lay in bed covered in “green goop” from his feeding tube. This scene taught Renninger a lesson that he’ll never forget. Sometimes love looks like cleaning green goop from your paralyzed husband. Authentic, universal love, love that costs us something, is often condemned and rejected.
Miranda MacLean, Brutus, Michigan, “My neighbor, Jim, had trouble deciding if he wanted to retire from the construction field, until he ran into a younger man he’d worked with previously. The young man had a wife and three children and was finding it difficult to make ends meet, since he hadn’t worked in some time. The next morning, Jim went to the union office and submitted his retirement paperwork. As for his replacement, he gave them the name of the young man. That was six years ago, and that young husband and father has been employed ever since.” Love costs something.
Marilyn Kinsella, Canmore, Canada, “I forgot about the rules on liquids in carry-on luggage, so when I hit security at the airport, I had to give up all my painting supplies. When I returned a week later, an attendant was at the baggage area with my paints. Not only had he kept them for me, but he’d looked up my return date and time to meet me.” Love costs something.
When Love costs us something, remember what we see when we see Jesus on the cross. The love of Jesus cost Jesus everything. What would happen if we took Jesus and the apostle Paul seriously?
Mohammed Basha, Gainesville, Florida, “As I walked through the parking lot, all I could think about was the dire diagnosis I had handed my patient Jimmy: pancreatic cancer. Just then, I noticed an elderly gentleman handing tools to someone working under his stalled car. That someone was Jimmy. “Jimmy, what are you doing?” I yelled out. Jimmy dusted off his pants. “My cancer didn’t tell me not to help others, Doc,” he said, before waving at the old man to start the car. The engine roared to life. The old man thanked Jimmy and drove off. Then Jimmy got into his car and took off as well. Take-home message: Kindness has no limits and no restrictions.”
Jerilynn Collette, Burnsville, Minnesota, “When my husband died unexpectedly, a coworker took me under her wing. Every week for an entire year, she would send me a card saying “Just Thinking of You” or “Hang in There.” She saved my life.”
Paul said, “Without love I am nothing.” What would it look like to love like Jesus?
Sheela Mayes, Olla, Louisiana, “Children were playing at the recreation area of an IKEA store when my five-year-old granddaughter motioned for a small boy to stop. She knelt before him and retied his flopping shoelaces—she had only just learned to tie her own. No words were spoken, but after she finished, both smiled shyly, then turned to race off in different directions.”
Nadine Chandler, Winthrop, Massachusetts, “I was driving cross-country to start a new job. What began as a fun adventure turned into a nightmare when I realized I had run through most of my money and still had a ways to go. I pulled over and let the tears flow. That’s when I noticed the unopened farewell card my neighbor had shoved in my hand as I left. I pulled the card out of the envelope, and $100 dropped out—just enough to get me through the remainder of my trip. Later, I asked my neighbor why she had enclosed the money. She said, “I had a feeling it would help.”
A simple thought is, love always looks like Jesus. The Avett brothers, Scott and Seth, wrote, "The Ballad of Love And Hate". In the final words of the song, they capture what love looks like when Jesus wears love.
Love has been waiting, patient, and kind.
Just wanting a phone call or some kind of sign,
That the one that she cares for, who's out of his mind,
Will make it back safe to her arms.
Hate stumbles forward and leans in the door.
Weary head hung down, eyes to the floor.
He says "Love, I'm sorry", and she says, "What for?"
"I'm yours and that's it, whatever.
I should not have been gone for so long.
I'm yours and that's it, forever."
You're mine and that's it, forever.
I hear Jesus saying, “You're mine and that's it, forever.”