Love Never Ends
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Pastor Megan Torgerson
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If we were all here in person, I’d ask you to raise your hands if some portion of today’s scripture had been read at your wedding or your parents’ wedding or any wedding you’d been to in the past year. I suspect I’d see a lot of hands. As I often tell couples who stand before me at their weddings and hear this verse, the list of what love is probably feels overwhelming: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, compassion, forgiveness, love, peace, thankfulness, and praise. It’s a tall order. Are they sure that’s the tone they want to set on the very first day of their married lives?
But it’s not only couples getting married who should be nervous when they hear this passage. It’s all of us. This chapter does not describe romantic love – at least, not only that. The apostle Paul wrote it to challenge a community of faith facing conflict and division.
He calls them to live together in love, a love that is patient and kind, not envious or arrogant or rude or irritable or resentful. A love that rejoices in truth, not lies or conspiracies or flouting the rules. A love that can bear anything, can endure anything, can believe and hope all things.
It’s a call to us, now, here. In this chapter, Paul reminds us how we will act towards each other today as a Christian community and as a nation made of many. We will act in love. And if we claim we act in love, but instead embody selfishness or impatience or resentment or pride or arrogance – then we are just noisy gongs or clanging cymbals. We’re just making noise. We gain nothing. We are nothing.
The very fact that we celebrate the young people of this church and their thirteen difficult and beautiful years of learning, challenge, and achievement with a video – this is an act of love. Out of love, our seniors have set aside commencements and parties and ceremonies and robes and all the pomp and circumstance that this year should have been. Because love does not insist on its own way, they have – in love – acted to keep their grandparents and godparents and friends and church families safe. They have put aside childish ways and lived in a difficult, mature love, setting aside celebration and acclaim in favor of an act of love that keeps our entire community healthy and well as best as they possibly can.
What the sacrifice of our graduates shows us is what married couples learn very quickly, which is what Paul tries to explain to the beloved and embattled church of Corinth to whom he writes this letter. Love helps us understand that our futures are bound to the futures of others. Love shows us that what we want will not always grant a future full of hope for anyone else. Love holds us accountable to the needs of others, constantly balancing our love for ourselves with our love for our God and our love for our neighbor.
When Paul wrote this letter, he wrote it to a church struggling to find any unity. This diverse church in Corinth had believers from many different backgrounds. Some of them thought your body should be treated puritanically with denial and restriction. Others thought the body didn’t matter, and you should use and abuse it as you wish. Paul responds by saying: these bodies matter. What you do with them doesn’t just matter to you, but to God, and to others. He advises them to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of others, adopting behaviors that might feel restrictive or unfamiliar, but which best embodied love for the sake of all.
Whether you are a married couple figuring out how to meld your habits and quirks, or a graduate figuring out how to let go of what you’ve earned for the sake of what is needed, or a society figuring out how do what is necessary for the wellness of all, not just a few – no matter who you are, Paul’s call to love is for you today. And it’s tough. It’s a word of challenge. It’s a call to action. It should make you feel overwhelmed.
We do not do this work alone. We do it empowered by the Spirit who works through us, giving us the wisdom to see through selfishness and resentment, giving us the courage to act in fear and loss, giving us the endurance to live through uncertainty and exhaustion. Graduates, that same Spirit goes with you as you look to a year ahead that cannot be fully known. It will guide you in love and hope, just as it has always done. That Spirit abides in us, people of God, as we support them as they continue on to whatever God has called them to – and it abides in us as we make hard, faithful, loving choices for the good of our neighbors.
Students, families, people of God – serve in love which bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. You cannot go wrong. Thanks be to God. Amen