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    Sep 29, 2019

    Called to Love

    Called to Love

    Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:1-14:1

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Series: Paul, the Apostle

    I was taught years ago [when reading 1 Corinthians 13] that a great test of one’s spiritual life is to insert your name in place of the word love…starting with “love is patient.” ~Adam Hamilton

    The church in Corinth was – well – it was a mess.  Paul and Silas had established the Christian community there on the second missionary journey in a culture that was steeped in the religion of Greek mythology. Corinth was a huge city made wealthy by its position as a major trade route – in fact, as a trade route that made it possible to get from the east to the west much faster and a great deal safer  than other routes. 

    There were amazing temples – one was a big temple to Caesar Augustus of which only ruins of the foundation remain.  Another temple was dedicated to Apollo, the god of healing and medicine, music and poetry. 

    The top of Corinth’s acropolis, called the acrocorinth, was reserved for the temple celebrating Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  What you see at the highest peak is not Aphrodite’s temple, but the remains of a Byzantine chapel built on the foundations of Aphrodite’s temple.  It appears to have been huge.

    Imagine what it must have been like for Paul, Silas and Timothy to enter a city that had very few Jews and was overwhelmingly guided by its belief in Apollo and Aphrodite – the goddess of love where the temple was funded by a business based on the oldest profession in the world, if you know what I mean.

    Building a new community of faith in that environment was no small feat, in and of itself.  But imagine how much more challenging it was for the fledgling Christian community to begin to live out their faith, questioning the norms of their native culture – challenging almost all of their experience as Corinthians.  It is no wonder that they sent a letter to Paul a couple of years after he left Corinth asking him questions about promiscuity plus several other issues that were dividing the church.

     After founding the Corinthian Church, roughly in the year 53, Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled on to Ephesus, where he stayed for about 3 years.  While he was there he received a letter from one of the small groups in Corinth, a group that seems to have been led by a woman.  In First Corinthians 1:11 we find this information: 

    My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other.

    The first letter to the Corinthian church was written sometime around the year 54, in response to the questions contained in the letter from Chloe’s group.  In your bulletin is an outline of First Corinthians.  Take a look for a moment at the subjects covered.  First, in 3 big sections, Paul reminds the community of who they are and how important Christian unity is, even when we don’t agree with each other.

    Now look at the 4th big section entitled Responses to Contested Issues in Corinth.  This section is where Paul answers some of the more specific questions posed by Chloe’s group.  Nine of the 16 chapters of this letter are taken up with Paul’s response.  Notice the issue that takes up the most space:  Meat offered to idols – 3 whole chapters. 

    In a nutshell, Paul teaches – before the great Love chapter – that we are free from the worry of eating meat that could have been offered to idols, as long as we have considered what is the loving thing to do.  Will our freedom to eat the meat harm another Christian, perhaps someone who is newer to the faith and struggling?  Or would it harm someone who is poor or powerless and either can’t afford meat or is in a position where to refuse a powerful person’s generosity would be deeply offensive and possibly make them lose their job?  Before the great Love chapter, Paul has begun teaching that love is the aim of everything we do.

    Many of us have heard that great love chapter at countless weddings.  I’ve often wondered what Paul would think about that.  As you can see, his writing has nothing to do with romantic, intimate love but is all about the most basic aspect of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  In other words, Paul says that, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to love.

    Today, we are singing about this kind of love in all of the songs we sing, including the beautiful anthem the choir/band is going to sing in a moment.  We have heard sermons extolling the virtues of this kind of love many, many times.  Some of you can recite parts of this eloquent chapter of the Bible.  But I’d like to close with our reading it together – in the more familiar version than the one I asked the worship leaders to read today.

    However, we are going to read it with a difference.  When the slides come up, you will see that I have left blanks in the text beginning at verse 4.  As we read this chapter together, please insert your name in those blanks.  In our study book, Adam Hamilton wrote this:

    I was taught years ago that a great test of one’s spiritual life is to insert your name in place of the word love…starting with “love is patient.” 

    Then as the choir sings, and as we enter a time of prayer, I hope you will reflect on how your spiritual life and your witness in the world shows others that you, as 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, make love your aim – which, by the way, I think is the real conclusion of the thoughts expressed in chapter 13.

    Let’s read together: 

    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 ___________ is patient; ____________ is kind; ___________ is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. ____________does not insist on [my] own way; ________ is not irritable or resentful; 6 __________ does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________ 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.

    14:1Make love your aim.