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Summary: Love controls everything about who God is and should be the controlling factor in our life as well.

LOVE FOUND A WAY

I CORINTHIANS 13:1-13 (NRSV)

FEBRUARY 3, 2013

FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, YEAR C

HARRISBURG, AR FARM HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

INTRO. Have you heard the story about the actor who was playing the part of Christ in the Passion Play at Eureka Springs, up in the Ozarks? As he carried the cross up the hill a tourist began heckling, making fun of him, and shouting insults at him. Finally, the actor had taken all of it he could take. So he threw down his cross, walked over to the tourist, and punched him out.

After the play was over, the director told the actor portraying Jesus, “I know he was a pest, but I can’t condone what you did. Besides, you’re playing the part of Jesus, and Jesus never retaliated. So don’t do anything like that again!” Well, the actor promised he wouldn’t. But the next day the heckler was back worse than before, and finally the actor exploded and punched him out again.

The director said, “That’s it. I have to fire you. We just can’t have you behaving this way while playing the part of Jesus.” The actor begged, “Please give me one more chance. I really need this job, and I can handle it if it happens again.” So the director decided to give him another chance.

The next day he was carrying his cross up the street. Sure enough, the heckler was there again. You could tell that the actor was really trying to control himself, but it was about to get the best of him. He was clenching his fists and grinding his teeth. Finally, he looked at the heckler and said, “I’ll meet you after the resurrection!” (From Melvin Newland, “The Most Excellent Way,” a sermon on I Corinthians 13:1-3, posted on www.sermoncentral.com).

When we think about how God looks at us, it’s pretty clear that love controls everything else about how God sees us. Since we are supposed to be like God and reflect who he is, that should be the controlling factor in our lives as well. Yet it seems that nothing is as misunderstood as love. H. Orton Wiley said that many people would say that love is self-surrender, but that is not love, but is weakness; and some people would say it is self-assertion, but that is not love either, but is selfishness. If there is going to be any chance of people seeing what love really is in us, then there must a balance between that self-surrender and self-assertion. John Wesley said that sanctification was nothing more nor less than pure love. Paul had experienced that love. What does he tell us about it?

I. LOVE IS OVER ALL (1-3). What reigns supreme? If you ask a lot of people that question on this particular day, they might say the Ravens or the 49ers. When it comes to that, I think the Ravens, but that’s another story, right? Last November, the answer might have been Obama or Romney. When we are honest, we might say our spouse, the job, money, or a variety of over possibilities. But what really reigns supreme? Paul claims it is love! Love is over all!

A. Love is greater than the wonderful (1-2). There are plenty of things in life that cause wonder in us. I saw on the news the other day a story about a surfer coming down what was possibly the highest wave ever surfed by a human being. That brought wonder out in me, as well as a thought or two about human stupidity and recklessness. George Beverly Shea used to sing:

VERSE 1

There’s the wonder of sunset at evening, The wonder as sunrise I see;

But the wonder of wonders That thrills my soul

Is the wonder that God loves me.

REFRAIN

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all! Just to think that God loves me.O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all! Just to think that God loves me.

VERSE 2

There’s the wonder of springtime and harvest, The sky, the stars, the sun;

But the wonder of wonders That thrills my soul

Is a wonder that has only begun.

REFRAIN

Whatever takes your breath away, whatever makes your heart go pitter-patter, love is greater than it.

B. Love is greater than self-sacrifice (3). In verse 3, Paul declares, “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.” Can we take him seriously? Is he for real? Remember, this is the same man who said, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), whom church tradition said was martyred during the time of Nero through beheading. Maybe he knew what he was talking about! What about you and me? Maybe we don’t have to take it to the furthest extent, at least not yet. But what if we gave all? What if we emptied out our piggy banks, our bank accounts, sold off our possessions, sold off our homes, gave the poor and needy the shirt off our back and the food off our plate? If that does not come with love, it means nothing!

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