Summary: Of all the spirtual gifts, the Apostle Paul tells us that the greatest is love.
Love: The Greatest Power in the World
January 28, 2007
As I begin this sermon today, I am admittedly stepping out on what some might perceive as thin ice. I have Christian brothers and sisters who will vehemently disagree with much of what I am going to say. But this is my view and I hope you will at least listen and try to understand my position. You may find it interesting, to say the least, that I use a colorful and controversial character to try to teach some truth. Maybe you will accuse me of trying to lead this congregation over the edge. Stick with me and we will see. We can always talk about it later.
A few years ago, a huge phenomenon hit the publishing world. His name was Harry Potter. J.K Rowling of Great Britain began to weave these wonderful stories of young Harry, a wizard in training at the Hogswarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I might as well confess to you right up front that I have read all of them: The Sorcerer’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, and The Half-Blood Prince. The seventh and final volume is due to be published later this year, and I’m waiting.
There has been so much controversy surrounding these books. Many parents have embraced these books because they have actually gotten their children to read. Other parents are worried about the issues of witchcraft, which may be teaching our children harmful things.
I personally think that they are wonderful stories about friendship, loyalty, and the battles of good vs. evil. But I have tried to be sensitive to the issues surrounding the books. One of the things that those books did for me was to take me back to C.S. Lewis to read all of his “Narnia Chronicles;” another series of children’s fantasy books that have had a great impact of a couple of generations of children now. I think that our children are smart enough to know what is real and what is fantasy. I think they know the difference between Disney Land and reality. Whether we are talking about Narnia’s magical creatures or Hogwart’s wizards, giants, and flying broomsticks, I think kids know the difference between those things and reality.
I took a couple of days away this week for a study retreat. I picked up and started to read a book titled, “”If Harry Potter Ran General Electric: Leadership Wisdom from the World of Wizards” (Tom Morris. 2006. New York: Doubleday). The author says that “there is real wisdom to be found in each of these books about friendship, adversity, success, leadership, honesty, courage, loyalty, love, and ethics that can help anyone live a better and more accomplished life.” Beneath all of the magic and suspense, the author says that “the real power that drives the Harry Potter stories, and indeed the human story – is love.” That is the message of Professor Dumbledore when he tells Harry that, “Love is the greatest power in the world.
There is a lot of discussion among church growth experts today that one of the reasons that men are not attracted to the church in the same way that women are attracted, is that the church tends to use “soft” language and symbols. When the church talks about things like love, that language doesn’t speak to the masculine mindset. Men, they say, want to do “manly” things and use masculine language, but the church continues to use more feminine language. All this talk of “love” fits into the feminization of the church, they say.
The problem is, that this is the exact language the Apostle Paul uses, and I don’t think we can readily discount Paul’s masculinity. He traveled all over the Middle East and by his own accounts was under constant stress. In II Corinthians, he noted:
I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought we my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut (11:23-29).