Summary: An inductive sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 where you never say the word ’love’

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PORTRAITS OF ___________



As I begin my sermon, I would like to define something that seems as though it does not have just one definition. I don’t like words like that. I like words that have one definition and we can all be on the same page… but this word is a little different. There are hundreds of definitions… maybe even thousands. It seems that every culture defines it different. Every poet has his or her own twist. Every singer and song writer that chooses to speak about it has their own take. So how am I supposed to define something simply and easily for us when it is impossible for the rest of the world?!

I can describe it I guess, but maybe never define it. I know that it is not just a feeling, but an action. I know that it can be fleeting and superficial or deep and sacrificial. It can be used in the bedroom as well as after a child’s dance recital. It is used about husbands and wives and about tacos and chocolate.


Maybe a story will help… it is an old story… so maybe you have heard it. It is a story about Ted Stallard who undoubtedly qualifies as the one of "the least" in this world. Turned off by school. Very sloppy in appearance. Expressionless. Unattractive. Even his teacher, Miss Thompson, enjoyed bearing down her red pen -- as she placed Xs beside his many wrong answers.

If only she had studied his records more carefully. They read:

1st grade: Ted shows promise with his work and attitude, but (has) poor home situation.

2nd grade: Ted could do better. Mother seriously ill. Receives little help from home.

3rd grade: Ted is good boy but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died this year.

4th grade: Ted is very slow, but well-behaved. His father shows no interest whatsoever.

Christmas arrived. The children piled elaborately wrapped gifts on their teacher’s desk. Ted brought one too. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with Scotch Tape. Miss Thompson opened each gift, as the children crowded around to watch. Out of Ted’s package fell a gaudy rhinestone bracelet, with half of the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker. But she silenced them by splashing some of the perfume on her wrist, and letting them smell it. She put the bracelet on too.

At day’s end, after the other children had left, Ted came by the teacher’s desk and said, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother. And the bracelet looks real pretty on you. I’m glad you like my presents." He left. Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her and to change her attitude.

The next day, the children were greeted by a reformed teacher -- one committed to each of them. Especially the slow ones. Especially Ted. Surprisingly -- or maybe, not surprisingly, Ted began to show great improvement. He actually caught up with most of the students and even passed a few.

Time came and went. Miss Thompson heard nothing from Ted for a long time. Then, one day, she received this note:

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