Summary: In baptism we have been called as agents of God's love

February 3, 2019

Hope Lutheran Church

Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The Greatest of These Is Love

Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Two weeks ago, I was rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints, so it was a disappointing day for me. But it was fantastic football to watch! Both games ended in last minute ties and had to go into overtime.

Who will win tonight’s big game? What will be the most memorable commercials? Will the halftime show go off without any glitches? We don’t know now, but all will be revealed by the evening’s end.

“God only knows.” That’s what we say when we don’t know how a situation will evolve. Truer words could not be spoken. The God of yesterday, today and tomorrow – the God of eternity – knows all our days in full. Our story rolls along one day at a time, but the divine Eternal One knows all our days in full.

We hear this morning the call story of Jeremiah. God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Wow. The actions of an infant being formed in the womb are fantastic enough!

King David pondered that wonder in Psalm 139:

For you formed my inward parts,

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for you are fearful and wonderful.

Wonderful are your works!

You know me right well;

my frame wasn’t hidden from you

when I was being made in secret,

intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

It’s something like a small miracle to behold a baby in utero. Parents delight when they see those first grainy images of their expectant child in an ultrasound photo.

So it’s wondrous enough to think that God was there, in the womb, forming us in secret. But God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you, I knew you!” Jeremiah was on God’s radar screen before Jeremiah ever was! God only knows!

God tells Jeremiah, “Before you were born, I consecrated you, and I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.” The God of yesterday, today and tomorrow had a plan for Jeremiah to speak the word of the Lord.

A little later today we’ll celebrate two baptisms. Little Archer and Briella will enter the waters of the covenant. Who will they be? What’s in store for the remainder of their days? How will their lives unfold? Only God knows. We know now, only in part. But some day, we will know fully.

Something significant will happen in those baptisms, as significant as God’s call to Jeremiah. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you came to the waters of baptism, I knew you. You, Archer; you Briella; you, Linda; you, Steve; you, Evelyn. I knew you. And I knew the plans I have for you.”

Each of us have been appointed for tasks no less important than those of Jeremiah. We are to be an ambassador of God’s kingdom of light in our time and place. We are called to be agents of God’s peace in a world that knows no peace.

This is about our higher calling. The Lord touched Jeremiah’s lips and put words into his mouth. And we were touched by God at our baptisms and sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Today we’ve also heard one of the most revered passages from the Bible, the Love Chapter from 1 Corinthians. The words soar. Paul perfectly captures the beauty and power and enduring capacity of love.

This passage starkly contrasts to the ugly state of affairs that were present in the Corinthian church. The acuity of the situation prompted Paul to write this letter. His argument to them comes to its apex in this beautiful chapter.

Corinth was a highly cosmopolitan community. Compare New York City with tiny Fall Creek. Corinth was like New York. It was the happening place! If you wanted variety, it was there. Anything cutting edge could be found in Corinth. So they already thought highly of themselves.

And then to further charge the situation, some members in that young Christian community had been touched with unique gifts of the Holy Spirit, like speaking in tongues and prophecy. It led to an environment where some in their fellowship had become puffed up. They looked down on others who were not similarly blessed. It led to a divided community with a disrespectful and hostile atmosphere.

Here they were full of gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they lacked one thing – the all-important center.

When a potter throws a pot, they have to keep the clay centered on the wheel or the whole pot becomes wrecked. When surveyors draw a map, they need to remain grounded in their focal point, or all boundaries go awry.

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