“Be Patient and Kind”
1 Corinthians 13: 1-13l
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from First Corinthians, chapter thirteen, verses one thru thirteen.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
1 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 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing – but rejoices in the truth. 7 It 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.
“Having listened to the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the struggling new church in Corinth, let us now open our hearts and minds to its deeper meaning. Let us consider how his words apply to our lives today.”
“Be Patient and Kind”
The Apostle Paul offers us a ‘vision’ in this poetic, beautiful and well-known passage which he presents to us – in his letter to the early church in Corinth. This writing is often read during wedding ceremonies as it is such an uplifting and practical guide to forming lasting relationships. Young couples and older couples alike, often come to me to plan their weddings and they have that unmistakable twinkle in their eyes. They are in love! They pick this beautiful passage because their hearts hear the words of love within the writing and it touches them. Their wedding shall begin a joining of their lives forming a vision of joy, and happiness and never-ending love, like that which they are experiencing as they plan out their wedding. As a pastor, I always say a prayer, that they will listen to all of what the scripture passage says to them; as it is a set of suggestions which if followed will assist them in fulfilling their dreams, their shared visions for the future.
My observation, over the years, is that relationships that grow stronger over time, are those which work to develop plans, that include collaborative agreements between those whom are involved. This is in contrast to the approach too many broken relationships which collapse are lured into. This is where one individual, or group, have gone their own way without building trust and reaching collective consensus and agreement – before making major decisions, as-well-as when making lessor choices along the way. No one truly wants their relationships to come to such an end. Yet, without some type of structure, some shared vision or plan, this is often the case. Even when true love is in the mix and the relationship is formed with good intent and potential, if the shared dream, the shared goals and aspirations are not renewed and lifted-up along the way, a relationship can begin to drift and flow on the ‘ebb and tide’ of outside influences and pressures. Consequently, rather than grow, a relationship can begin to drift and ultimately cease to exist. When this happens the vision that formed the relationship ceases to exist as well.
New relationships as-well-as current and long-lasting relationships need to know how to successfully negotiate situations and potential conflicts before they arise. Conflict tends to come up when people stop following the simple guidelines which the Apostle Paul put forth in his letter. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing – but rejoices in the truth.” /1 Corinthians 13: 4-6/ Pastor Karoline Lewis speaks on how to approach a conflict when it flares up in any relationship. “…no matter where we go or who we are, there is and will be disagreement and division. The answer is not to erase, pretend it doesn’t exist, or think it will eventually go away, but to embrace more fully how to live into it, among it, and with it in love — because God is love.” /Karoline Lewis/
Our lesson this morning, passed onto us for our use in modern life, is all about love; beginning with God’s love. Verse 4 thru 6 in our reading from the Apostle Paul’s letter gives us the basic instructions for how a loving couple might set the tone for such a discussion. Yes: Love is patient! Therefore, approach a disagreement with an attitude of loving patience as we take time to hear what the other is working to express! Couples need to work their way through the guidelines which Paul has laid out. Using patience and kindness, not allowing envy or their ego to interfere in their discussions as they work to get back on track and keep their relationship grounded in the abundance of God’s love for their success. If people in any type of relationship were to follow these simple guidelines… with diligence, they will ultimately rejoice in the truth of their shared understanding of the integrity of the details of their shared ideas. From there they can continue building a lasting and living relationship that will bear much fruit, fruit that shall last!
As we enter into relationships, whether it be in a marriage or a family or even in a community such as we have here in our church. Ultimately, we want to be able to relax and enjoy our times together. Yes, even here in this sanctuary, people come for a variety of reasons. People such as we, we want to feel safe as we come together and worship in our traditional and contemporary way. We want to be able to simply relax, enjoy the fellowship, relaxing as we listen to uplifting praise music and hymnody. These elements help us to live into the message of the day, expressed through word and prayer, thereby, renewing our spirits and allowing the Spirit of God to renew and refresh us from the inside out. Personal one on one relationships need this same level of comfort also. When we develop mutually agreed parameters and guidelines for our times together, we eliminate the stress of disagreement. No one likes rules, yet they also set boundaries and structure which allows relationships to flourish. Even our structure that clarifies who cleans the floor who buys the groceries and who pays the bills and in our case as a congregation; who writes and prints the bulletins and buys the music etc. All these aspects are necessary in a successful family and in a joyful and uplifting worship service.
Structure is a key element. Way too often couples, families, as-well-as many forms of groups and communities begin breaking down when they start struggle over their structure and how, whatever quantity of money they have, shall be used in their joint enterprise which can take on a multitude of shapes, sizes, and/or purposes. The shared aspirations of a newly married couple will need a bit of structure, a bit of agreed shape and form in order to allow their newly formed coupling to grow and flourish. Likewise, an aging couple, together perhaps for one or multiple decades, will also need to reevaluate their structure, their arrangement, their style of living to be sure it still brings them to the same shared principles and goals thru shared tasks which they have divided among themselves ‘over time’ to accomplish. That ‘ebb and tide’ referenced earlier is indeed present, as relationships, like the tide, are in constant motion. With maturity, couples, groups and even churches, learn that sometimes things do not flow as expected. Consequently, everyone is not always able to do their fair share as planned and hoped for. That textbook model of shared responsibilities becomes blurred as at times one person or one group of individuals are compelled out of need and necessity to over compensate for another’s shortcomings. This is something all adults are forced to accept.
As we allow ourselves to dwell within the nurturing words of love and how to keep it strong and vital, we can come to understand how we can use this lesson to speak of many differing types of relationships, which we have already touched on. Paul’s words speak to all of us whom allow this teaching into our hearts, not just couples approaching the celebration of their union. Here in our mutual relationship as a community of faith, these words speak to us as we seek to renew our vision as a church. Remembering always that sometimes, it is necessary to reinforce that which we already know. Take for example what is generally understood as the purpose and goal of church community. Melissa Bane Sevier is a minister, writer, and photographer. She expresses for us what most already know. “Love, real love, is implanted in our souls by God. When we see someone else hurting, our hearts go out to them. It’s natural.” /Melissa Bane Sevier/ Knowing this… is only the beginning.
Take for example this statement: “Our vision is to continue thinking openly, believing passionately, and serving boldly!” Great words! Offering a true opportunity for visioning how we shall live into the future. Yet, these words need to be attached to actions, verbs – which translate into truly reaching out to our neighbors; especially those our hearts go out to! We must ask ourselves, is it the thinking and believing which propels us to serve? How do we serve? Is there perhaps more which we can do? God’s love for us is boundless and infinite. Is our willingness to serve the people of God as endless and vast? As we grapple with this, we shall need to clarify what are capabilities currently are and whom it is we are trying to minister to. These are the things which we shall wrestle with, as we learn more from the assessment which the New Beginnings program consultants are currently working on, at our request. Let us, therefore, keep our hearts and minds engaged in the beautiful words of the Apostle Paul, as his letter urges us to embrace a deeper understanding of a relational ‘ebb and flow’ of God’s love: flowing to and through us in our mutual ministry and relationships, as we serve the people of God.