“Becoming an Adult”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13, January 30th, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


“Listen now to the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth, found in 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 heard this scripture with our ears, let us open our hearts to grasp its meaning for us on this day.”

“Becoming an Adult”

As children of God, we each begin life as babies; totally dependent on our parents to care for us. Our needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter are provided by our caregivers. Prayerfully, they are loving adults who are responsible individuals and can make the necessary things of life available for our wellbeing. We each are born into this world, much like the baby Jesus, born of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, where they were forced to find shelter with some farm animals and baby Jesus was wrapped in pieces of cloth. The infant Jesus was dependent on the adults for his wellbeing. And so, it was. And so, it still is for every baby born into this world. From the beginning of life, we are totally reliant on adults to survive in this world. Prayerfully, the adults that take on the task of our early days, weeks, and months are equipped for the task. The undertaking of bringing children into this world is no small assignment. Hopefully the early years of our lives we are cared for with love by loving parents and caregivers. Preferably, selfless love, as the adults around us commit to our wellbeing. Indeed, our beginnings depend on the actions of the adults in our lives.

The prayer that ought to be forming in our hearts and minds this morning is “Who first gave that love to the adults who were so much a part of our upbringing?” And did we pass the love, which we received on to our children… so that they might pass the same nurturing love forward to their children, our grandchildren? Optimistically, we hope that then, our grandchildren shall pass this love to their children, our great grandchildren. Prayerfully, this continues forward from generation to generation. We know, because we are now adults, we know that adults only acquire what has been made available to them. Thankfully, even children that do not receive the love and care that they need as children – can and do make it to adulthood. However, it often takes a lot of effort and even a miracle oftentimes to help them become fully formed adults. Mature adults, filled with a loving heart, a kindhearted and generous nature, and a relationship with a God of their understanding. Miracles do happen and those of us who either experience them, or see such phenomena in others, know how truly special such transformations are. For those who are touched with such wonders such as God’s love, and transforming power, know that it takes a ‘willing heart and mind’ to be altered so ‘dramatically’ or even ‘gradually’ after a poor start in life.

The first verse of our lesson today, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, speaks of the importance of love. “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.” Unfortunately, we all know someone who is missing love in their hearts, despite the fact they eloquently speak of such matters. It is not always easy to spot this deficit in another.  Seems, we all have learned how to hide our true character from others at times.  And even from ourselves some of the time. Some are even able to hide their authentic identity from a few all the time. Yet, if we do not have love, agape love, which is of the holistic, all-inclusive, and complete love which is offered by God, we are lacking in the fullness of life which is offered to us all. The Apostle Paul speaks of the hollowness of our being if we are lacking this wholeness which comes from knowing the love of our Creator. “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.” /1 Corinthians 13:2/ 

Our writing this morning is a beautiful one.  Of which I have spoken of a great many times in my years as a pastor and most certainly within my preaching. Young couples often chose it for reading within the context of their wedding ceremonies, especially when done in a religious context. Possibly because of its simplicity in which it focuses on love. Prayerfully, their young love does come to ‘know’ and ‘appreciate’ the fulness of these inspired sentences composed by Paul. I have perhaps, like other pasters, I have had a lot of time to reflect on the full meaning of this passage, not just the poetic rhyme and rhythm of these words. “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.” /Corinthians 13:4-6/ A multitude of times pastors get to look into the very eyes of a young couple – as they commit to one another in the bond of marriage. Each phrase is worthy of an extra sentence or two.

“Love is patient” easy words to speak, yet, at times hard words to live by. Once the honeymoon is over, couples tend to go back to their childhood roots. If those around them taught them the art of patience, then there is a lot of ‘hope’ they will be able to be ‘patient’ with their new partner. If not, then things might be a a bit tense now and then till they develop this needed trait.  Prayerfully, they have a good support system and a relationship with God so that they get the help needed, as they develop these needed adult qualities. The same can be said about being kind. Young couples that know the full meaning of being kind can quickly utilize an attitude of kindness which shall give wonderful opportunities for them to bond more completely, as the challenges of sharing their lives with another becomes more and more challenging.

Also, Paul’s reference to what love is not – is very helpful.  Let’s just review these again.  Of course, I don’t have any of these faults and I am sure none of you do either.  Yet, reviewing them will be helpful as we try to warn others of how damaging their overuse can be in relationships. “Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.” These character flaws can fall on anyone of us. They often hid from our consciousness as they take on real life form. Jealousy is a difficult one to swallow, as when we become jealous, we are saying we have lost confidence or trust in another person’s interaction with others and possibly with things. True love does not distrust another. That does not mean we do not hold the other accountable when they do break their commitment to us. But to allow jealousy to flare up for the slightest of infractions is foolishness.  Paul seems to implicate issues such as becoming resentful or indulging in arrogance which can really complicate a relationship. Harboring such emotions will stunt one’s growth into mature relationships which we adults need to strive for.   

Not all of us here, are, or have been married.  Yet, we all naturally need or want to be in relationship with someone.  Even if it is a simple association as with a neighbor.  Truly, it is unwise to be arrogant or rude to one’s neighbor.  Nor is it wise to always insist things be done your way, or our way!  The art of compromise is not just for politicians to learn.  Everyday life requires that we find ways to find middle ground, even with the guy or gal next door, especially when it comes to little things like their ‘occasional gatherings’ at their home.  The extra cars in the street and in front of your home and the extra noise associated with gatherings.  If we don’t give them a little space, the time will come when we may want and need the same favor. A little give and take are good in many situations. How about that little lady that seems to have moved ahead of you in line when you were not paying attention. Be patient not arrogant in this situation. What does it matter that she is a bit slow? Someday, you will be also. True love of others does not necessitate that all things always go your way.      

Melissa Bane Sevier, in her writings back in 2013 speaks of the utopia we might experience, even in the real world in which we live, when we truly embrace the message of this passage. “Above the clouds of conflict and stress, we imagine the beauty, the simplicity, of loving each other despite our conflicts and differences.” Her words sound so poetic, yet ‘in life’s reality’ they are solid, sound, words of advice, for young couples, older parents, and everyone – no matter where we find ourselves in our life journeys. The truth is we need to work to rejoice in life’s realities every chance we get. If we focus too much or too often on another’s ‘wrongdoing’ we will be the perpetuators of conflicts – rather than the arbitrator who brings others together. If you have true love, of which the Apostle was speaking of in our lesson today, you will seek every opportunity to love others as they are, not as you would have them be.

Most of you hearing my voice today are adults or are striving to become adults. It is, therefore, each of our responsibility to become ‘mature’ adults.  Adults that give as much to society as we take. It is our obligation to work on ourselves striving to correct any shortcomings we have, so that we can become whole, in the eyes of our God. Mature adults take responsibility for their own lives and do not grow old complaining about how they were treated ‘way back then’ in our youth. Rather, we take to heart the teachings from scripture and from others who walk the talk of wholeness. Assuming we have come to believe in God’s influence in our lives, we shall share with others the love, the love which has been bestowed upon us as we journey the path of faith.  Adults who live in the light of God become the ray of hope which others surely need. Let us embrace Paul’s closing words in this scripture lesson as we complete our passage into true mature adulthood.  “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” /1 Corinthians 13:13/

Amen.     

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