Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Massillon Ecumenical Lenten Service, 2019

MACA Combined Lenten Service
April 3, 2019
Forty Corners C.O.G.
1 Corinthians 13

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Through this Lenten season, in these Wednesday night services, we’re focusing on 1 Corinthians 13, which is all about love.  The way the pastors split things up, I was fortunate enough to end up talking about love, wrongdoing, and truth.  So you can imagine the other pastors’ jealousy!  Here’s the snippet I ended up with:  Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  (Some translations say “rejoices in the right,” but since the Greek word is alathea, I’m going to stick with “rejoices in the truth.”)

So, I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but there is some political division in our country these days.  Maybe it’s just me . . . and everyone I’ve ever met . . . but we do seem divided.  Like irreconcilably divided.  Each person says the others are doing things wrong, and that they alone have the truth.  And include myself when I say each person says that.  I have the truth, and you are all a bunch of wrongdoers.  Across both sides of the political aisle people point and say, you are wrongdoers; I have the truth.

And in these divided times, I am so grateful that we all come together week after week through Lent to worship our creator and redeemer.  Because I know we’re not all on the same page when it comes to politics.  I mean I’ve seen the bumper stickers!  But for these couple hours on Wednesdays in Lent, we keep choosing to gather together to share a meal, provide hospitality to our neighbors, and raise our voices together in song. There is unity here, and that is good.

When we all gather in our own worship silos on Sunday mornings, it’s easy to begin to think that the other churches are doing it wrong, and that my own church has the truth.  When you compare the worship at St. Timothy’s last Wednesday and the worship experience we are sharing tonight at Forty Corners, they could hardly be more different, right?  And yet, it is the same God we worship, the same risen Jesus we follow, the same Holy Spirit who gathers and sanctifies us.  In God’s wisdom, there are many varieties of worship styles, which means there’s a place for everybody.  The Church is God’s gift to us, with a place for every person of every time and place.  Nobody is “doing it wrong,” and nobody exclusively has the truth.

And speaking of doing it wrong, let me go to the Greek text for a moment, which every preaching professor tells you never to do.  The original Greek that gets translated as “wrongdoing” is adikia.  And, interestingly, Adikia was the Greek goddess of injustice and wrong-doing. She was usually depicted as an ugly, barbarian woman with tattooed skin. Her opposite number was Dike’ (or Justice) who was sometimes depicted beating her with a club.  Justice beating wrongdoing with a club.  That makes sense.  Wrongdoing and Justice are opposites.  So, in this section of his letter to the Corinthians, we would expect Paul to say, “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in Justice.”  But instead, Paul writes, “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth.”

Why is that?  I mean, the opposite of wrongdoing is behaving.  And the opposite of truth is falsehood.  Wrongdoing and truth are not opposites.  Like, we expect someone to say, “I prefer Pepsi to Coke,” but we do not expect someone to say, “I prefer Pepsi to pretzels,” right?  What is it about love that makes it not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rather rejoice in the truth?

This question got me to thinking about the kind of love Paul is talking about in this portion of his letter to the Corinthians.  If we back up a little bit, to the end of the 12th chapter of this letter, Paul is addressing their squabbles and infighting.  That’s the section where he says different believers have different gifts.  Some are teachers, some are apostles, some are healers.  And he finishes that chapter by saying, “And now I will show you a more excellent way.”  (I love that sentence!)  And now I will show you a more excellent way. And then we get chapter 13, all that stuff about love.  But what kind of love?

At the risk of getting a failing grade from my preaching professor, I feel like I need to explain that there are three kinds of love in Greek.  There is brotherly love called philia, from which we get Philadelphia.  And there is romantic love called eros, from which we get our word erotic.  And there is the kind of love Paul is talking about here, which is agape’ love, or unconditional love.  This is the kind of love God has for us.  This is the kind of love that never gives up, never dries up, never goes away.  No matter what.

And so that kind of love, that unconditional love, does not rejoice in the wrong but rejoices in the truth.  Notice that there is no condemnation in that statement.  I think there’s a temptation in the church to focus on what we think God condemns.  If you and I were writing this passage, we might naturally be more apt to say, “Love condemns wrongdoing, but Love does not condemn the truth.”  But that’s not how love works—not this kind of unconditional love at least.  There is no condemnation in love. 

And that’s why there is nothing about condemnation, or disappointment, or rejection in this passage.  There is only love.  We don’t know what love condemns.  Or if love condemns.  But we do know what love does not rejoice in.  And we do know what love does rejoice in—and that is the truth.

In these divided times, let us come together in love and truth.  Let us choose what we rejoice in, rather than what we condemn.  May God give us the grace to treat one another with love, to rejoice in the truth of the Gospel, and to lay down our lives in service to our neighbors.


No comments:

Post a Comment