Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
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. 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. 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.
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. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
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. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
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. 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. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
How interesting that the Lectionary Preaching Calendar puts the Call of Jeremiah today – on the day that we will install the newest members of Trinity’s Church Council. It is tradition here at trinity to ordain council members.
Ordain comes from the latin work ordio – to put into order and commonly ordination understood as a public act and a community’s affirmation of someone being called by God to a specific task. And God’s call is not always an easy thing.
Often our first response to being called by God is to say no – there is plenty of evidence of that in the Bible. Abraham, Moses, Jonah, the prophet Isaiah – they all wanted to say no but eventually they – and we – end up saying yes. And Jeremiah, the prophet from our first reading today, certainly struggled with God’s call. At first, he tried to blow off God, "No God, you must be wrong! I am too young, and I really don’t know a thing. Surely, it cannot be me you want for whatever you need done."
But God wouldn’t hear that. And, at the end, God prevailed because God knew what god was doing and Jeremiah was whom God wanted and – well – when God calls us there is no turning away. Jeremiah learned that and – I admit – so did I and many others. Maybe even our new council members. But God’s call is not just for pastors or council members.
God calls every single one of us. And God uses us in whatever way God deems right, to work toward making God’s dream for this world happen – and that dream is love – living with God and with each other in absolute love. God’s love. Agape love. God's divine and holy love. Unlimited love.
We hear about God’s love over and over in scripture. The probably most well know verses are our beautiful epistle reading for today. Paul, like Jeremiah, was called by God to proclaim a message of God’s love to the world. And did he ever…Let’s hear it one more time, this time from a different translation of the Bible:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (The Message)
“All you need is love,” the Beatles told us – but Tina Turner responded by wondering “What’s Love got to do with it?”. “I will always love you”, Dolly Parton retorts.
A much used and at times abused word. Singers sing about it. Poets dream about or lament it. Writers fill pages and pages about it. And movies – oh so many movies about finding love, losing love, wanting love…
In my ministerial profile was a question about what I was passionate about – and my answer was love. I wrote:
“Fighting hunger and poverty, peace, and justice - these and more are things I am passionate about; however, to me, they all come together in this thing called “Love”. … Love makes us want for others what we have and, even more, it leaves no room for injustice or oppression. To love is to lavishly pour out that love for others without expectations or regrets…
Scripture tells us to love God and to love one another (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27) and Jesus told his disciples “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). I believe that love is at the heart of the Good News…
… love is what brings hope and healing to broken lives and our broken world..."
So, yes, I obviously agree with the Beatles when they say “Love is all you need”. I feel called to love and proclaim God’s love. Love is a big thing. Nevertheless, I wonder if we really understand what it means to love, what the difference is between being in love and loving, or just what it means to do things in Christian love.
I guess Paul wondered too. Or rather – he didn’t think people understood.
Our Epistle reading may sound like a love letter, hence its wide popularity as a reading for weddings, but instead it really was more of an admonishment to the church of Corinth. Our Ode to Love from today is part of a longer letter in which “Paul instructs his churches to bear witness to the power and authority of the Christ by the way they live.”. Our verses for today are about love within a divided and divisive community – they are a message more to those contemplating divorce than those at the beginning of a marriage. And with his Ode to Love, Paul is trying to remind the community of who they are called to be.
In the preceding chapter, you may remember from last week’s sermon, Paul talks about the body of Christ, explaining how communities live together, how we are all individually members of one body. Paul writes about unity in diversity; that all people should be treated justly and with respect, no matter what their gifts and graces are – be it they are apostles, prophets, teachers, healers, leaders, speakers of tongues or others. Knowing this, it seems that the Corinthians had trouble to welcoming all people equally. It seems they had been busy sorting people into difference classes, depending on their socioeconomic backgrounds and even their spiritual gifts. No, Paul tells them, while some gifts may not be as highly regarded as others, people aren’t less because of them. And, at any rate, when one member suffers, all the members suffer, so treat the weaker members, those with lower social, economic, or political status, with even greater respect and care. All are worthy, all have a purpose, and all are needed – and yes, sure – strive for those gifts that are greater – but there is a more excellent way of being than being defined by these gifts: The way of love.
Tina Turner might think love is a second-hand emotion – but Paul strongly disagrees. What’s love got to do with it? EVERYTHING. In fact, all you need is love. We can say all the right words and give all that we have – but it its nothing without love, Paul says. Without love, we do everything for ourselves and we seek pleasure or comfort at the expense of others. Without love, we make ourselves feel good and look good in the eyes of others. With love on the other hand, our gifts no longer enrich ourselves but everybody we encounter and the community we live in. Love is the glue that holds us together and connect us to the bigger story of God. Our gifts and graces are useless only for us – their power lies in using them in love and for the good of all.
And God’s is calling each of us to love.
Love is more than a noun, it’s a verb, an action.
We are called by God.
Called to love.
Called to speak in love.
Called to serve in love.
Called to give in love.
Called to be love just as God is love.
Love, love, love…
This is our message for today: Love is what it’s all about
 The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Oxford Press