Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany 2019, Year C — Preaching Notes
Greater Gifts Worship Series: LOVE
February 3, 2019 — Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
Week 4, The Heart of Our Gifts
This is the last Sunday of our “Greater Gifts” sermon series. We began with baptism and remembering our baptism as a gift from God that starts our journey. We then looked at how each of us has gifts and that it is important to discover, or in some cases re-discover, what those gifts are — AND to activate them — to put them into practice for the common good of others. And last week ,we explored the interconnectedness of each of us and each of the gifts that we bring to this community. We learned that we need one another in a fundamental way. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, we are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality . . . whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”1 So whether and how we use our God-given gifts, or fail to use our God-given gifts, actually affects more than just ourselves. Today, we are exploring a final and crucial piece to living into our “Greater Gifts.”
Children’s Moment Suggestion:
Ask: “How many of you like superheros?”
“Who are your favorite superheros?” (receive and repeat responses)
“If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?” (receive and repeat responses)
“In our text this morning from the book of Corinthians, the writer Paul, lists a bunch of amazing powers, or gifts, not unlike superhero powers. Listen to these:
If I can speak all the languages of the world and of heaven.
If I can see the future.
If I could tell a mountain move and it would move.”
“Do those sound like super powers to you?”
“Those would be some pretty amazing gifts, wouldn’t they?”
‘You could understand and speak all the languages of the world — Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French, German, Greek. That would be amazing.”
“You could look into the future and know exactly what would happen.”
“You could move things just by saying, ‘MOVE!’ – an entire mountain!”
“Now listen to what Paul wants us to understand:
- Even if we had any of these superpowers, it would not matter, if we did not have LOVE; that is, if we were not loving disciples.
- All the gifts or talents in the world,are not as important as the love within us.
- That’s how important love is to Paul.
There are a lot of things that seem important sometimes, but what is most important is our love for one another. Amen? Amen.”
Today we are looking at 1 Corinthians 13, the famous LOVE passage many of us know by heart, especially if you have been to a wedding recently. Hopefully, since week 2 of our “Greater Gifts” sermon series, you have had time to study and prayerfully reflect on the passages that list the various spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11-13). Our prayer is that this is an ongoing, perhaps yearly practice that you take up to discover what gifts God has given you and the best ways to activate them to serve others. And now that your gifts are becoming more clear to you, I want you to hold those and reflect on this morning’s passage, which tells us that none of those gifts matter if we don’t have love and if are gifts are not guided by love.
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.
13:2 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.
13:3 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.
All that we do in life, or are able to do, is meaningless, if we do not have love.
I recently saw the movie Christopher Robin. This i movie looks at what happened to Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, and friends from the 100 Acre Wood after Christopher Robin grew up. As adults, we are introduced to a hard-working Christopher Robin, who works for a luggage company. It becomes clear that Christopher Robin works long hours and seems to be having less and less time for his family. When weekend plans to go to the country with his family change due to work, his wife and daughter become very disappointed. His wife chides him for choosing work over his family and for missing out on the life that is right in front of him. Later, Winnie-the-Pooh asks Christopher if his “case of important papers” is more important than a red balloon, to which Christopher replies, “they are.” (Christopher Robin at this point in his life has given up all forms of play and replaced them with work.) Later in the film, Pooh asks Christopher Robin if his case of important papers is more important than his daughter. Christopher Robin pauses and then says, “of course not.” Christopher Robin is reminded of what is really important in life — his family and the quality of time spent with them.
So often, even in the church, it is easy for us to begin to value the wrong things: productivity over spirituality; effectiveness over a caring heart; people in the pews over lives transformed; being members over being disciples; power and position over service and servant-leadership. We can even begin to think so highly of our gifts that we forget to love. Paul reminds us that it does not matter how “successful” we are as a church if love does not flow through everything that we do.
Now that we are discovering and activating our gifts, understanding how we are dependent on one another, will we let love – love of God and love of neighbor guide us?
Jeff Campbell serves as the Executive Director of Conference Relationships at Discipleship Ministries. In this role, he connects with conference leadership to strengthen intentional disciple-making across the connection. Jeff is an ordained elder of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference and served churches in NJ prior to coming to Discipleship Ministries. He received his undergraduate degree in English, Linguistics, and Speech from the University of Mary Washington and his Master of Divinity degree from Drew Theological School.
1 King, M. L., & Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. (1968). "Letter from a Birmingham jail." Atlanta, Ga.: Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.