#WeddingChoices is the reflection for January 31, 2016. When the would be bride asks for 1 Corinthians 13 to be read at her wedding, I cringe. She really has no idea what she is asking. If she thinks it is about her husband listening and being attentive to HER then she has another things coming. Mark Kurowski reflects on his this passage applies to each and every one of us. Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #Sermon #Homily #Wedding #Bride #WeddingPlanner #Husbands #SevenDeadlySins #Lust #Gluttony #Envy #Pride #Greed #Sloth #Anger #Corinth #AegeanSea #MSAWordfortheDay#MySpiritualAdvisor
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/31/2016 The 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read 1 Corinthians 13.
1 Corinthians 13 is the perfect passage to read at a wedding. It is not because it actually says what brides think it says. They think, flowers, chocolates, a doting and attentive husband. They think, most of all, a husband who will let them do whatever they want to do as he is ‘patient, kind, and does not insist upon his own way.’ Whenever a bride would choose this passage for a wedding, I would secretly cringe because this passage clearly falls into the category of ‘be careful for that which you ask of God.’ Here is why.
Corinth is a city that is in modern day Greece. It sits on an isthmus between the Aegean Sea and Lake Iraiou, a major waterway to the Ionian Sea. Both of these bodies of water are just north of the Mediterranean Sea. It is and has always been a busy, bustling, heavily travelled passageway between major waterways.
Why would I talk about geography to start a sermon on Corinthians? Well, because geography is important in shaping the customs of a people. It always has an impact on the thought processes for the peoples of a region. In this case, there was a canal built to allow passage of ships along this Corinthian Isthmus. With ships came sailors. With sailors came a constant stream of ideas from foreign places. With sailors came men who had been at sea without sexual gratification for some time.
It ought to be no surprise to us that the First Letter to the Corinthians was written to a community that was impacted by all of these things that living on a passage way between two highly traveled bodies of water brings with it. Paul opens the letter with the famous discourse about how fractured the Church is based upon differing ideas and loyalties to who is claimed to have presented those ideas. As we see in the opening chapter, he has that famous diatribe, “Some say I follow Paul, or I follow Cephas, or I follow Apollos, or I follow Christ.” There are clearly divisions in this church.
The cause of those divisions is the human need to be important, to be right, to have the comfort of knowing that there is one place in that person’s life, maybe our life, where we are clearly in control and have a claim based upon an authority that we choose to recognize. Pride, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, and Anger are the Seven Deadly Sins because from them people kill. They kill careers, relationships, organizations, human beings, and local churches. They usually kill to advance their own cause. All of these things were in full bloom at Church Corinth.
Man, they used everything to beat each other up. There are sections on sexual immorality, lawsuits between church members, marriage fights, fighting over food offered to idols, who has the right to be an apostle and how, how head coverings should be or should not be worn, and the way people came and received the Lord’s Supper. Some things never change, if you look at social media and churches in general. On top of it all, they started arguing about whose spiritual gifts, which they received from the Lord, were better and more important to the church. That local church was a mess!
I used to have a bishop who warned us during the formation process for ordination, “Be careful, I just might assign you to First Church Corinth.” Unwittingly, for some of us, he did anyway. It is to these people that St. Paul says, “I became your father through the gospel.” Whew! What a job!
It is upon this foundation that we come to Paul’s answer to all of that; to those claims to have gifts of angelic tongues, gifts of prophetic powers, gifts of understanding of mysteries, gifts of faith that moves mountains, gifts of giving away all our possessions, or the gift of being a willing martyr for the faith. His answer to all the competition, all the rancor, all the claims to superiority is this: if you have not love, you are nothing.
Being a member of a church is not a competition. It is not a showcase for how smart we are, how good we dress, how pious we can be, how articulate, or anything else, unless our gifts are used with due appreciation for the gifts of others. It would be entirely silly for a pastor, priest, or bishop to stand in the middle of an empty church on a Sunday. How would a priest, pastor, or bishop know how to make decisions if he or she didn’t listen to the people who possessed gifts that would be hurt or helped by their decisions? How could we make it as a church if there were no one to wash the bathrooms, fix the broken things, mend the things torn, or organize a ministry? Although preaching and presiding are the key and the Eucharist, Holy Communion, is the zenith of our faith, we need each other and our gifts for our churches to be a mission post for the Gospel. Each one of us needs to be on the same page of how to treat one another. No matter how important we think we are, we are not so important that we cannot negate our gifts of the Holy Spirit by lacking love.
You can address just about any character flaw in someone else if they know you love them. If they know you as a person who is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, or rude, then they will let you into their world. If they know you as a person who is not irritable or resentful, but a person who rejoices in the truth, then they will have a sense of safety that only God’s presence can bring. If they know you as a person who bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, then they will know that you are going to give them the fair shot that no one else in the world seems to be able to do. Paul is saying that in our churches that is how we are supposed to behave, toward one another!
The example for us in this is God himself. Those who reject Christianity often go this riff: God is a judgmental God who insists I do what he wants or he will condemn me to hell. What they do not know is that God loves them, even when they insist he isn’t there. He makes his rain fall upon the evil and the good, so they are included. He makes the sun shine on the righteous and the unrighteous.
I hate to tell people this, but God is not going to insist that you follow him. God is not going to be rude to you if you present your arguments to him. It is like the old sermon from a book on Slave Preachers of America that had the title, “Young Man, Your Arms Are Too Short to Box with God.” His left hook is one of mercy. His right cross is one of forgiveness. God is not limited like us. The Father in heaven allows his children to go their way. So, come to the altar and give your life to Jesus, go through the Rite of Christian Initation for Adults, whatever, but God is going to love you no matter what.
He will bless us if we follow or don’t follow. The difference between a childlike petulant faith (or no faith), and an adult faith is this: adults have gratitude, children often don’t. Adults walk side by side with another person and do not insist upon things that are not for the good of everyone involved. They know how to ask for what they need and advocate for those who cannot. Adults stand up in the morning and take on the day with purpose, knowledge of who they are and whose they are. Adults possess wisdom of experience that lets them know how to apply one commandment that tells us to not let the right hand know what the left is doing and another that says we should be practicing our faith like cities shining on hill for all to see. Adults have patience, watching how things play out, waiting when it is prudent to move. Adults look at the whole picture of the situation, evaluate everyone’s needs, not just their own, and then give selflessly for the upbuilding of the body.
Paul is saying simply, “Listen, youth enamored culture, petulant person who purports to be the be all and end all of faith: grow up.” Furthermore, those who grow up know how to love. The most important thing is love. There should be no place in the world where love is practiced more than in the Church, because we know how to love in the example of Jesus on the Cross.
We must examine ourselves, you and me. We must ask ourselves about our motives and be honest about them. Are we loving like the Father in heaven? Are we using our gifts in the Church in such a way that it builds up the entire body? Are we a petulant child in the faith or are we an adult with mission and purpose? These are questions that we must ask ourselves as we read this passage in 1 Corinthians 13. They can be startling and brutal, but good and healing.
So, I know that brides think this passage is about flowers, chocolates, a doting and attentive husband. They think, most of all, a husband who will let them do whatever they want to do as he is ‘patient, kind, and does not insist upon his own way.’ Little did they know, this passage isn’t so much talking about how others should treat us, but how we ought to be and how we ought to treat others. Amen.
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