yearC epiphany 4

This Week's Sermon:

         1 Corinthians 13:1-13  -  Faith, Hope, and Love   
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In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul gives us his amazing analysis of love. He suggests that it is a progression. It is preceded by faith and hope. Without these two essential ingredients, you cannot have the zenith expression of love. Love is first because, as John says, "God is love."

There is no place that can go and escape the love of God. No matter how deep our shortcomings, frustrating our defeats, or difficult our failures, love is capable of carrying us through. With that in mind, I would like for us to examine what Paul saw as the three pillars of the Christian faith.


Now abide these three--faith. Christianity would not exist without it. By Faith Abraham was justified. By Faith, Moses demanded before the king, "Let my people Go." By faith, Jesus said, we are able to move mountains. By faith, the Apostle Paul said, we are justified. By faith! There is no other way for us to come to God. We cannot reach him by our works. In that we have failed. By faith we come and then we learn of love. When we believe that God has loved us in Christ, it is then that we are free to love others. There can be no loving action in Christianity without at least a mustard seed size worth of faith.

True faith will produce real love. We must first ask ourselves: do we have faith? Ken Davis, a youth pastor, has a way of discovering whether someone actually does have faith. In his book "How To Speak To Youth" he tells of a college lesson he had to prepare for his speech class. He says, we were to be graded on our creativity and ability to drive home a point in a memorable way. The title of my talk, he says, was, "The Law of the Pendulum." I spent 20 minutes carefully teaching the physical principle that governs a swinging pendulum. The law of the pendulum is: A pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. Because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns, it will fall short of its original release point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest. This point of rest is called the state of equilibrium, where all forces acting on the pendulum are equal.

He then attached a 3-foot string to a child's toy top and secured it to the top of the blackboard with a thumbtack. He pulled the top to one side and made a mark on the blackboard where he let it go. Each time it swung back a new mark. It took less than a minute for the top to complete its swinging and come to rest. When he finished the demonstration, the markings on the blackboard had proved his thesis. He says, I then asked how many people in the room BELIEVED the law of the pendulum was true. All of my classmates raised their hands, so did the teacher. He started to walk to the front of the room thinking the class was over. In reality it had just begun. Hanging from the steel ceiling beams in the middle of the room he had fashioned a large, crude but functional pendulum (250 pounds of metal weights tied to four strands of 500-pound test parachute cord.).

He then invited the instructor to climb up on a table and sit in a chair with the back of his head against a cement wall. He brought the 250 pounds of metal up to his nose. Holding the huge pendulum just a fraction of an inch from his face. Once again he explained the law of the pendulum to the teacher who had applauded only moments before, "If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger." After that final restatement of this law, he looked him in the eye and asked, "Sir, do you believe this law is true?" There was a long pause. Huge beads of sweat formed on the teacher's upper lip and then weakly he nodded and whispered, "Yes." He released the pendulum. It made a swishing sound as it arced across the room. At the far end of its swing, it paused momentarily and started back. Ken Davis said he never saw a man move so fast in my life. He literally dived from the table. Deftly stepping around the still-swinging pendulum, Ken asked the class, "Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?"

The students resounding response was....


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What Is Unique About Christianity?


The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.


Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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