Epiphany 4C Sermon (2001)

4th Sunday after the Epiphany
Texts: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13;
Luke 4:21-30; Jer. 1:4-10


[This sermon was given extemporaneously with the following outline projected with PowerPoint.]

  • Show opening comments by Virgil Gulker, Kids Hope USA training video, ending with, ‘Jesus can’t be with that child, you can.’
    • One of the most immediate and common questions about the Kids hope program is: “How can a church do a ministry in a public school.”
    • Answer: “We are there not to speak the love of Jesus but to be the love of Jesus.”
    • 1 Corinthians 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.”
    • 1 John 3:18: “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
    • Speaking the love of Jesus is not allowed in public schools. But being the love of Jesus is … and maybe that’s the better part, anyway.
  • I’m excited about being a Kids Hope mentor, but I’m also a bit anxious:
    • it is an awesome responsibility to be the love of Jesus to an at-risk first grader. I’m not just there to show my love. I’m there to show Jesus’ love. What does that mean?
    • I’ll need the prayers of my prayer partner, and all of you, to have my love be Jesus’ love.
    • What stands in the way? How can my love stand against Jesus love? With Valentine’s Day around the corner: Jesus love vs. Cultural, “romantic” love:
      • Other-centered vs. self-centered
      • Life-giving vs. Death-fearing
      • Out-reaching vs. In-closing
  • Jesus love vs. Cultural, “romantic” love: Other-centered vs. self-centered
    • Biggest jolt into being other-centered: bringing home that first baby. Can you imagine beforehand how much that little person needs you?
    • Difference between special gifts on special occasions and everyday show of love.
      • How much are the special gifts in order to get what we want? To get our needs filled? Many greeting cards: ‘I love what you do for me.’
      • Every love: dishes, laundry, meals, dirty diapers, walking the baby in the middle of night. (Gifts nice, too — or Pastor Paul’s in trouble!)
    • Love is patient, kind; 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.
    • Jesus love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Romantic love does none of these things.
  • Jesus love vs. Cultural, “romantic” love: Life-giving vs. Death-fearing
    • Valentine card, part 2: ‘I can’t live without you.’ Is this about being filled with life or afraid of death?
    • Very difficult to talk about this aspect of Jesus love because death / loss is painful. Have you ever tried to talk about it with your spouse? How did that go? Can you imagine your love spilling out to others even when you die and leave your spouse behind?
    • Best example: John 11, the Raising of Lazurus
      • Verse 33: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” The words for “greatly disturbed and moved” everywhere else are translated in terms of anger. Even in translating we find it hard that Jesus’ love is not death-fearing.
      • Verse 35: “Jesus began to weep.” Death is sad, painful, but not something to be feared.
      • Jesus raises Lazarus after this prayer: “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” For the sake of the crowd, not even for Lazarus’ sake. Jesus’ love is a life-giving love that spills out to many. Resurrection.
    • Brings us to our last feature of Jesus love:
  • Jesus love vs. Cultural, “romantic” love: Out-reaching vs. In-closing
    • Example of clash: this morning’s gospel. Jesus’ hometown folks didn’t want to hear about a love that reaches out.
    • Our culture, if it reaches out at all, wants to reach out with vengeance to its enemies. With its love, it closes ranks to protect itself, nurture itself.
    • How far does Jesus love reach out? In two weeks we’ll hear from Luke 6: “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
    • Jesus love shows us God’s love. The Gospel summed up in Romans 5:10: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”
    • Kids Hope USA mentoring, surrounded by the prayers of many, help us to be a love that is other-centered, life-giving, and out-reaching. And there are many other opportunities — what are they?
  • And how can we be so bold as to claim this Jesus-love for our use? By the promise of the Holy Spirit in our baptisms: that we receive that love and forgiveness as God’s children to share with one another. “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” Amen

Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Emmaus Lutheran,
Racine, WI, January 27-28, 2001

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