Sermon C10 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany 2013-02-03
Trinity Lutheran Church, London
Theme: Hyperbolen – An Excellent Way
Verse: 1 Corinthians 12:27 – 13:13
I’m sure you remember the day of living out the social conflicts of the playground. There were squabbles and broken trusts and shouts of “You’re not my friend anymore!”. Then there is that classic playground “binary opposition” technique. What is binary opposition, I hear you ask? That is when your options are reduced only two states: For instance – If you are alive or dead; It is day or night. ; Is your answer yes or no? Things are good or bad? Is it warm or cold? In politics I have heard this idea stated: You are either with us or you are against us. Think of that bumper sticker you have probably seen – about supporting the military: “”If you are not prepared to stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them”.
That is binary opposition – it is an argument that forces you to pick between two options – two options that are in opposition to each other. The argument presents the idea that there is no middle ground – no gray zone of ‘maybe’. In the playground situation, it goes like this: “If you are friends with Johnny, then you can’t be my friend.”
Have you ever HEARD those words spoken to you? Have you ever SAID those words to someone? This argument forces you to pick sides – and the sides are mutually exclusive; “you are with us – or you are against us” / “If you are my friend then you can’t be his friend”
Binary opposition forces you to pick one over the other. It sounds kind of childish – don’t you think? This is the stuff of the school yard … yes? Oh if that was only where it stopped. That idea of binary sides can easily be a pit fall in adult – grown up – kind of organisations – like work, or a sports teams, or GOD FORBID … a church.
Is this what Paul was hinting at with his words “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.”
Paul was writing his letter to the church in Corinth – they were NOT behaving like a church that is following Christ’s message of love. Paul obviously was writing in response to whatever they we doing – or not doing. We don’t have any letters or other documents that tell us those details directly. However we can deduce and guess at many things:
FACTIONS IN THE CHURCH (1:1-4:21)
SEXUAL IMMORALITY (5:1-13)
LAWSUITS AMONG BRETHREN (6:1-11)
EATING MEATS SACRIFICED TO IDOLS (8:1-11:1)
WOMEN PRAYING AND PROPHESYING WITH HEADS UNCOVERED (11:2-16)
THE LORD’S SUPPER (11:17-34)
SPIRITUAL GIFTS (12:1-14:40)
RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD (15:1-58)
COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS in Jerusalem (16:1-4)
In short – and to put into playground speak:
– they weren’t playing well with others
– they weren’t sharing
– they weren’t being good friends to each other
– they weren’t sticking to rules
But Paul says there is a better way – LOVE
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.
That is the simple answer – yet it is oh so difficult to actual live out.
So let apply this to ourselves.
Are we patient and kind to each other?
Are never envious of each other, or boastful or arrogant or rude to each other
Do we EVER insist on our own way;
and we are NEVER irritable or resentful;
Here’s one I hope we can honestly live up to:
We never rejoice in wrongdoing,
But then there is harder part – we rejoice in the truth.
And in that last one, let me add: And we never say I told you so.
OK – how hard did you laugher, snicker or groan? How hard did you wince or swallow, or maybe even hold back a tear?
That list is quite a difficult one to measure up to. The Corinthian church didn’t measure up and we too struggle to measure as well and I am not point a finger at anybody in particular, I could probably preach this sermon in virtually any congregation. Oh Paul where are you now? Oh Paul – write to us and tells how we measure up! Oh Paul – tell us about a more excellent way?
Rewinding Paul’s letter just a little picking up at the end of chapter 12, just before our reading for today starts:
But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Oh Paul – tell us about that more excellent way? Hyperbole hodon – A more excellent way
First let me break this down | hodon – means way. But the words “more excellent” are a translation of a single Greek word hyperbolēn. Yes that is the title of my sermon today – it is in bulletin and it is on the sign outside. Take a look at that word – does is remind you of another word that we use in English. Yes – hyper-bol-e
This comes from our Greek word of the day … hyperbole (noun).
In English we’d define it “exaggeration or extravagance”
But it comes hyperballein meaning “to throw over or beyond,” a compound word from: hyper- “beyond” and bole “to throw” (which leads to our word “ballistics”). Paul’s hyperbolen means to throw beyond – that a bigger, further, more than you can imagine, kind of throw. Or as our text reads today – more excellent. What is that more excellent, bigger, further, more than you can imagine, kind of way?
Love – It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Oh boy – You probable thought I was going to give you such a hard thing to do. Some kind of 7 secrets to success – kind of thing. Or some multi-step program of some sort.
Nope. JUST LOVE.
When need to be patient and kind to each other – think LOVE
When we are envious of each other – think LOVE
When tend to being boastful – think LOVE
If we start to become arrogant or rude to each other – think LOVE
If we start thing – my way is the only way – think LOVE
Irritable or resentful – think LOVE
If you ever start to thing “I told you so” – think LOVE.
Love – big LOVE; more excellent LOVE , more than you can imagine, kind of LOVE. That is the kind of love we gather in this Christ follow congregation.
There be times we want to shout, get angry, or rude etc. or maybe we might even get into binary opposition. You know how that goes in a church setting: If you do that … Or if you say this … Then I’m leaving! No discussion – no middle ground – no grey zone.
Paul told the Corinthian church of a more excellent way – that letter still speaks to us. Paul’s promise of the bigger, better, more than we can imagine kind of love is here for us to follow.
God’s Love for us. “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son.” In God’s LOVE for us God has given a more excellent way: Jesus Christ – God’s only son – Jesus Christ – Love made flesh.