Sermon 3rd February 2019
Text – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – God’s covenant of love in Baptism
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Why did Paul single out love as the greatest of the 3 qualities that he listed – faith, hope and love?
Why did he have to actually say one was greater than the other?
Doesn’t Paul say that we are saved by grace through faith – so surely faith is essential for salvation?
Doesn’t Paul that say that hope does not disappoint when he says - we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint.
Why does he single out love as the greatest of these 3?
It’s because love is at the base of everything that God does.
There would be no salvation by grace through faith if God’s love did not come first.
If God did not love us then he would not have sent Jesus to die for our sins and therefore there would be no salvation no matter how much faith we had.
We would have no hope of salvation if God’s love did not come first.
As Jesus reminds us – for God so loved the world that he gave us his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God’s love comes first and without it no matter how much faith or hope we had we would be doomed to eternal punishment and death.
In the beginning it was God’s love that created us.
He had a multitude of angels and heavenly hosts so why would he need to create us unless his love drove him to do so.
When his heart could no longer persevere with us he regretted creating us but he could not totally eradicate us so he preserved humankind through Noah.
When Israel constantly disobeyed God and chased after other gods, God wanted to get rid of them all and start again but his love, fortunately, saved them.
So many times we see in the Old Testament God’s disappointment with his creation and yet his love overrides everything.
As we read the Old Testament of Israel’s continued disobedience you wonder why he chose them in the first place and why he didn’t replace them with a more obedient nation.
They must have thought similar because in Deuteronomy 7 Moses says to them:
The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you.
Maybe you’ve wondered whether God really loves you enough to forgive you and offer to have you live with him forever in Heaven.
Or maybe you’ve wondered why God could possibly love you.
Maybe you’ve felt unsure whether God still loves you after all the things you’ve done or haven’t done.
But let us remember that when God first loved us there was not much in us to love.
St Paul says – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
As we acknowledge our Baptisms today let us remember that Baptism is God’s covenant with us – it is not our covenant with God.
If we have any doubts whatsoever then God directs us back to our baptism to remind us that what he said to Jesus in his Baptism he also says to us:
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
God’s love for us does not go up and down like a yo-yo depending on how we live our lives.
God’s love is always to the fullest.
As someone once said (I think it may have been Phillip Yancey) – God cannot love us any less that he does – and God cannot love us any more than he does.
God is a God who makes one-way covenants that are not negated by our disobedience just as he did through Noah after he destroyed all living creatures apart from Noah and his family.
He said: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
Did you hear what God said about us – “even though EVERY inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood”
In our 2nd reading today St Paul put the parameters of God’s love for us.
Even though we are more familiar with this text at weddings between husband and wife, it is God’s promise to us of his love for us:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
God’s love for you never fails which is why Paul says that love is the greatest quality of God.
And we are now sent to example that love to others with the same parameters.
And when we find it hard to love let us remember our Baptism and God’s covenant of love and that we love because God first loved us.
May God bless you richly in the covenant of your Baptism.