Love For Goofballs
LOVE FOR GOOFBALLS
When I first arrived here at Calvin Presbyterian Church I preached a sermon called Grace For Goofballs. In that sermon I expressed how perplexed I was about the Corinthian church. Here was a church that God had apparently blessed with amazing gifts. Gifts of prophecy, healing, and miracles. And yet the church was filled with strife, division, and scandal. God gave the church at Corinth gifts but they acted like a bunch of goofballs. In that sermon I said God did this because He is generous, he is glorious, and he is gracious. And all those things are true. God gives us gifts that we don’t deserve. And yet in giving these gifts confusion had broken out in the church. Paul tells us that this is not God’s Will for God is the author of peace and order not confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). God does give gifts. He blesses those who don’t deserve it. But Paul tells us he doesn’t do so to cause division and confusion.
I have been trying to think of an analogy of what the Corinthian church would have been like in today’s language. Take the Harry Potter books and films for example. Harry Potter, for the older generation who might not know, is a popular book series about a British Oprhan named Harry Potter. Harry discovers that his deceased parents were actually wizards. And he gets to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he gets to learn how to use magic. He has teachers teach him how to use his power in a constructive way. The Corinthian church would be like the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry if there were not any teachers and everyone were given a magic wand without any instruction. What is going to happen if you give children magic wands and you don’t teach them how to use them? I will tell you what will happen. Somebody is going to get turned into a duck bill platypus. I know you were thinking that somebody might get turned into a frog. But getting turned into a frog is so cliché. If I were playing with magic I think would accidentally turn someone into a duckbill platypus. You wouldn’t see that coming.
Or think about the role of a coach in sports. I am not a sports fan. So when I watch a basketball, football, soccer game, or whatever sport you may choose, and I see the coach standing on the sideline, while the athletes are playing their hearts out, I wonder if their role is that important. And then I learn how much some of these coaches get paid and I am like, “they are the ones yelling on the sidelines and they get paid what!” But those of you who are sports fans know the difference a good coach can make for your team. Athletes have potential but coaches get paid so much because they are paid to harness and direct that potential. You don’t see their work on the television screen but their work is behind the scenes. We know a good coach makes a big difference in sports. The Corinthian church is like a football team full of massive powerful guys sent out onto the field without a coach and without helmets who are told to figure something out. What’s going to happen if you send a team out like that? Someone is going to get their head bashed in.
For those of you who have served in the military think about boot camp. Imagine if you got to boot camp and there was no drill instructor. There was just a dude who opens a box full of grenades and says, “ I’m leaving have fun.” I think it is fair to say that most men, including myself, have a fascination with blowing things up, that’s why the video game series Call of Duty is so popular. Yet, anyone who has actually been through basic training or in combat knows that the military is no video game. The Corinthian church is like basic training without any of the instructors or the disciplines. You get to the training camp and someone puts a crate of live grenades before you and says, “ knock yourself out.” If military did that people would get hurt. If the military did that people would die. God has blessed the Corinthian church. But there is a power running through this church that is causing a lot of chaos and is not of God. Because of this Paul writes his profound poem on Love. Paul is being a good coach. He is providing an instruction manual on how to use true spiritual gifts, the true power of God. The true power of God flows through God’s Love. We don’t have to choose between Love and spiritual gifts. We don’t have to choose between loving each other and getting things done. The church is a business. Our business is love. When love flows through our lives we will find gifts we can never imagine will be released in our lives.
In this passage Paul seems to mention Jesus’ teaching on the faith to move mountains. And perhaps the Corinthians, like many of us today, believed that if they only had enough faith they could twist God’s arm and get what we want. In my sermon series on prayer I preached a sermon called Mountain Movers I talked about Jesus’ teaching on the faith to move mountains. There I argued that the mountain that Jesus was referring to was not a literal mountain but an obstacle. And the obstacle that Jesus was referring to was the Temple. In the Old Testament a mountain was the most common metaphor for the Temple. And Jesus had just turned over the money tables, he had just been rejected by the religious leadership of His nation. What Jesus was saying was with a word he could cast the Temple, with all his enemies into the sea. Instead, he let his enemies crucify him. He did not move the Mountain of the Temple. Instead, he moved the Mountain of Death itself, by dying for our sins and rising from the grave. Even when faced with certain death Jesus did not use his power for himself. Instead of praying for himself when he faced death Jesus prayed for us. For as Paul explains, “love is not self seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus used his power for others because He was love incarnate and love seeks the good of others before it seeks good for itself. True spiritual gifts, Paul tells us, work through love.
Today we are ordaining and installing new Elders. Those whom the congregation has discerned God has called to lead our church into the future. And maybe today you are thinking, “why me?” Who am I to deserve such an honor? Who am I to lead this church? Who am I to receive all the gifts and blessings the Lord has given me? Maybe as you step up to lead in this church or your own life you are afraid about what the future will bring and whether you can handle the challenge? Maybe you feel like you feel like you do your best but you are playing with a magic wand, you are playing with grenades, you don’t know what you are doing, and something is going to blow up sooner or later. Even this weekend we had a situation in Hawaii where a guy pressed the wrong button and the entire island thought a nuclear missile was about to hit them. We want to live up to the weight of responsibility but sometimes we don’t and we don’t know what to do. But today I have good news. There is grace for goofballs. And today I have even better news, awesome, extravagant, mind blowing, indescribably good news. There is a more excellent way. There is love for goofballs like us. And though we may fail love never fails for love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8).