Le 18:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'I am the LORD your God.
3 'According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.
4 'You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the LORD your God.
5 'You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
1Co 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Joh 13:31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.
32 "If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.
33 "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,' so now I say to you.
34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Three separate readings....three separate sermons.......one common theme......the theme of love.
Our OT reading deals with what love is not. Love is not according to the doings of the land of Egypt or the land of Canaan. In other words. love is not according to the ways of the world.
Some things never change! Whether were dealing with ancient Egypt, Canaan, or modern day America, The world never gets love right. If we were to continue reading in Leviticus 18, we would read of the sexual practices of the world that were forbidden to be practiced by Godís people. These practices included such things as adultery, homosexuality, and other sexually deviant behavior. There was also a prohibition mentioned against child sacrifice.
And you kind of have to wonder, how did child sacrifice, find itís way into this discussion of deviant sex. Well, when you understand that one of the purposes of the God blessed union of man and wife is to produce godly offspring. ( Mal 2:15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring.)
You can see why this would fit in here. To sacrifice a child that is a direct result of a legitimate union between husband and wife is sexual deviancy. Itís interesting to note that the temptation to abort or sacrifice almost always comes from an illegitimate union of man and woman. Two people who have either forgotten or are unaware of the legitimate use of sex.
God told His people that if they would practice any of these things, they would be vomited out of the land. Upchucked from His inheritance for them....cut off from His family. He tells us the same thing today. Stay away from sexual sin. Donít let the world define love for you. Stop participating in the sexual immorality of the land, and stop sacrificing children on the altar of abortion.
The Bible says, ďFlee sexual immorality!Ē (1 Cor 6:18) and we are told in the Book of Revelation that the sexually immoral will be upchucked, or cut off from Godís family.
Re 22:15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
But thatís not what the world is telling us. The world never wearies of trying to equate sexual activity with love. You cannot sit down in your own living room and watch a baseball game or a football game without your children being exposed to the idea that sex is the object! Sex is the goal!
Tragically, we read in the paper this week of the results of such propaganda as the horrific details of sexually deviant behavior involving an 11 year old girl were reported in Milwaukee.
Sex is the goal! Sex is the end all! We are bombarded with that message on billboards, in magazines, and on television. But donít listen to the world! Donít get sucked into their dirty little game.
They have taken sex, a beautiful gift from God, that was intended to be reserved, undefiled for the marriage bed Heb 13:4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
and turned it into dirt and sleeze. Iím tired of the charge levied against Christians that we are prudes, that we think sex is a dirty word. Sex is only dirty because Egypt, Canaan, and the world have made it so. It is the world that has sought to defile the marriage bed...not the Christians.
The world has turned what was to be an expression of ultimate intimacy, into an expression of lust. Biblical sex is that physical union between a man and a woman, reserved for marriage, that consummates or pictures and reinforces, the reality of the oneness of the spiritual union of man and wife.
Itís sole connection with love is that it involves an expression of a complete giving of oneself to the other.
And that leads us to sermon number two. ďWhat then is love?Ē We find the answer in our epistle lesson for today taken from 1 Cor. 13 or what is known as the ďloveĒ chapter of the Bible. We have seen what love isnít, now we will see what love is.
The first thing we see, is that love is necessary. Look at all these wonderful things listed here that are absolutely nothing without love.
Being a great orator, able to proclaim the deepest mysteries of the faith, having faith so strong that you could literally move mountains, giving everything you have to the poor, and even sacrificing your life for the cause of Christ. it all counts as nothing, without the proper motivation of love........Holy Spirit deposited and directed love.
What then is this biblical love? If itís necessary, I better have it. The only way I can have it, is if Christ lives in me. He is the only One who can produce such love.
Biblical love suffers long, that is it is patient with others. Biblical love is kind to others. Biblical love does not envy, it doesnít begrudge others their gifts. Biblical love does not parade itself, that is, it doesnít flaunt itís gifts.
Biblical love is not puffed up, it doesnít have a higher opinion of itself than it ought. It knows, itís only bragging rights come from the cross. Biblical love does not behave rudely toward others (arenít we good at that one even within our own families!) but treats others with respect. Biblical love does not seek itís own, ....itís not selfish.
We have a little sign on our refrigerator at home which is a constant reminder to us about this kind of love. it says, ďWhen you learn to live for the sake of others instead of yourself....you have learned to love!Ē
Biblical love is not provoked. This kind of love says, I donít care what you do or say to me, I am not going to be provoked to treat you in an unloving way. Biblical love thinks no evil; It always seeks to put a positive spin on others.
Biblical love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; A heart that is governed by this kind of love grieves for those who commit iniquity, Ps 119:136 Rivers of water run down from my eyes, Because men do not keep Your law.
and at the same time, this kind of love rejoices over every piece of evidence that reflects the presence of Godís truth in oneís life.
Biblical love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This kind of love is a reflection of a right attitude toward our neighbors and is summed up beautifully by Luther in his explanation of the eighth commandment:
ďWe should fear and love God so that we do not deceitfully belie, betray, backbite, nor slander our neighbor, but apologize for him, speak well of him, and put the most charitable construction on all that he does.Ē
End of sermon number two....thatís what biblical love is. Sermon number three comes from our gospel lesson and could be titled, ďWhat do We Do With Biblical Love?Ē
Judas has just departed to betray Jesus, and the wheels have now been set in motion for His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.
He immediately impresses upon them a commandment that He desires that they obey. Heís going to be leaving and this is important stuff to remember! He says, ďLove one another! As I have loved you, you must also now love each other.Ē How did Jesus love? He gave! He gave with no strings attached!
This is the way He wants His church to love in order that the world will know that we are His disciples. This kind of love, exhibited in the church, and flowing out of the church, proves to the world the very existence of Christ!
Itís not by our oratory skills, or our gifted proclamation of His Word. Itís not by our great demonstrations of faith, or our benevolence, or our personal sacrifices. These things are all very important in leading others to Christ, but remember they have to be attached to love! It is our demonstration of love for each other that verifies the message we have been commanded to share.
Without this physical demonstration of love, our message is hollow.
We can almost paraphrase Jesus here and say.
ďThe world will know I exist by your patience with one another. The world will know that I am real because of the acts of no strings attached kindness that are evident in your midst. The world will know that I exist because of the lack of jealousy among the members of the church. The world will know I am real because you are humble.
They will observe that you are not rude toward others and know that I am alive! They will see your total lack of selfishness and understand that I am with you. They will note that you donít retaliate in anger, and that you have a tendency to give others the benefit of the doubt.
They will see that you donít rejoice when sin is committed in the camp, but rather that you rejoice in righteous behavior. They will see that you bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things, because you know the truth of Romans 8:28:
Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
People I think we have hit on something here that needs to be passionately pursued at Living Word Lutheran Church. I think itís time to rethink our reason for existence. What should our mission be here at Living Word?
What can we be intentional about? What can we use as a measuring stick or a filter for all the things that we do as a congregation? I believe we must be intentional in our love for one another as commanded by Jesus and outlined for us in 1 Cor 13.
We must learn to do this without sacrificing the truth. In fact, if you look at the definition of love from 1 Cor 13, we see that love ďrejoices in the truth!Ē So truth must take center stage here at Living Word. Donít be ashamed of the truth that is proclaimed here! Rejoice in it! Ask God, if you must, to help you learn to rejoice in His truth!
Right now, I think we donít invite too many people to come to Living Word because we are prejudging how they might react to the truth of Godís Word. We need to turn that around and use truth as the tool of invitation. Are you looking for the truth? Then come to church with me this Sunday!
Rejoice, that in this church you are hearing the truth about the permanence of marriage. Rejoice that you are hearing the truth about the sanctity of life. Rejoice that you are being challenged to keep yourself sexually pure! Rejoice that someone is telling you to not live according to the ways of the world!
But our mission is not to be just about truth, it must also contain the necessary element of love!
Look at page 1 of your bulletin. Right at the top, you will see Living Wordís Mission Statement. Our mission as stated there says we ďwill declare the truth as found in Godís Word....the Bible.Ē Then it continues with, ďTo glorify Christ through worship. To bring souls into the merciful and loving arms of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.Ē
Now that sounds very good, itís very noble. But the reality of the situation is this is not who we are at Living Word. The only part of our mission statement that we have faithfully adhered to is that part about declaring the truth of Godís Word.
Letís be honest, no one is attending Living Word because of our exciting worship practices, and no one is rushing up to the altar here asking Jesus to save them! In that sense, we are not an evangelistic church.
We need to rethink our mission, our reason for existence, and if I could, I would suggest the following change to our mission statement.
ďTo declare the truth as found in Godís Word the Bible And to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.Ē
A simple change, yet so profound, because it embraces Paulís challenge to the Ephesians:
Eph 4:15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--
And it lends itself to evangelism in a way commanded by Jesus.....love one another so the world will know that you are My disciples.
I am asking you today, ďare you ready, are you willing to be dealt into such a mission? Are you ready to regroup and reorganize at Living Word under such a banner?Ē Are you willing to become known as such a church?
This kind of church is a giving church that reflects the spiritual truth of the gospel. Every time we give to others with no strings attached, whether it is our time, our talent, or our treasure, we paint a physical picture of the spiritual reality of the gospel. We verify the truth of the message!
This kind of church involves sacrifice by individual members. Sacrifice that involves investment of time, so we get to know each other. Sacrifice that involves talent and treasure that we may meet the physical and spiritual needs of those in our midst and beyond our gates, into the Fox Valley and the world!
Look around you this morning. Think of the possibilities for this small band of believers if we would adopt this mission statement and make it our passion.
ďTo declare the truth as found in Godís Word the Bible And to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.Ē
Would you like to be a part of such an organization? The first step is to commit to it. The next step is to pray. Ask God what your part may be. How would He have you use your time, talent, and treasure to learn to live for the sake of others rather than yourself. Then keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities.....and use them!