Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer of Love: # 2

 How many people remember the “Love is” comic strips?  You are really showing your age.

The comic was a collection of single panel strips that began as a kind of private love story told by New Zealand artist Kim Casali to her future husband Roberto.

It started with private little notes with a small drawing that Kim wrote for Roberto, she’d tuck them in his pocket or send them to him when he was travelling. 

What started as a private conversation turned into booklets in the late sixties before appearing as syndicated comic strip under the pen name “Kim” in 1970. 

The syndication coincided very closely to the 1970 movie “Love Story” which of course contained the classic line "Love means never having to say you're sorry"  How remembers the movie?  Who cried at the movie? 

In response to that line Ray Bradbury said  “In that film Love Story, there's a line, Love means never having to say you're sorry. That's the dumbest thing I ever heard. Love means saying you're sorry every day for some little thing or other.”

And Kim must have agreed with Ray because probably the most famous of her comics said, "Love Is...being able to say you are sorry", and it was published for years on cards, posters and coffee cups. 

At its peak in the seventies “Love Is” was earning Casali an estimated 10 million dollars a year.

And while it was never connected with the Summer of Love it contained the sentiment of the event whose mantra was “Make Love, Not War”.

But the statement “Love is . . .” goes back a lot further than the 1960s.

This is the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love, when 100,000 Hippies and Flower Children descended on San Francisco’s Haight Asbury district.  And in 2017 we are celebrating the Summer of Love at Cornerstone by focusing on 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s chapter of Love.

And that’s where we find the statement “Love is. . .”

A short portion of the scripture was read for us earlier, now I’m going to invite you to stand as we read this responsively.  I will read the white text and you can read the yellow text. 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13  If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others,

I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains,

but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;

but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

It does not demand its own way.

It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 

But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. 

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.

But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.

All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

This morning we are going to focus on the first part of  1 Corinthians 13:4  Love is patient and kind. . .

And so Paul begins by telling us that Love is Patient  In the King James Version it tells us that Love is “Long Suffering” and that probably draws a better word picture here.  The Greek word that Paul used always describes patience with people and not patience with circumstances.

And there is a vast difference, you can embrace and embody patience with things, and your life verse can be Romans 12:12  Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.  And even though you are patient in trouble and patient in circumstances you can still be impatient with people and that isn’t what love is all about.

I don’t struggle with road rage but sometimes I struggle with grocery store rage.  “Seriously people, if you are going to meander don’t do it in the middle of the aisle.”    And so, I need this as much as anybody does.

So, who are we to be patient with?  I think that there are many of you, me included, who need to learn to Be Patient with Yourself  You know what I mean, you hold yourself to a much higher standard then you hold other people.

There are things you do, which you would find excusable in others that are inexcusable in your own behavior. 

And your self talk reflects your impatience, “I’m so clumsy” “I’m so stupid”, “I’ll never be able to do this” “I’ll always be fat”. 

Lighten up a bit on yourself.  I don’t mean go to the other extreme, where you excuse everything you do.  But just be patient, don’t expect instant perfection or instant knowledge. 

It was Saint Francis de Sales who wrote “Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.”

One of the things that we often miss in Jesus’ words is found in the account when Jesus was asked what the Greatest Commandment was and most of you are familiar with his response.  Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

If I was to ask you “How many commandments are there?” Most of you would reply by saying “Two, love God and love our neighbours.” 

But how are you supposed to love your neighbour?  You are supposed to love them as you love yourself.  And sometimes I think that is the problem, we don’t even like ourselves very much and that is reflected in how we treat those around us.

If there are things that you do, or don’t do that bug you, you have a couple of options.

The first is if it’s something you can change or learn, then do it.  Change it or learn it, and be patient in the process.  You can lose weight, you can beat that addiction, you can learn that new skill.  But it might not happen today.  So cut yourself a little slack.

And if it is something that you just aren’t gifted in or don’t have the ability to do well, then do it the best that you can and don’t beat yourself up about it because you can’t be as good as your cousin’s nephew’s wife’s brother is at it.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote  “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.”

In the same vein, my mother had a plaque in our kitchen when I was growing up that said “Yard by yard life is hard, inch by inch it is a cinch.”  

You probably aren’t going to change overnight, so just be patient with yourself.

In the letters that Paul wrote there are a number that we call the pastoral letters Paul was writing and giving directions to those who he had left in place to pastor and shepherd the early churches. 

One of those letters was written to Timothy and this is what Paul told him, 2 Timothy 2:24  A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.

And perhaps as we develop more patience with ourselves it will help us to  Be Patient with Others

This is where dealing with grocery store rage comes in, the fact that someone is blocking the cereal aisle for an extra two minutes probably isn’t really that important in the big scheme of things.

And each of us is impatient with different types of people.  Maybe you’ve never experienced “grocery store rage” but you are more in line with Edith Sitwell who wrote “I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”

Or perhaps you need to heed the advice of the Jewish teacher Solomon ben Judah  who taught “The test of good manners is to be patient with the bad ones.” I’m a little obsessive about time, I hate being late for anything.  And I have very little patience for people who are consistently late. 

It is something that I struggle with and it is something that I have to work at.  And yeah if I had more love it wouldn’t bother me that you were late, on the other hand if you had more love you’d be a little more considerate of my time. 

And I have to be reminded every once in a while that being early is no more on time than being late is.

 And yeah, it even means being patient with jerks, which is probably why the older translations refer to it as “Long Suffering”.  Paul didn’t say it would be easy, as a matter of fact this type of patience is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.  

In Galatians 5 we read Galatians 5:22  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: and then Paul begins to list the characteristics that are demonstrated by those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. . .

So, the question is, with the Spirit’s help, how do we become more patient with people?  Start by praying for them.  It’s amazing how much difference that will make in your outlook and how you see folks.

Start praying for yourself.  Often times the things that really bug you about other people don’t bug them at all and maybe don’t bug anybody else.  Maybe it’s your problem not theirs.

Do you know why we are impatient with people?  The reason you’re impatient with people is probably the same reason I’m impatient with people.  Because they aren’t doing it my way. 

They aren’t driving the way I’d drive, they aren’t shopping the way I’d shop, they aren’t parenting the way I’d parent, they don’t preach the way I’d preach, they don’t enjoy the music I enjoy. 

If they’d only do it my way there’d be no problem. 

Here’s a word of advice, you ready?  Get over it and get over yourself.  My way may be the best way for Denn, and really it probably isn’t, but my way probably isn’t the best way for everyone else or for anyone else for that matter. 

The next step is to become a little more understanding. 

You know the old adage, “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”  To which I usually add, “Then you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”  But the reality is that you usually don’t know what type of day or what type of life that person has been experiencing.

Even if you’re married to them you might not fully understand all they are going through.

And once you stop and think about the other stuff that might be shuffling around in their lives it might help you to be a little more patient in the areas where their lives intersect yours.

The first two probably make sense to you but how about this, true love means that you learn to Be Patient with God

Honestly, have you ever been disappointed with God? Wondered why He did or didn’t do what he did or didn’t do?  That he didn’t heal you or a loved one, that he didn’t give you that job that you knew would be perfect or that he didn’t make your husband or your wife or your child or your friend a Christian? Or that he didn’t do it when you thought he should do it.

Sometimes, just plain and simple God isn’t going to operate outside of the limits that he has put in place.  And one of those limits is free will. 

We want to have free will but too often we want God to take that same gift away from other people. 

So, we pray “Please God make my spouse or my child or my friend a Christian.”  And that sounds like a good prayer, a prayer that should be in the will of God. 

But, did he make you become a Christian or did he allow you to make that decision? 

Or we pray “don’t let my child make bad decisions” or “take away my desire for making bad decisions.”  And then we are disappointed because we make those bad decisions and become impatient with God and blame him for not stopping us from doing what we choose to do.

But God doesn’t work by removing our free will and making us to do some things and not do other things.

Nope, he will bring people into their path and into your path to help you make the right decision but at the end of the day you are paddling your own Canoe.  (That is a cultural reference inserted at this point to help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.)

And sometimes, as hard as it is to admit,  God, creator of all things, master of the universe is smarter than we are.  Really, he is.

The reason we get impatient with God is the same reason we get impatient with people, he doesn’t do it our way or in our time.

In the first 10 years that Cornerstone was a church we worshipped in rented facilities and I was always looking for property to build on, and I found five different “perfect” properties.  And they all fell through. 

I was so impatient with God, “What was he thinking? Didn’t he understand?” 

Of course none of those pieces of property were at a set of lights, across from not one but 2 Tim Hortons with 18,000 cars a day passing by.  Maybe that’s what he was thinking of. 

There is a statement in Hebrews chapter 11 that comes when the author of the book is describing heroes of faith in the Old Testament it says Hebrews 11:13  All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. . . 

We will get to see some of God’s promises fulfilled, and there will be others that we will die still believing what God has promised us.

God wants the very best for us, Paul reminds us in  Romans 2:4  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

We need to learn to be patient with God, after all he’s been patient with us.

And God wants us to be patient and he wants to give us patience.    Did you catch that?  The patience you need isn’t learned it is given.

In Galatians we are told that is comes when our lives are controlled by the spirit and listen to Paul’s prayer for the Christ Followers who lived in Rome:  Romans 15:5  May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.   

That’s my prayer for you, May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.   

And then we are told that not only is love patient but that love is Kind  Wanting to make sure I understood all the nuances of this word I went back to original language to look at the Greek word that Paul used here that is translated as “kind”.  

And then I read six different commentaries and they all agreed that the original meaning of the word kind actually meant. . . “kind”.

So how does that work in real life, just don’t be a jerk and be nice to people.  Smile, say please, hold doors and be pleasant.  Kindness is another characteristic that is mentioned in Galatians 5 as evidence that the Holy Spirit is in control of your life.   

We can hold true to our doctrines and theology and not be kind.

William Barclay wrote in the Daily Study Bible,  “So much Christianity is good but unkind. There was no more religious a man than Philip the Second of Spain, and yet he founded the Spanish Inquisition and thought he was serving God by massacring those who thought differently from him.”

I think I’d disagree with Barclay when he said “So much of Christianity is good but unkind”  to “Some of Christianity is good but unkind”.  We can’t excuse the unkindness of Christians but remember that through the ages so much of the goodness and kindness in this world has come through those who follow Christ and seek to emulate him by taking care of the sick, defending the weak and feeding the hungry.

So in closing, let’s each of  us remember the instructions that Paul gave Timothy. . .  2 Timothy 2:24  A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.

Be kind to everyone and be patient with difficult people, it isn’t easy.  But it is love. 

No comments: