Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:7,8 (CEV)
 Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. 
 Love never fails!

Love never fails

Every now and then you hear great stories about love that never fails.  One of those is about Kim and Krickitt Carpenter.  They had been married for 2 months when a car accident almost robbed Krickitt of her life.  When she regained consciousness she couldn’t remember anything about her husband, Kim - how they met, what they did on their dates, their engagement, their marriage or their honeymoon.  Kim was a total stranger to her. 

Everyone kept telling her that Kim was her husband; she watched the movie of their wedding and paged through wedding albums but none of this sparked any memories and often created frustration and anger. Her moods swings were unpredictable and Kim would often be the target of her meltdowns. I think you can imagine how hurt Kim must have felt emotionally and then sometimes unintentionally she would hurt him physically and laugh at him.  This was part of her condition.  For most people there is a limit to how much of this kind of thing a person can take.  Kim admits there were times when he was down especially when he was treated like a stranger and the woman he loved felt threatened by this stranger but his commitment of love made on their wedding day was supremely important.

Krickitt noticed that the stranger who said was her husband was really caring and protecting and was a real friend who was trying really hard to understand her.  To cut a long story short, Kim decided to go back to the time when he first met Krickitt and ask her out.  They went to the movies, out to dinner, he gave her flowers, they fell in love, were married and now have 2 children.  Krickitt has never regained her memory of the first time she fell in love with Kim, and Kim proudly states that Krickitt has fallen in love with him twice. 

What a great story about enduring love; love that never gives; love that is supportive, loyal, trusting ever so patient, kind and understanding.  There is one thing I haven’t mentioned in this story about Kim and Krickitt Carpenter and that is their Christian faith.  This is more than a story about the power of human love.  Kim wrote this, “The one rock for me then, the one lighthouse beam in the darkness, was faith.  For all her gonzo behaviour, I think Krickitt had faith, too, as much as I did.  In the depths of our nastiest shouting matches, there was a tenuous thread that connected us somehow”.

In another place he wrote, “I had done all I could. I had to leave the rest up to God. I really think God needed to break me. I had to give everything to him. Lying in bed late one night with Krickitt asleep beside me, I came face-to-face once again with the fact that I was helpless without God and that only he could heal our marriage”. (From “The Vow” by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, 2012).

The story of Kim and Krickitt is an extraordinary one but how does that relate to what happens in the ordinary everyday world that you and I live in. Love that never gives up – is that really possible? 

I’m not just talking about an event that’s worth making a movie about but the ordinary situations we come across every day:
the people who really get up your nose because they are so annoying, 
the person whose life seems such a mess and you just can’t feel sympathy for him/her anymore,
the times when the boss makes some kind of announcement that just gets your dander up;
the person who loves to get your attention and sympathy with a sad hard luck story;
the winger, the complainer, the gossiper, the slanderer, the belittler, the cheat;
how do you love people like that?

Think of the person who you really find it hard to be nice to or who is really hard to get on with.  Get a picture of that person in your mind.
What is it about that person that really causes you so much, can I say it, ‘hatred’ or, if you want a less intense word, ‘dislike’?
My guess is that, for some reason whether rightly or wrongly, that person has been demonised in your mind.  Perhaps he/she is considered unworthy in some way of your love, maybe lesser of a person than you.
Often we create this monster in our mind and when we actually sit down and have a calm chat with the person we’ve had the falling out we find out he/she wants to be treated like a person with feelings and needs just as much as we do.

Love never fails.  That’s a troubling sentence in Paul’s description of love.  It implies that there is never a time when love should not determine how we as Christians ought to interact and relate to one another.  There is that part of the text that says that “love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting”. 

That little word ‘always’ is very upsetting.  It’s upsetting because it leaves no room for rudeness and grumpiness and any kind of attitude that builds walls and barriers.  I like my grumpy and gruff moments they get my point across even if they are rude but Paul says, “Love is patient.  Love is kind”.  Always.  Not when we’re in the mood or when we are having a good day or when others are being nice to us but even when we are having a lousy day and when everyone else is being grumpy.  “Love never gives up; and its faith hope and patience never fail!”

To love someone when we could easily declare that person as hopeless and unlovable requires more than the feeling of love; it requires an action of the will.
Even when the other person rejects our love, just as the people of Jesus’ time rejected his love, love requires us to be determined to reach out to that person regardless of what is going on and the attitude of the other person. 
When Krickitt Carpenter lost every memory of ever having had any relationship with her husband and the hard times and hurt and grief this caused Kim, he could have easily walked away.  But he didn’t.  Love compels us to take the harder road, the road where there are no shortcuts, no easy solutions.

Whatever it is that is annoying you,
whatever someone has done to really upset you,
whatever it is that makes you want to give someone a piece of your mind
drop it.
 
Decide to let love rule the moment.  Stop for a moment before you act and speak in anger or distress and let the patience, kindness, understanding and calmness that arises out of love take over.

I know what you’re thinking at this moment, “That’s all very nice but more often than not all the bad stuff comes out before I even get a chance to think about love. It’s only in reflection that I think about my terrible feelings toward that person and how badly I had behaved and how little love I had shown”. 

Some people might walk away and say, “What’s done is done” or blame the other person for what’s happened and it might be that the other person really did start the incident.  We could try to pretend that it never happened. 

But love won’t let us do that and again it will take some determination and commitment to follow through on this.  Seek God's forgiveness and the strength of the Holy Spirit to change your feelings toward that person. 
Be determined to change your attitude
and seek out the other person and make amends,
break down the walls,
find ways to resolve differences and come to an understanding. 
Maybe you won’t ever be best buddies but you can agree to never go down this path of nastiness again.  Love is patient and kind and forgiving.

I’ve talked about love being a matter of the will.  When I say this I don’t mean our natural human will.  Our will always wants to lead us down the path of selfishness and irritableness and an attitude of “I’m right and you’re wrong!”  Our human will is bound with sin and is easily controlled by Satan. 

The love that Paul is talking about here in 1 Corinthians and the love that held Kim and Krickitt together as a husband and wife was not something that grew out of pure human emotion and determination.  It is the same kind of determined love that Jesus showed as he walked through the streets of Jerusalem toward Calvary.  To have the kind of love that never gives up comes out of God's relationship with us and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  

I know I will get it wrong just as I know you will mess things up and love will not rule every aspect of your life.
It is just at the point when we are feeling total failures for our lack of love that our loving God does what we fail to do – he loves us even though we have built up a wall of hostility, a wall of sin between us and our God who loves us so dearly.
He forgives us and calls us friends and revitalises in us the will to be and do and speak as his people in every relationship and every interaction with the people in our homes and work places and in the community. 

When we find ourselves in a situation where love has been lost and we become defensive, aggressive, critical or whatever, drop the attitude and let the Spirit take control and fill us with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

Let me finish with an interview with Kim and Krickitt Carpenter on opening night on the movie “The Vow”.  An interviewer asked them, “How did you live through this?”  Kim replied, “The biggest thing is our faith.  We rely heavily on our faith, our faith in Jesus Christ, that’s the number one thing.  This journey is a wonderful life lesson for them (referring to their two children)”.  And what an example it is for us wherever we are in a school or in our homes or in our work places, or in the community.  When the love of Christ rules in us it also rules our relationships with others.

Kim and Krickett are the first to admit that it was a hard journey and even now like any couple they admit they have their disagreements and arguments but it always comes back to the grace of God.  His love forgives and gives fresh starts and renews relationships.  It is true “love never gives up”.


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
3rd February 2013
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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