“A Community of Love”
Adams United Methodist Church
Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church
Pastor Missy McCarthy
Music: Sue& Craig Gamet, Mike To
January 31, 2021 4th Sunday of Epiphany
Welcome to Adams and Sulphur Springs UMC, I am Pastor Missy. Thank you for joining us. If you would like to join Bible Study or a small group, please message us. Please comment with how many are watching if you are joining virtually. Light a candle to join the community wherever you are at.
Mike Tyo Original Work
Almighty and most merciful God, we give thanks that you know us and love us. Help us, through the power of your Holy Spirit, grow deeper, wider, and fuller in our knowledge and understanding of your ways. Help us, through the bestowal of your divine Wisdom, bring others closer to you and to your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: (1st Corinthians read by Cindy Intschert)
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Children’s Moment: (visual: letter)
Do you like to get mail? Paul is writing a letter to the people in the church at Corinth. He is trying to help them because they are arguing. Do you ever get into an argument with your brothers, sisters, cousins or friends? The people there were arguing over eating meat. Which sounds silly to us, but we could substitute it for the arguments folks had over wearing masks a few months ago. At that time, there was a group of people who knew they were right – Paul even tells them that they are right. Yet it does not matter who is right, because being right isn’t what is important, they are still wrong because it is hurting the community. It is more important to love someone and help them come to have a relationship with Jesus, than to be right. Your personal rights are not as important as loving your community and loving each other. Just like we have talked about wearing masks to love each other because it protects those we are around – especially some of our older friends in church – even if we are just fine. Paul told them; you have to work to love each other more than worrying about your own rights. At his time, it meant that for some of the folks they became vegetarians so as to help the new Christians not be confused. Sometimes we do things for our community, not because we need it, but because it helps bring someone else closer to Jesus. What ways can you love your community? Some people have shown me love by sending me notes and encouragement like Paul did? What can you do to help bring someone closer to Jesus?
Reflection: “A Community of Love”
Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up. Jesus is love. I can’t help but to be drawn into Paul’s letter and see so many parallels to the time we are living in.
When we were working on the text with my lectionary group, I told them I was working on this one. The looks I got were priceless! I know at first glance it seems that we have very little to glean from a text about meat offered to pagan gods and yet the very arguments Paul uses can be used for every major controversy the church faces with his first line being the trumpet call for the base of our every move when dealing with others – love builds people up. We hear Paul remind us again in 1 Corinthians 13, specifically in verses 4 and 5, “Love is patient and kind; Love does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful…” that Love isn’t about being right or wrong, or getting your own way. It is isn’t about getting our own way at all cost, it is about helping people have a relationship, having hope, having life in Jesus.
Paul is telling the people in Corinth that yes, you may be theologically correct that eating meat offered to idols is perfectly fine. There is no worship happening. You are right – and yet you are wrong too. This is the catcher. He is reminding them that you can be absolutely correct on a point of fact and wrong on a point of love. You can have all knowledge and lack love and in that case you are wrong. If what you are doing is right according to the rules, but causes harm to your community, to a member of your group, leads them away from God or has hurt their relationship with God, then you have committed a sin.
I remember reading this when I was in my mid-twenties. I was in a Bible study group with a group of older folks who were insisting they were right on the topic of whether LGBTQ+ folks should be included in the church (marriage/ministry) or not. I remember being fairly new to this whole organized church thing and struggling. What they were saying didn’t feel quite right to me, because – well the way they carried it out isolated a lot of folks and made them give up on God. It made people be separated from God because according to them LGBTQ+ could never be right with God unless they changed, and I knew that was biologically impossible so what did that mean? So, I kept praying on this, and this was the chapter God opened to me. I sat down hard – it did not answer the question I prayed about it, and yet it did. I knew instantly it wasn’t about the meat. It was the love, the arrogance, the missing the point. The giving up your own “rights,” giving up being right, in order to open the door for more folks to develop relationships with God. I brought this back to my group. They did not see it the same way, but it did give us some room for a discussion.
For the folks in Corinth the meat available in the market was sold from the offerings made at the temple and supported the pagan temples. Weddings and celebrations were often held at the temples as they were community centers and big enough to hold a lot of guests. The Christians had to figure out how to navigate this society. Those who were comfortable in their faith for many years had come a place of negotiation on this and did not see it as a conflict – there is only one God – these were false idols, if they want meat it is the only way to get meat, not a big deal. But for those new to the faith, they still saw the meat as an offering so how could they eat it and say they were worshiping Yahweh? This caused them crisis, weakened their faith and confused them. This is where Paul says, if your freedom and arguing with them causes them to fall from the faith, then it is your sin. You are responsible for that. You are part of the community and it is your job to look out for that – that is the cost of love. Think about that for a minute. What is the cost of love in this community?
What is the cost of love for you? What is God asking you to set aside for the cost of love? What are you “right” about that you need to let go for love? Where are there places where you insist that you are right, and maybe you just need to love? Where are there places where you need to set aside your personal “freedoms” in order to love so that others can develop a relationship with God?
“Help Us Accept Each Other” played by Mike Tyo, sung by Sue and Craig Gamet,