Quinquagesima, 2019

The Epistle – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The Gospel – St. Luke 18:31-43

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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For us to be in this pre-Lenten season and then have lessons such as we heard today, we might at first wonder what do they have to do with Lent?

 

What do they have to do with repentance or self-denial?

 

So, it is to our Collect we turn to see how these all relate.

 

 

O LORD, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

 

So, first, let’s change the word charity to love. Though the word is fine, we might have something different in mind as we go forward.

 

Charity is love. But we will use the word love for the sake of understanding and applying it to Lent.

 

So now we say we understand that God tells us that without love, anything we do is worth nothing.

 

Any action we take toward one another…toward God…is worth nothing without love being the very foundation.

 

The intent of Lent is, among other things, amendment of life. Change of attitude. Change of behavior. Taming of inordinate desires and affections of the will and heart.

 

And love being kindled in us to desire to make change and to walk before God in holy lives.

 

 

St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 has just told us that there is one body of Christ and we are all members of it and that all are important members.

 

None is greater or better. All are needed to make it function well.

 

Each of us has been given talents, gifts, abilities that not all of the others possess. There is going to be some overlap. Many may excel in one or more things.

 

Some may be alone in this or that. But the loving or charitable thing to do is to recognize our gifts and talents, try to discern what others possess and work to make them all function in harmony for the betterment of the body of Christ, the Church.

We cannot make excuses and say because I don’t do that over there very well, I don’t matter.

 

He says, “God has arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as He chose…so that there be no division among the various parts.”

 

All of us here are here because God has placed us here. We are not here by accident. And God is forming this body to be a part of the greater body of the Church. 

 

He says to us, “Now you are the body of Christ and individual members of it. Not all are preachers, or teachers or whatever….”

 

So then with that in mind, he goes immediately into the passage that we heard today. Here is why love is part of what we are focusing on today.  

 

Leon Morris comments on this passage thus, “Whereas the highest concept of love before the New Testament was that of a love for the best one knows……

 

…. the Christians thought of love as that quality we see on the cross. It is a love for the utterly unworthy, a love that proceeds from a God who is love.”

 

“It is a love lavished on others without a thought whether they are worthy or not. It proceeds from the nature of the lover, not from any attractiveness in the beloved.”

“The Christian who has experienced God’s love for him while he was yet a sinner (Rom. 5:8) has been transformed by the experience. “

 

“Now he sees people as those for whom Christ died, the objects of God’s love, and therefore the objects of the love of God’s people.”

 

“In his measure he comes to practice the love that seeks nothing for itself, but only the good of the loved one. It is this love that the apostle unfolds.”[1]

 

Now we begin to see how this ties to Lent, penitence and amendment of life. What drives us to make the most of this season coming up?

 

During this time, even though Lent is a time for us to practice these virtues of self-denial, sacrifice and we are to also contemplate the depth of our sin…we are at the same time to look to the Cross of Christ and what that symbolizes…and let that center us on why we do what we do in Lent.  

 

Only when the Cross is understood do we then understand love.  The Cross is the ultimate symbol of love. …how God loves us…. Even though we were unlovely.

 

All of our works, without love are nothing, because their goal or aim is wrong.

 

Christ’s aim was to show His love for us by dying for us…even while we were at war with Him.

 

So unworthy of love and so undeserving of love were we…and yet Christ died for us.

These ideas should be taken with us as we enter into Lent.

 

In Lent our minds can be turned toward the Cross. We can there acknowledge that we did not deserve such love from God.

 

We did not even ask for it from Him.

He came of His own accord in order to take away the inability to love Him in return.

 

Had he not removed that barrier in our own hearts, we would never even know what true love is. And now has that love transformed us?

 

Has that love taken root in our own heart so that we desire it in others? So that we desire the best for others…

 

Here is the fact that Paul gives us in Romans 5, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (ESV)

 

Does that passage have any impact on us? Do we contemplate the depths of the riches of what is being said there?

 

While we were sinners, Christ died for us. We have reconciliation.

While we were enemies, Christ reconciled us to God.
While we were under the wrath of God, Christ saved us from it.

 

Paul even says, that though the reconciliation we have with God is big, he says, how much more shall we be saved by His life? 

How much greater is the salvation we have received than the damnation we previously faced?!?!?

 

It’s sort of like when Paul compares the trials in this life and their being nothing in comparison to the glory that shall be revealed to us.

 

We have to first let this sink in and fill us before we can fully appreciate it.

Once that appreciation is even slightly begun, we can then turn to act on it.

 

Because Morris said that once we grasp the great love God has for us in saving us through Christ, we can now see other people as also recipients of Christ’s death.

 

They are also objects of God’s love.

And objects of the love of God’s people. They are now to receive that love from us. …or kindness or goodness…or help or assistance or support. All rooted and grounded in love.

 

Paul says to the Corinthians in his second letter, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (ESV)

 

We are no longer living for ourselves. We live for Him. We represent Him. We present Him to others. We show love to others as the image bearers of Christ that we are.

His example of love is our motive to love. 

 

In the Gospel today, Christ takes His disciples to Jerusalem. Knowing full well that the city of God was also the city of the Cross.

 

 

Yet He went, as another commentator says, “in the calm determination of love….looking forward to the joy set before Him, the joy of throwing open the Kingdom of God to men.”[2]

 

Christ loves us so much that one of His loves is to have been able to throw open the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven for us….so that we may enter.

 

Here is maybe a good way to capture these thoughts today from our lessons.

 

 

 

 

Melville Scott says, “In times of dangerous weakness, of alluring temptation, when the dread of self-denial and craving for self-indulgence breaks down our feeble wills, may Christ’s example teach us courage. Thus will love make us strong for Lenten duty.”[3]

 

Lenten duty is to call us into deeper contemplation of the predicament we have been saved from.

 

To call us to deeper contemplation of the sin that remains in us and still interferes in our lives and hinders our walk as Christians.

 

As we work to put off the old man…to purge what remains in us….the old ways of sin and put on the new life in Christ.

 

We turn to the cross of Christ. There we find what it represents to us: love. Courage. Steadfastness. Patience.

 

Only when we know what the Cross means and we embrace it… do we then have the strength to go through Lent and the rest of our lives….living for Christ…loving one another and resting in the perfect love that Christ has shown to us and has lived out perfectly before God for us.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 174). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.

 

[3] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.