The Heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland: The Heart That Shares Love

The First United Presbyterian Church
“The Heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland: The Heart that Shares Love”
Rev. Amy Morgan
October 21, 2018

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Matthew 22:34-40
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
 37 He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
 38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
 39 And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

“I just love your church!” The woman’s eyes were wide, soaking up the historic beauty of our sanctuary: the stained glass, hand-painted wood grain, and towering organ pipes. I explained our church’s history and pointed out some of its other interesting architectural features. She thanked me for the tour and left, and I haven’t seen her since.

“I just love your church!” she said. But did she? Could she? In 5 minutes?

Maybe she didn’t love it, love it. But she “just” loved it.

We know what “just” loving is. We do a lot of “just” loving. We “just” love Pumpkin Spice lattes. We “just” love those shoes. We “just” love hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Except when it is crawling with all those tourists we “just” hate.

We can even “just” love people. I “just” love our mail carrier. You’ll “just” love this new person I’m going to introduce you to. Maybe you won’t really love them. But you’ll at least “just” love them.

“Just” love is love that is conflated with desire. It’s about what we want, not what anybody else may need. And is therefore easily susceptible to those self-centered vices of jealousy, pride, shame, and resentment.

We can quickly go from “just” loving someone because of what they can do for us to “just” hating them because of what they have and won’t give to us. The things we “just” love are those things that make us look good and feel powerful.

I mean, really, is there any greater status symbol in our society than a Pumpkin Spice latte? It declares to the world that we have so much extra time and money on our hands that we can wait in line for 20 minutes and pay $5.45 to carry around a cup full of liquid horror. Nobody actually drinks that. It’s awful-tasting. But we “just” love it.

This is where the Spanish language is so much more honest than English. The Spanish word for love is amor. But quite often, where we would say “I just love,” Spanish-speakers would say, “Yo quiero,” “I want.” “Just” love is about what we want.

And this is exactly the kind of love that Paul is disparaging in 1 Corinthians 13. We read this text at weddings and funerals and hear it as this lyric poem about love. Just about anybody can recite from memory Paul’s first two declarations about love: “Love is patient. Love is kind.” What comes next? Nobody remembers.

Because the rest of it is ALL NEGATIVE. Most of this passage is not about love. It’s about what love is NOT. Envious, boastful, arrogant, rude. Selfish, irritable, resentful, deceitful. Paul isn’t pulling these things out of thin air. Throughout much of his letter to the church in Corinth, this is exactly the kind of behavior he’s been condemning. Jealousy, boasting, being “puffed up” and shameful behavior. Arguments over whose way is the right way to be a Christian. Injustices in the practice of the Lord’s Supper. Paul is implying that everything about the Corinthians’ behavior contradicts the character of love.

I’m sure those Corinthian Christians “just” loved their church. And they “just” loved each other. Maybe they even “just” loved Jesus.

But their love was not “just.” It was not righteous. It was not love, actually.

And for Paul, that’s the only thing that matters. Paul has been talking about spiritual gifts – prophecy and speaking in tongues, healing and performing miracles and teaching. But none of it matters one bit if these things are not done with love.

What Paul actually says is that we must “have love,” like it is something we can possess, like we could pick some up at Starbucks with our Pumpkin Spice lattes. Don’t “just” love. Have love. Love is a noun, not a verb.

But love is an active noun; it does something, it makes a difference. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. If we have love, we have it all. Without love, we have nothing.

Desirable as love is, it is not something we can earn or acquire. Remember, Paul has just been talking to the Corinthians about spiritual gifts. Gifts of healing and prophesy need the gift of love to have any effect. We must have love, but we can only have it as a gift.

Maybe this is the kind of gift that we wait and hope for. But maybe it is a gift that is always there, waiting for us to receive it.

When we speak about romantic love today, we often use the phrase “in” love. “Falling in love,” “being in love.” This implies a temporary state, like we’re in the car or in bed.

But what if we applied this to our biblical understanding of love? If love is a noun, as Paul describes it, can we be “in” love, like we are “in” church right now? Can we receive the gift of love, not as an object to be possessed, but as a location to enter?

First United Presbyterian is the Heart of Christ “in” the Heart of Loveland. We are located in love. When we enter this place, not just physically, but as part of this spiritual community, we are “in” love.

We are “in” love when we worship, singing our love to God, hearing the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ, sharing the love feast of Holy Communion, and welcoming others to be “in” love with God and our neighbors.

We are “in” love when we nurture the love of God in one another, offering healing words, meals, and hugs, learning and growing in our faith, and affirming each other’s spiritual gifts.

We are “in” love when we serve our neighbors, including our enemies. Whether it’s a meal or mentorship, a warm place to sleep or a warm welcome to the neighborhood, we are “in” love when we imitate God by taking our neighbors’ needs seriously. We serve “in” love.

From this place, “in” love, we can teach and heal, speak truth and fight injustice. “In” love, we can worship God and serve our neighbors. “In” love, our faith can move mountains.

We can “just” love, commanded by our selfish desires. We can “have” love, if we are wise and fortunate enough to receive that great gift. Or we can be “in” love, locating ourselves in the heart of Christ in the heart of Loveland.

But anyone who has been married for any length of time knows that to be “in” love is not enough. “In” love is indeed a temporary location. It is easy to move away from this place. There are lots of other interesting places to be. “In” trouble is one of our favorites. “In” a meeting is a close second for Presbyterians.

Staying “in” love, and not wandering out of it, is a challenge. It requires commitment. The primary component of biblical love is not affection but commitment. Love requires staying power.

Maybe that’s why Jesus commands it. Jesus, in his debate with religious scholars, talks about love as a commandment. Commandments are not things you desire or possess. Commandments are not things you think or feel. Commandments are, 100% of the time, things you DO. (or, in many cases, things you DON’T do.) But loving God and neighbor are things you do, not things you think or feel or want.

In fact, commandments often act as correctives to our natural urges and inclinations. We might want to book our Sundays from sun-up to sun-set with errands and catching up on work, but we’re commanded rest. We might feel like spending our money on things we “just” love, but we’re commanded to give a tithe to the work of God. We might prefer to wallow in self-pity and blame God for our plight, but we’re commanded to love God and love our neighbor. We’re commanded to stay “in” love. It’s not a choice. It’s not an option. It’s a command.

And so, here at 1st on 4th, we take that command seriously. And that is hard work. Committing to worship and nurture and service so we can stay “in” love is not easy to do.

And that is why we don’t do it alone. We are “in” love with each other. When one of us tries to wander away, when one of us is “out” of love, there are always others who are “in” love and who will help us find our way back to it.

When we are “in” love, it shows. Our lives look different. Just like when we’ve been “in” the beauty salon and go walking around with a new do, people will take notice when we have been “in” love. And they might just ask for directions. They might just want to be “in” love, too.

1st on 4th has so many incredible ministries – of service, hospitality, and compassion. And we are a congregation that takes the practice of our faith seriously – studying scripture and visiting the sick and caring for the poor. And we are a generous congregation – giving not only to the work of this church but to particular needs that arise and to the work of the larger church and missions that extend far beyond our doors.

But the most important thing about this congregation is that we do all these things “in” love. “In” love with God and with our neighbor. “In” love with each other as a family of faith. Here, in the heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland, we are “in” love. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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