Sermon 4 Epiphany Yr C

4 Epiphany Yr C, 31/1/2010

I Cor 13:1-13

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 “There’s no I in team or love”

The story is told of a hockey coach. The new season had just begun. He was trying to get his players to play as a team. “There is no I in team!” the coach yelled out. “We work together as one team; we all rely on each other if we’re going to win any games. None of this I’m the best stuff.”

The coach was determining who would play on defence, left and right wing, and centre ice. He asked the team members: “Who wants to play centre ice?” The coach was surprised when every team member, except the goalie put up their hands. “What did I just tell you?” the coach asked, with a tone of frustration in his voice. No one dared to say anything. So the coach asked a second time: “Who wants to play centre ice?” Again, every single player put their hand up. Now the coach was really upset. So he gave his lecture all over again about there being no I in team, and the need to work together as equals if they were going to get anywhere as a team.

He went on to say: “How can the team member on centre ice score any goals if the puck is not passed to them by other team members on defence or left and right wing? Without the other team members, the centre ice player could not score. So, I ask you again, who is willing to play defence or left and right wing?” There was a silence, no one put up there hands. The coach asked for a third time: “Who is going to play centre ice?” For the third time, all the players put up their hands. The coach was unable to convince his team that there is no I in team.

In today’s second lesson, the apostle Paul is saying a very similar thing to that coach in the story. He’s telling the church at Corinth and us today that: “There’s no I in team.” Or, put differently: “There’s no I in love.” Chapter thirteen of first Corinthians has been a very popular chapter, often read at church weddings to describe the love between a husband and wife in a Christian marriage. Now don’t get me wrong, what Paul is writing here certainly is applicable to husbands and wives in their marriage relationship. However, if we want to understand this passage in a more complete way, we need to look at the situation that Paul was addressing at the church in Corinth.

Here’s what was happening in the Corinthian church when Paul wrote this letter. The Corinthians, you see, were a rather divided congregation; they were not working and living together in unity as a time. Some members thought they were better than the other members. The congregation had developed into cliques—the wealthy folk thought that they were too good for the poorer folk and could not share the Lord’s Supper with them. Some in the Corinthian church thought that because they were intellectuals, wise and knowledgeable persons; that made them superior to the rest of the congregation’s members. Others believed that because they had gifts like speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues and the gift of prophecy that they were more spiritual than the other members of the congregation. On and on it went.

In this situation, the apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church and us that: “There’s no I in team. There’s no I in love.” Rather, Paul in today’s passage says that the greatest gift of all is love. Love, says Paul does not count one’s self as greater or superior or more spiritual than others. No, love, says Paul, counts others first and oneself last. All the other spiritual gifts can be rather impressive, yet, says Paul, they don’t amount to a row of beans if they lack love. Love is the motor, if you like, that drives the whole car to its destination. Without the motor, the car would not get very far; and without love we do not get very far.

Paul says there’s no I in team and no I in love because: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Did you notice that in Paul’s description of love here that there is no room for “spiritual superstars” who want to be regarded as superior and of more worth than others? Paul emphasises that true Christian love always counts others first above oneself. In Christ’s church there’s no I in team or I in love. Going back to my first story today, and making it more familiar to our situation here at South Ridge Village; if all of the staff here were managers, would we be able to meet all of the needs of you our residents? No! of course not. Or if all of the staff were chaplains, if they were all pastors like me, would all of your needs be looked after? Again no, of course not! Or if all of the staff were maintenance persons, would you as residents have all of your needs met? No way! What if all the staff were working in housekeeping, would all of your needs be served? I doubt it.

Paul, in this Corinthian letter, emphasises that if the church is to accomplish God’s purposes as a unified team, then we as members all need to work together sharing our different gifts for the common good. We do this sharing out of love for one another, placing others’ needs above ours. The amazing thing we discover is that in counting others more than ourselves and placing their needs above ours; we too shall be served and have our needs met. Why? Because each member of the team; each Christian will be doing the same thing—counting others first ahead of themselves and serving the needs of others first. When we work together and share all of our different gifts as Christians with each other; we become a unified team; we live together in love; and that love continues to grow and grow and grow. The possibilities are endless. Why? Because love is the greatest gift, as Paul says, love is eternal—outlasting all of the other gifts.

The greatest example of Christian love is, of course, Christ himself. He showed us perfectly how to live in love. He always placed the needs of others ahead of his own. He taught that the first shall be last and the last shall be first—that is the true beauty of love. Most of all, he showed us his perfect love in giving up his life by dying on the cross. Although as sinners we deserve to be punished for our sin; Jesus took our place. He accepted our punishment. Instead of getting the punishment that we deserve; Jesus takes our punishment and gives us what we don’t deserve—his love and grace, his forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. Now that’s worth celebrating today and every day of the year!

Let us pray: Thank you Jesus for your perfect example of love. Love that counts others ahead of ourselves and serves the needs of others first. Love that gives without placing conditions on the giving. Love that values and treasures each person and treats them as equals in the family of God. Love the works together in unity and harmony for the common good as a team so that everyone’s needs are served. Amen.

 

 

Wordless Wednesday

WordlessWednesday

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today, January 18, 2010 marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the northern hemisphere nations. This year the theme is “You are witnesses of these things 2010,” based on Luke 24:48. It also marks the 100 anniversary of the World Mission Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910, which was one of the inspiring events of the early 20th century ecumenical movement.  

Do you participate personally in any Week of Prayer for Christian Unity event(s)? If so, would you share the information here?

Does your congregation/parish participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity? If so, would you share the information here?

Does your local ministerial association or other equivalent organisation participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity? If so, would you share the information here?

Here is a link to the World Council of Churches materials prepared for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

 God’s blessings as you and/or your faith community prays for Christian unity this week!

Book Review Still Alice

Still Alice: A Novel

Author: Lisa Genova

Publisher: Pocket Books A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2007, 2009

293 pages + Discussion Questions & A Conversation with Lisa Genova

CDN$ 17.50, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Not everything is as it seems at first blush. Dr. Alice Howland has been William James Professor of Psychology at Harvard University for twenty-five years. Her husband John is also a Harvard professor in the biology department. Alice loves her life of privilege and influence. She is bright, ambitious, and well respected by colleagues and students; travelling the globe to deliver lectures at numerous universities and professional conferences in addition to her duties at Harvard. She also had three wonderful children, who were on their way up in the world. All-in-all, life was grand.

Until, little by little, Alice’s life begins to go awry. At first there are little glitches in some of her lectures—she struggles to find the proper words to describe what she is attempting to communicate. Then there is one occasion when she went out for her daily run and felt lost, even though she was on her familiar route. On another occasion, she had planned to attend an important conference in a distant city and had completely forgotten about it, missing her plane. This was quite out of character for her, since she loved participating in such conferences.

Initially, Alice, her husband, and the children all attribute these irregularities to such factors as too much stress, depression, and menopause. However, after a series of tests, Alice is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alice, John, and the children all struggle with the diagnoses—journeying from denial to the eventual acceptance of it. One would think that among Alice’s colleagues in the hallowed halls of academia, that there would be a built in support system with resources aplenty to draw on. However, it is most ironic that her colleagues often respond to Alice inappropriately by avoiding her—fearing that one day they too could be given the same diagnoses as Alice; which would make them vulnerable and ruin their careers. Such thoughts were too disturbing for them.

The author, herself a Harvard PhD in neuroscience, brilliantly develops Alice as a character living with early onset Alzheimer’s, telling the story from a first person perspective so that readers are given significant insights into Alice’s innermost being; likely evoking empathy and compassion within readers for Alice and others in her predicament.

One heartbreaking scene has Alice looking at pictures of her mother and sister who have both died in a car accident several years ago. Alice has forgotten this, and when she is told, it is as if she had heard the news for the first time, and she begins to weep without consolation.

In a more humorous scene, Alice had been reading Moby Dick. However, she had misplaced the novel somewhere and could not find it. So husband John got it on video. Shortly after that, Alice was going to use the microwave, opens it up, only to discover the novel inside, and she begins to laugh.

One of the tragic ironies explored in the novel is that here was a bright professor with expertise in psychology and linguistics and familiar with the attendant brain functions who was losing the very faculties of her own expertise. No matter how vigorously Alice and her husband pursued medications, diet and lifestyle choices to slow or reverse the early onset Alzheimer’s disease wreaking havoc on their lives; the favourable consequences were minimal. The disease, inch by inch, mercilessly chipped away at Alice’s being and identity. Yet, the title, Still Alice, is an apt one, since Alice at the end of the novel responds to her daughter’s inquiry in a most humane way. Moreover, as Alice leaves behind her academic career and focuses on her identity as a wife, mother and grandmother; there are some beautifully moving scenes that highlight her humanity.

This novel shall prove most helpful for healthcare professionals, families, and individuals interested in and living with Alzheimer’s disease. It not only develops a character diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in a realistic, in-depth fashion; it also explores how such a diagnoses effects the relationships of the person living with Alzheimer’s and their family, friends, colleagues, and healthcare professionals. Moreover, the novel shall be beneficial to readers interested in the ethical-moral issues surrounding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The discussion questions and conversation with Lisa Genova; along with recommended websites; make this novel a worthwhile resource for educational institutions. The fact that the National Alzheimer’s Association endorsed this volume attests to its value for a wide array of readers. For further information visit the following website.

 

 

Peace and goodwill

Peace and goodwill

In the book of Proverbs 17:14 we read: The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so stop before the quarrel breaks out.

Quarrelling is often the consequence of egocentric, sinful living; of speaking without listening; of personal pride and power; of forcing one’s will on others without respecting them. In the world of politics, it’s often the ethos of dictatorships, and following the way of evil, not of God.

Peace and goodwill are given opportunity to flourish, according to Jesus, when a kingdom and a house are not divided against themselves (Mark 3:24-25). How can you and I, in our personal and public lives, avoid the divisions of kingdom and house?

Prayer & Benediction Baptism of Our Lord Yr C

Prayer of the Church, The Baptism of Our Lord, Year C

God our Creator and Redeemer: we praise and thank you that you have called us by our name—knowing and loving us more than we know or love ourselves. Holy One of Israel and Saviour of the human race: no matter how far we may feel from you through suffering or sin, you promise to be with us and gather all of your scattered peoples together from every corner of the world. We rejoice and celebrate you presence among us. God of grace: C: Have mercy and hear our prayer.

God of speech: your voice goes forth from heaven and echoes through all of creation. In the act of speaking, your creative Word gave life to the universe—bringing order to chaos and meaning to meaninglessness. In awe and wonder we worship you, King of creation; bless us with your peace. God of grace: C: Have mercy and hear our prayer.

Breath of Life: You sent the apostles Peter and John to lay their hands on the people of Samaria and pray that they might receive the Holy Spirit. So, too, help us to be ambassadors of your Holy Spirit’s gifts and fruit—praying for and bringing your healing touch to all who are suffering and in need of healing. God of grace: C: Have mercy and hear our prayer.

We thank you heavenly Father for reaffirming through baptism that you had chosen and anointed Jesus, your Son, to accomplish the in-breaking of your reign in the hearts and lives of all believers. God of grace: C: Have mercy and hear our prayer.

In a dog-eat-dog, competitive world; we realize how much there is for us to learn from John’s shining example of humility. Assist all leaders of the world to be humble servants of their people that they may govern with justice and peace. God of grace: C: Have mercy and hear our prayer.

(Here other prayers and thanksgivings may be added, ending with: God of grace: C: Have mercy and hear our prayer.)

Blessed One: through the baptism and prayer of Jesus you revealed yourself to him and delighted in him as your beloved Son. We thank you for revealing yourself to us and claiming us as your children through our baptism. God of grace: C: Have mercy and hear our prayer.

Bestow your baptismal grace upon all Christians, everywhere; that they may spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in thoughts, words, and actions to every nation on earth. We pray in Jesus’ Holy Name. C: Amen.

Benediction

The blessing of God’s peace, the baptismal affirmation that Christ is well pleased with you, and the reconciling power of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always.