1 Corinthians 13:1-3
As a preacher’s daughter, preacher’s spouse, and active layperson, I’ve heard a lot of great preaching. I know from close range how much hard work goes into a great sermon. But I’ve also been privileged to know the great love that these pastors demonstrate. My father’s preaching inspired me to walk the aisle of First Baptist Church, Polo, Missouri, and give my life to Christ. But I saw love when I watched my father hold the plastic basin for one of my best high school friends when she was sick after surgery. The first time I heard the great Jim Forbes preach, I was pregnant with our older daughter; even in utero, she seemed to experience the power of the Spirit, kicking and dancing as Jim preached and the amen corner shouted. I also know of Jim befriending young seminary students at a retreat, taking time to listen and mentor. I’ll never forget Nancy Sehested talking about the extravagant grace of the “150-gallon” God when she preached at our wedding. A joyful picture of her love hangs on my bulletin board as she baptizes black, brown, and white prisoners in a tank at a maximum-security prison, all of them laughing. Just last week, my husband Kyle ended his sermon with a story that left us all in tears. I also see him leave his porch chair late at night to go get gas for someone who’s shown up at our door.
These preachers would be crushed to think their beautifully crafted words were nothing but a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (v. 1) or, in Richard Hays’s translation, “the empty echo of an actor’s speech,” or, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “the creaking of a rusty gate.” Thanks be to God for their powerful demonstrations of love that give their beautiful speech substance.
When have you seen the gifts that are shared in church being amplified by the love that the giver shows to others?
God, forgive us when we become nothing but empty noise. Fill us with your love that you may use our gifts for your service. Amen.