Faithbook: “Messages”

Faithbook–Biblical Lessons for the Digital Age: “Messages”
A Message on 1 Corinthians 13

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Sept. 2, 2018
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

1 Corinthians 13 (NRSV)

 

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,[a] 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.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

 

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Today we are continuing our sermon series on “Faithbook: Biblical Truths for the Digital Age” by looking at “Messages.”

 

Now if you use Facebook you know that you can send messages to people. There’s even a separate software called “Messenger” that works within Facebook and allows you to send private messages to a particular person or group of people. It’s a great way to communicate.

 

Today we are going to look at “messages” that we send and receive as Christians.

 

One of the things I like to do with our daughters is to “FaceTime” them. This is an instant video communication system where they can use their cell phones to interact with me or Pam through video. There is just something about seeing their face while you are hearing their voice that is better than just talking to them on the phone.

 

Back when I was in college if you would have told me that in my lifetime I would be able to video chat with someone on a small, handheld “phone” I would have laughed at you. I would not have even been able to imagine it.

 

I went to Henderson County Junior College in Athens, TX my first two years of college. I was on a band scholarship playing trombone and all I had to pay for was meals and books.

 

I lived in a dorm, West Hall, for the two years I attended there. There were no computers, no cell phones. As a matter of fact if I wanted to call home on the telephone I had to go to the lobby, where there was a single pay phone (some of you young folks may not even know what one of those is), dial up the operator, and make a collect call. (You young folks may not know what those are, either.)

 

If my mom wanted to call me she had to dial the number of the pay phone, hope that someone was there to answer it, hope that the person understood English enough to understand her (there were a lot of students from the Middle East that attended HCJC at the time), and hope they would be willing to climb the stairs to the second floor and knock on my door to let me know I had a phone call.

 

I could also write her a letter and send it through the mail, and she would get it three days later… Maybe.

 

It was a different world and a different time. And yet we somehow survived okay. (Although some today may question that when it comes to me.)

 

My mind is still boggled at the technology today that allows us to communicate instantly from pretty much anywhere in the world. And there are people here in this room that probably remember “ringing” up someone on the telephone by turning a hand crank that generated electricity to make the call. (And there are probably some people here that used those telephone generators to “ring up” some fish, which wasn’t legal but was pretty effective. At least, that’s what I’ve been told…)

 

We have the ability to communicate with others exponentially more now than ever in the history of the world. It really is amazing.

 

And yet with such great ability comes great responsibility. Many people today, especially young folks, have to deal with cyber bullying.

 

Back in my day if we did something foolhardy then word of it might travel by the local grapevine to our parents (which was very effective, by the way). Nowadays if a teenager does something foolhardy there is the possibility that it will be captured through photos or videos from cell phones and then quickly posted on social media sites which make it go “viral,” spreading all over the world electronically.

 

Unfortunately there are many stories of young people (and also adults) choosing to take their life after they are cyber-bullied by having some embarrassing photos, videos, or stories about them posted to the Internet.

 

The Internet and social media make it possible for people to be connected to others in remarkable ways today. Unfortunately it also provides opportunities for people to be extraordinarily mean and cruel to others while hiding behind and electronic cloak of anonymity.

 

As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to live in this world but not be of it. We are called to spread the gospel of love, not hate.

 

The scripture we read today is one of the more “famous” scriptures of the Bible. We use it a lot at weddings and it is known as the “love chapter” of the Bible. Found in the letter Paul wrote to the followers of Christ in Corinth, a coastal city in what is now Greece. It was an important city in regards to trade and the site of many cultures.

 

So what does Paul’s “love chapter” have to do with messages? In my opinion, everything!

 

What if we, as Christians, communicated messages wrapped in love? Even when we have to be corrective or engaged in a controversial subject, what does it look like to communicate messages that are loving?

 

Let’s try something. I’m going to read to you from The Message paraphrase of today’s scripture from 1 Corinthians 13. As I read it, think about how these words could be applied to the messages sent and received on social media.

 

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

 

My late mother used to have a saying that she not only espoused but lived by. I am familiar with it because I can’t count the times she said it me when I would start complaining about someone or something.

 

The saying was this: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

 

It really is good advice, especially when illuminated in the light of 1 Corinthians 13.

 

In 1 John 4:8 we read that “God is love.” Jesus came to earth and gave his life on the cross because of his great love. And God loves us so much that he allowed his only son to be treated cruelly and then executed like a common criminal without intervening, even though he had the power to do so.

 

That is why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper like we did today. It reminds us of just how much we are loved, regardless of our past, regardless of any of the things that the world says are important like wealth or power or looks or popularity. When we kneel on our knees to receive the bread and the wine we humble ourselves after confessing our sins and acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves. We need a savior. And, thanks be to God, we have one in Jesus Christ.

 

So my challenge to you this week is to wrap all your messages in love. Remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 about what love is and what love is not. Even if you have to communicate something uncomfortable or corrective, do so in love.

 

And that’s a lot better than calling your mom collect from a pay phone.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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