3 Good Words
Whatever is preached this coming week, it should be a continuation of Pentecost. You can go to Genesis and talk about how the creating spirit of God continues to act in the world; but that we as the Church have been given the commandment to be fruitful, multiply, and care for the earth. Or you can go to the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and talk about how the Holy Spirit wasn’t given as a personal heart warmer, but as a dynamic power for the congregation to do its task of making disciples. I’m going to suggest, though, that you look at I Corinthians 13:11-13. Here Paul closes a difficult letter by highlighting three words. They are the words he would shout from the ship’s rail if he were sailing away forever from them. They are three reminders of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, that must continue in this world of change.
Farewell: This word doesn’t mean good-bye. It means to be joyful and continue in the joy of your relationship with God, even if your current teacher or spiritual guide is departing. The Holy Spirit is an outwardly propelling spirit. It sends people out to share the Gospel with the world. Hubble, the astronomer, discovered that all of the galaxies of the universe are speeding outward and away from each other at an incredible rate. If God does this with the stars, what will he do with the people he has empowered by the Holy Spirit? (see the June 12th blog on the farewell sermon ).
Get-it-together: Paul uses a Greek word that is variously translated; get perfect, heed my warning, put things in order, etc. However you say it, it has to do with continuous improvement. One reason Pentecost doesn’t happen often in the church today, is because we are more comfortable with our past and our traditions than we are with a Holy Spirit that drives us to be constantly creating and doing new things. Paul is here, as elsewhere, calling people to go on to perfection. We must strive for what we don’t have yet.
Love: Where the above have been single words in Greek, Paul now takes three lines to say that the power of the Holy Spirit depends upon unity. People must choose to love one another. This love doesn’t come from conformity, but rather we accept each others differences and we pray for the church to become a more diverse place.