Summer of Love, Intro

June 25, 2017

The year was 1967, I had just
turned seven years old, Canada was celebrating its centennial   and two events happened that would mark and
define the United States for years to come.
 The first one took place mostly along the East
Coast of the US and was referred to as “The Long hot summer of 1967” and it
referred to the 159 race riots that erupted across the United States that
summer.  It was not a proud summer for
the US.
On the other coast the city of
San Francisco was bracing itself for an onslaught of “Hippies”.  College and High school students had been
streaming into the Haight-Ashbury district since spring break and the local
authorities determined to stop the influx just brought more attention to the
event.
By the time the summer was
done over 100,000 so called hippies had converged on the city. 
A number of groups and
organizations in the community responded to the perceived crisis by forming the
“Council of the Summer of Love”, which of course gave the summer it’s
name. 
The council coordinated efforts
of community groups and churches to assist with free clinics, housing, food,
sanitation and concerts.
Who were these hippies?  Well sometimes they were called flower
children but they were really an eclectic group.  Made up mostly of folks in their mid-teens to
mid-twenties who had avowed to not trust anyone over thirty.  Most were suspicious of the government,
rejected consumeristic lifestyles and opposed the Vietnam war. A few were
interested in politics; others were more concerned with art, music and poetry
while others embraced various world religions. It really was a mixed bag.
But it was also from this
group that we saw the “Jesus Movement” of the late sixties take root and people
lives are still being impacted by the churches that were formed out of that
movement.
And wrap your head around the
fact that the youngest of those counter culture hippies are now in their mid to
late sixties and early seventies and some have grandkids who are over thirty.
It was at the summer of Love
that Timothy Leary first used the phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop
out” and the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your
Hair)”, written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, became the
unofficial anthem of the summer.
I said all that to say that we
are calling this Summer at Cornerstone the “Summer of Love” and for the next 10
weeks we will be focusing on 1 Corinthians 13, which is often referred to as
the “Love Chapter” of the bible.  We read
a portion of the chapter earlier but now we are going to read all 13 verses
together. 
1 Corinthians 13:1-13  If I could speak all the languages of earth
and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a
clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of
prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all
knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love
others, I would be nothing.  If I gave
everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about
it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous
or boastful or proud  or rude. It does
not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being
wronged.  It does not rejoice about
injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is
always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages
and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!  Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete,
and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!  But when full understanding comes, these
partial things will become useless.  When
I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up,
I put away childish things.  Now we see
things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with
perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will
know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope,
and love—and the greatest of these is love.
And that’s where we are going
to park for the Summer of Love.
Really though, 1 Corinthians
13 can’t be taken completely in isolation. 
It is part of an entire letter that was written by the apostle Paul to
the Christ Followers who made up the church in Corinth, which was a city in
Greece. 
In the first eleven chapters
of the letter Paul has been dealing with all kinds of moral and theological
issues that had arisen in the church. 
Whenever I hear people say, “I wish the church could be more like the
New Testament Church!”  I wonder if they
have actually read the New Testament. 
Then in Chapter twelve Paul
seems to turn a page as he talks about the gifts of the Spirit. There is the
gift of speaking in unknown languages, the gift of prophecy, the gift of
wisdom, the gift of healing and a bunch of others.  And people get excited about those types of
gifts. 
But listen to the closing
words of 1 Corinthians 12 1 Corinthians 12:31 
. . . But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.   In the NIV it says 1 Corinthians 12:31 . . .
And now I will show you the most excellent way.
A better way of life than the
Corinthian Christians were presently living, a way more excellent than the
promise of the spiritual gifts.
So the first thing that Paul
tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:1  If I
could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I
would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
So Paul begins with the
premise that Christianity is Words, but not Just Words  The temptation here is to negate the value of
words, but that isn’t the intent.  Words
are an important part of how Christianity began.  Remember Jesus went preaching and teaching.    Crowds gathered to hear him speak words.
The church spread throughout
the known world as people like Paul preached the word and taught about
Christianity.  Remember for the most part
this was an oral culture.  Even when
words were written down, they were written down to be read out loud.
St. Francis of Assis is often
quoted as having said “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use
words.”  It’s kind of quotable, and
inspirational but he didn’t say that, we don’t know who did but there is no
evidence at all that Francis did. 
But it’s kind of a pithy and
is used to show that deeds are more important than words and that you don’t
even have to use words to convey the gospel of Christ.  What it has become is a good excuse for not
talking about your faith.
If you can preach the gospel
without using words that would make you better than John Wesley or Augustine or
for that matter Jesus.  They all used
words to preach the gospel.
Paul wrote in Romans
10:13-14  For “Everyone who calls on the
name of the LORD will be saved.”  But how
can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they
believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about
him unless someone tells them?
So Paul is not trying to
diminish the power of our words.  Whether
they be the eloquently spoken words of men. 
Those words that are crafted and polished to have maximum effect.   Or even if they are the words of heaven, and
there has been debate over whether the language of Angels referred to the
miraculous gift of tongues or the actual language that the angels speak.  We don’t know.  And if someone tells you that they know for
sure what Paul meant, they’re bluffing.
What Paul was telling the
church was that words without love are empty, regardless of how eloquent and
pretty they are.  It’s easy to speak,
it’s more difficult to speak in love. 
I love the story about the
hotheaded woman who once told John Wesley, “My talent is to speak my
mind.” To which Mr. Wesley replied, “Woman, God wouldn’t care a bit
if you would bury that talent.”
In Ephesians 4:15 Paul talks
about speaking the truth in love, and that is the challenge, to not just speak
the truth, that’s the easy part, but to speak the truth in love.
Just take a minute and think
about what you are going to say, because after you say it, after you speak
those words, your words will rule over you. 
As long as those words remain unspoken, you rule over them.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote
“If you think little of a person, you ought to say as little as you
think.”  That sounds safe, goes right
along with what Andy Rooney said  “Always
keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.”
What Paul was saying was that
without love there is no harmony in your words, there is only discord and
noise, kind of like gongs and cymbals. 
And boy after those words are
spoken they are so hard for you to take back and so hard for others to forget.
Kind loving words don’t cost
much, but they are so valuable.  And for
the preacher the warning is there as well, we hear about the preachers who
preached “Hell Fire and Brimstone”  but
is that a preaching that is grounded in 1 Corinthians 13? 
William Barclay warns
preachers that “The preaching which is all threat and no love may terrify but
it will not save.”
Nowhere in the bible are we
told that we are to scare the Hell out of people, but we are told that we are
to show them the love that God has for them. 
But it wasn’t just the misuse
of words that Paul was concerned with, he continues on in 1 Corinthians saying
1 Corinthians 13:2  If I had the gift of
prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all
knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love
others, I would be nothing.  So, next we
are told that Christianity is Knowledge, but not Just Knowledge 
Through the years, I have met
some folks who seem to almost exalt in the fact that they aren’t all that
knowledgeable about their faith.   They
seem to feel that they have a purer relationship with Jesus because it’s not
cluttered up with theology and stuff like that. 
They talk about having a simple faith.
You don’t have to read very
far in the New Testament to see the value that Paul and others place on
knowledge.  Paul’s prayer for the
Christians in Philippi was recorded in Philippians 1:9  I pray that your love will overflow more and
more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
And Peter encourages the early
church with these words:  2 Peter
1:5  In view of all this, make every
effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous
provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge . . .
Peter and Paul weren’t telling
people that they needed to read every new Christian best seller that came out
and to immerse themselves in every new Christian fad that showed up.  But they were telling people that they had to
know the how’s and the why’s of their salvation.  That they needed to know what the bible says
and what the bible doesn’t say.
Theodore Roosevelt once
wrote  “A thorough knowledge of the Bible
is worth more than a college education.” 
That falls in the category of All “Generalizations are wrong.”  But I will say that as a Christian a
knowledge of the bible of what you believe and why you believe, is essential to
your faith. 
And that happens when you read
the bible and discuss it with other Christians. And if you don’t have a bible,
just mention it to the staff and we will get you a bible.
But in light of all of that,
if you have knowledge but no love, you might as well be as dumb as a stump for
all that it matters.
You know what I mean, you’ve
seen people who have to be right.  They
won’t have a discussion, they won’t hear other views.  And they alienate themselves from others and
even when they are right it doesn’t matter because nobody cares. 
Confession time, I have people
in my life that when they start I just check out, it wouldn’t matter if they
were telling me the secrets of the ages because I can’t have a discussion with
them.  It’s their way their views and
their truth and they won’t listen to anything else. 
And when you use your
knowledge or your debating skills to win the point without regards to how you
leave the other person feeling, you’re a bully. 
And nobody likes bullies.
Earlier in his letter Paul
warned the Corinthians:  1 Corinthians
8:1-3  . . . But while knowledge makes us
feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.  Anyone who claims to know all the answers
doesn’t really know very much.  But the
person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.
Paul’s first two statements
make sense, the third one is a little confusing.   1 Corinthians 13:3  If I gave everything I have to the poor and
even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I
would have gained nothing. So it is here that we discover that Christianity is
Action, but not Just Action 
There are times I think that
we get stuck in Ephesians 2:9  Salvation
is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about
it.  And we are so afraid that we might
boast about the good things we do that we just don’t do any good things.
And we aren’t saved by our
good works, but paradoxically we are saved to do good works.  
You don’t have to look very
far into Jesus’ words to see him commanding us to respond to the needs of
others.  Not just think about it, but to
do it.  James, the brother of Jesus,
writes in his letter James 2:14-16  What
good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show
it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has
no food or clothing,  and you say,
“Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that
person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
By the way, that is a
rhetorical question, James wasn’t really looking for an aswer.
And Paul isn’t telling us to
not give to the poor not to do good deeds. 
He just saying do it out of love not simply out of obligation.
Deepak Chopra wrote “Love
without action is meaningless. Action without love is irrelevant.”  And yes I know Chopra is  a new age guy.
And those good works done
without love will still benefit the recipient. 
If they were hungry and you gave them food without love, their hunger
would still be satisfied.  If they were
thirsty and you gave them a drink, their thirst would still be slacked.  If they were cold and you gave them clothes
out of a feeling of obligation they’d still be warm.
It would be you who missed
out. 
Love is the magic
ingredient.  J Vernon McGee was a
Presbyterian preacher and he summed it up this like this, “Look at it this way:
Write down a string of zeros — eloquence alone is zero, prophecy alone is
zero, knowledge alone is zero, faith alone is zero, sacrifice alone is zero,
martyrdom alone is zero. Six zeros still add up to nothing. But you put the
numeral 1 to the left of that string of zeros, and every zero amounts to
something. And, friend, love is the thing that needs to be added to every gift
of the Spirit. Without love your gift is worthless.”
So over the next couple of
months, “The Summer of Love” we will not be describing love, we will be
painting a picture of love.
Have you ever tried to
describe something that is indescribable? 
I cannot adequately describe the Great Pyramid, even after having
climbed it and gone into it.  But I could
show you a picture.  What describes Egypt
more than a picture of a man and his minion on a camel in front of the pyramids
of Giza? 
How would you describe a
platypus?
I’ve seen a platypus and I’d
be hard pressed to describe it.  Well,
it’s a mammal, that lives it the water it’s got a bill like a duck and tail
like a beaver.  It’s furry but it’s got
webbed feet, and it doesn’t give birth it lays eggs, oh and the mother nurse
her young.
There is no way that you could
describe a Platypus to a person who had never seen it before that would
accurately portray it.  But you could
show them a picture.
And it’s the same way with
love.  And when we look at the picture
that Paul paints for us of love, it is hard to believe that it was painted 2000
years ago, because it is as fresh as tomorrow.
And it would do well to learn
from the painting because the bible tells us in 1 John 3:18  “Let’s not merely say that we love each
other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
We often think of love as an
emotion and so we fall into love and we fall out of love. We experience love at
first sight.  When it comes to love most
of us would agree with Woody Allen when he said 
“I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had
smallpox.” 
But if love is simply an
emotion than love couldn’t be something that God would command of us. 
You can’t be commanded to feel
something.  Love is something you
do.  It may produce emotions, but first
and foremost is an action. 
And we are commanded to
love.  John 13:34  So now I am giving you a new commandment:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 
And then Jesus spells out the
consequence of obeying that commandment: John 13: 35   Your love for one another will prove to the
world that you are my disciples.”