St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church Service Times

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Fr Matthew Kirby for further details.
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Monday, 22 February 2016

The Greatest is LOVE.

The greatest of these is love.
 
We heard this morning a very famous passage from scripture, ending with that famous statement. Faith, hope, love abide but the greatest of these is love.
 
* The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish
 
Why is love greater than all the things that St Paul compared it to before?
Not just faith and hope but he compared it to all of those gifts like prophesy, understanding mysteries and the faith to move mountains. Why is love greater than gifts of power and knowledge, prophesy or mountain moving faith? Surely the church would have more success one might ask and persuade more people if the world saw that we could supernaturally predict the future or preform great signs and wonders aplenty?
 
What is “the greatness” of love?
Well, the first thing to realise about love is that it is the end, not the means. Many of these other things that St Paul talks about, these powers and gifts are a means to an end. In other words they have a function in achieving a goal.
 
What is the goal?
The miracles and the prophecies are for the salvation of souls drawing us into the light and into the truth. But, the love of God within us is the essence of that salvation. That love is the stuff of life. It is the highest truth. It is the end, not merely the means to the end. It is the goal. For God is love. We are told that by John in his first epistle . It is in love that we are united to God Himself. These scriptural principles are also supported by our best reason, our best intuition. We know that for the one who is loving, love is greatest because it is better for a person to be good than to be just strong and clever. At our best we know the virtuous, kind person is more admirable than the merely talented or the powerful. Being a person of love is the ultimate goal of  fulfilled humanity. For the person who is loving that is the fulfilment of who they should be. For those who are being loved, love is also the greatest because although there are many other gifts which St Paul mentions here, faith and hope and the power to move mountains and prophecy and in places in the same book he has mentioned healing and so on. These things are wonderful and bless people, but for those who are the object of love (who are receiving love) all of these other blessings are most effective if they are done in love.
 
If a person hears a true prophesy or a  true word from God but not from love, not expressed out of love from a person who loves, then they may hear not Gods heart but a clanging cymbal as St Paul puts it. He says in the very beginning “ though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love I become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”
 
So, if we want people to hear Gods word, to hear Gods heart, we need to have that heart of love. Otherwise the message however beautifully expressed may not reach its target. Sometimes love even without all of the other stuff can persuade when nothing else can. The hardest heart may be melted by patient kindness that refuses to be turned into hatred by that hard hearts initial negative responses. A person who seems to be an enemy to God and goodness may well be turned by somebody who is kind and patient with them and refuses to be put off by their negativity. Whereas the same hard heart may be unmoved by evidence, supernatural power or knowledge because all that will do is prove to them that there is a God but if they want no part of God to begin with, even if He is real, then that may not make a difference. It may just make them more resentful. It is then that an uncomprimable love, even if there is not much else to go on with, is more powerful than power. It communicates more than words.
 
The Gospel must still be heard, it must still be preached. But, the opening to it may need to come through an agape love more than anything else. When I say agape love, agape is the Greek word which we translate to love or charity in the scriptures of the New Testament. It is that love which is not merely the love of friendship or the love of romance but love that says I “will” the good for you, I want the “good for the other”, not for my sake but fully for yours. Indeed enemies of the faith have been converted through that kind of loving kindness and that kind of patience, where other things may have made no difference or little difference.
 
Christ himself implies that this is His greatest act of persuasion. Speaking of the cross He says “when I am lifted up I will draw all men unto me”. Not when He preformed healing or spoke great and astounding truths but when He was at His weakest and yet acting out of self sacrificial love, when despite what He was experiencing, when despite the complete lack of power at that moment by choice, He says “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. And that is why Faith, Hope and Love abide, but the greatest of these is Love.
 
Let us reflect upon and then communicate that love.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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