As you read this today, I would love for you to do so as you listen to this song. One of my favorites, I think it completely encompasses everything Paul writes in our reading today. It’s a song called “Let Our Faith Be Not Alone” by the Robbie Seay Band.
There is a kind of love that makes a person give pause.
It is poetic. It moves in your soul, like the air you breathe. It sings sweet lullabies to you in your darkest hour.
Powerful, this love is. It protects. It is steadfast. It does not waver, even when life sinks to the moors. It is the hope, in this life, that God is real and that he is alive, for only he can enable someone to love you like this. And only he can enable you to love others with the same force.
When we gather, then, as the full body of Jesus, our love is on display. It is the only gift that should keep making us want to come back.
People, together in utter anticipation, wait for the voice of God, because there is great strength found in knowing how God works in the lives of everyone else.
I lead a small group of students on Wednesday nights. I grew tired, long ago, of trying to teach students in these settings. God was calling me, last autumn, to embark upon a different type of gathering. No more curriculum. No more hours of research and writing for a thirty minute lesson. Instead, our hour-long meetings would be filled with only one thing: revelations. I wanted all of us to experience at least one part of this type of gathering, encouraged by Paul:
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:26; NIV84)
My challenge was for each student, and each adult, to spend the entire week searching for God — looking for God. They were to do so, by prayer, by reading, and, most simply, just by listening.
When met together, we would allow each person to share those revelations. And they were awesome. They were awesome, in part, because each person began to seek the gift of prophecy. Every Wednesday night was anointed.
Prophecy. That may have made you stop reading for a moment. But it is true, and it is biblical, and a gift available to all of us. Here are Paul’s words:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. (1 Corinthians 14:1; NIV84)
It is a gift that requires no interpretation (14:4). It is used to encourage others (14:3). It can speak into the depths of another’s heart (14:25). It is not a sermon, and can be given to anyone, by the spirit of God, in a moment’s notice (14:29, 30). It is a gift to be given, and used, by both men and women (1 Corinthians 11:4, 5).
It is an incredibly biblical gift few of us have ever been taught to receive. Yet God speaks to all of us, all of the time. I simply encouraged our group to listen, and share. That, friend, is prophecy.
And I was deeply moved by these revelations, in fact, i was deeply moved most every meeting. My faith was not alone. My struggles were not done alone. God was moving, and I, like everyone else, became an eye-witness to the doings of God in the lives of everyone else. Age didn’t matter, for we were all children of God, sharing the depths of our own struggles, and sharing how God was constantly renewing our hearts.
It seemed that when I no longer let the hour be dominated by just my voice, God finally was given the spotlight.
But when our time of worship is dominated by the thoughts of one person, we inadvertently make the revelation of only one person the crowning moment. I know, too, we have centuries of traditions to erase if we want to change what happens in our gatherings on Sunday mornings. Yet if you meet in a small group, you can change that, through a time of prayer.
I have found that when God starts talking, nothing else really matters, anyway.
It will be messy, though. There were times that our own Wednesday nights were messy, and times when our own selfishness kept us from hearing God. Many of us admitted as much.
Even the Corinthian church had issues. Those who interrupted the revelations of others — both those who spoke in a tongue, in their own private conversation with God, without anyone to interpret (14:28), and women who seemed to ask interrupting questions (14:34) — were told to be quiet. Yes, it was messy.
But a gathering like this is wrapped in a divine love. It is a love that tears down our walls, and lets us be vulnerable to each other, and to receive the prayer, the spontaneous prayer, when God leads others to pray for us as we share our struggles.
This kind of love does not come from us. We do not have the capacity, or the ability, to love like this. We are so adept at selfish behavior that we believe only God can love like this … that only God can love without condition.
That is not true. The love, written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, is agape love. Unconditional love. God loves us like this, but God also enables us to love others with the same love. We can love without condition, because God gives us the ability to do so.
And when we gather, this is the supernatural love we bring. This is the most excellent gift.
This love — not our worship music, not our sermons, not or our facilities, and not our ministers — is what binds us with others in dark moments, and in moments of praise.
It is the more excellent way.
It is what levels our gatherings, because each of us only concern ourselves with the needs of others.
And it is the only gift that will outlast all of the others.
Worship may be about music. It may be about communion. But it should always be about love. The God who loves us without condition, and gives us the gift to love others without condition, is a God worthy of praise.