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(Begin playing “What the World Needs Now” as the kids doing the reading/skit get into place.)

Reader One: 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (Josh Pratt begins to bang on the cymbals loud and long.)
Brooklyn Williams:  How annoying is that?! (looks annoyed while speaking)
Reader Two: 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Hannah Pratt:  Listen to me.  I’m totally wise.  I’ve got it going on.  I not only know it, but I believe it with all my heart (valley girl accent)
Reader One: 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Brooklyn Williams:  Give me liberty or give me death (swooning dramatically with her hand to her forehead as if to sacrifice it all)
Reader Two:  4 Love is patient
Hannah Pratt:  Would you hurry up?
Reader Two:  Love is kind.
Brooklyn Williams-Where did you get that ugly dress?
Reader One:  It does not envy.
Hannah Pratt:   Why can’t I have what she has?
Reader One:  It does not boast.  It is not proud.
Brooklyn Williams:  I always get picked first in gym for games.  I’m a natural athlete.
Reader Two: 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
Hannah Pratt:  Excuse me, but I’m here now.  Rewind the movie.  You should have waited for me.
Reader One:  It is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Brooklyn Williams:  Well, you hurt my feelings in 1963, 1975 AND 1984!
Reader One:  6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Reader Two:  7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Reader One and Two Together:  8 Love never fails.

Silent Prayer

1.    Love is Unequaled-Verses 1 through 3 tells us that no gift we possess and offer,
no act of kindness, no wisdom we have to impart, and nothing we believe surpasses love.  Any spiritual gift used without love is not only, not of God, but it can destroy and hurt people; something love never seeks to do.  Any act of kindness done without love is not only not of God, but it turns into self righteous behavior as we go to bed satisfied that we’ve “done our good deed for the day.”  Any wisdom we have to impart, if offered without love won’t be believed or seen as credible and we’ll live to simply hear ourselves talk.  Any behavior or attitude not done in love means, nothing.  In fact, without love, any behavior or attitude becomes an annoying, obnoxious, clanging, empty drone of nothing. However, when love leads the gifts, when love leads the wisdom, when love leads the kindness nothing else matches its power.

a.    Love is unequaled in purpose because the goal of love is to make other people
better.  Period.  Anything else done without love serves to promote a person or an agenda, often at the expense of others which destroys or hurts rather than builds them up.
This passage in I Corinthians starts out in verse 1 talking about the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.  If the goal isn’t to build up the body, we’re told by Paul, that it shouldn’t be exercised.  No spiritual gift is to be used for personal gain or show, but to build up the body.  (Ephesians 4:12) That is, spiritual gifts used in love should make people better, stronger, or more whole.  The intention of sharing wisdom in love is to make people better.  Acts of kindness done in love will make people more whole.
When Thom and I married, we were told by our premarital counselors that our job was to make each other king and queen.  We were to live in love in such a way that what we contributed to each other made the other person the best they could be.  That’s quite the opposite of living for one’s self.

No other power has as its goal to make others better.  That’s why love is unmatched.  Ralph Conner said, “Love, you know, seeks to make happy rather than to be happy.”    At the heart of love is blessing.  I give, I offer, I help, I encourage, I spend the time or money or whatever, just because I want you to be blessed.  I want you to feel special.  Love is a “just because” with no strings attached kind of power.

It is interesting to note that the Old Covenant in the Old Testament was based on law.  We’re told in various places in the New Testament that the New Covenant supersedes the Old Covenant.  Why?  Because it is based on love, not law.  Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another.  (John 13:34)  Remember, love is supreme.

Love is unequaled in purpose and it’s also
b.    unequaled in sacrifice. Love isn’t only supreme because Jesus commanded that
love would replace law, but also it is supreme because it pays the ultimate price.  Jesus showed us what love costs when he gave up his own desires and paid the price for our sins.  Loving requires dying.  Dying to what we think we deserve.  Dying to what we think we should experience.  Dying to comfort and pleasure in order to make others better.  This is love.  “For God demonstrated His love for us in this that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)  Love doesn’t require that someone deserves our time, care, interest or attention before we give it to them.  Love is freely given.  Nothing else matches it in sacrifice.

A little boy was told by his doctor that he could save his sister’s life by giving her some blood. The six-year-old girl was near death, a victim of disease from which the boy had made a marvelous recovery two years earlier. Her only chance for restoration was a blood transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the illness. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.
“Johnny, would you like to give your blood for Mary?” the doctor asked. The boy hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled, and said, “Sure, Doc. I’ll give my blood for my sister.”
Soon the two children were wheeled into the operating room—Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and the picture of health. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned.
As his blood siphoned into Mary’s veins, one could almost see new life come into her tired body. The ordeal was almost over when Johnny’s brave little voice broke the silence, “Say Doc, when do I die?”
It was only then that the doctor realized what the moment of hesitation, the trembling of the lip, had meant earlier. Little Johnny actually thought that in giving his blood to his sister he was giving up his life! And in that brief moment, he had made his great decision!
There is no equal to that of the power of love.  It will compels you to want others to win and it sacrifices in order to see that happen.
Love is unequaled.  Secondly,
2.    Love is Unmistakable
Verses 4-7 describe love by describing mainly what it is not.  Sometimes when I’m shopping for something, I’m not really sure of what I want.  I know what I don’t want and when I’m browsing, I can quickly dismiss the patterns and styles that I don’t like.  It’s sometimes easier to explain to the salesperson what I’m looking for by telling them what I’m not looking for, if that makes any sense.

Paul sort of does the same thing with this portrait of love.  Impatience, unkindness, envy, boastful arrogance, pride, rudeness, selfishness, anger, record keeping, being happy when others lose-These things aren’t love.

What does it look like to protect someone, trust someone, keep hoping for someone and persevering with someone?  It’s hard to paint a picture that describes that kind of behavior, but when you see it, you know it is love.  It can’t be anything else.  It is unmistakable.

It’s unmistakable because it’s more than words and promises. It is action that conveys an attachment to someone that is for their benefit.

Perhaps you’ve heard some of these definitions of love from a kids’ point of view: “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather did it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” “Love is when someone hurts you, and you get so mad, but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.” “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is okay.” “Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.” “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”

True love is unmistakable because it is an expression that can’t be hidden.  It has to be expressed. A man was trying to read a serious book, but his little boy kept interrupting him. He would lean against his knees and say, “Daddy, I love you.” The father would give him a pat and say rather nonchalantly, “Yes, Son, I love you too,” and he would kind of give him a little push away so he could keep on reading. But this didn’t satisfy the boy, and finally he ran to his father and said “I love you, Daddy,” and he jumped up on his lap and threw his arms around him and gave him a big squeeze, explaining, “And I’ve just got to DO something about it!” Love makes us want to get involved and “do something about it.”
For God so loved the world that He did something about it.  His love compelled Him, says John 3:16, to give His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins, that “whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

One of the greatest examples of love, in addition to the love displayed on the cross, is found in John chapter 13. “1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Did you catch verse one?  “He now showed them the full extent of his love.”  Jesus washing his disciples’ feet was an unmistakable demonstration of a I Cor. 13 kind of love.  Peter tried to argue with the Lord that Jesus shouldn’t be washing his feet.  Jesus demonstrated amazing patience in explaining that it was necessary.  Love is patient.
Washing someone’s feet was the place of a servant.  Jesus, their Master.  Jesus, the Son of God.  Jesus, the Messiah, bent down and put himself beneath the disciples. Love isn’t proud.  Knowing the ending from the beginning, he knew Judas would betray Him, and yet, rather than snub him or skip him, he served him.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.
If you knew you only had a few days to live, what would you do?  Take a vacation?  Run up your charge cards?  Go sky diving?  Have as many parties as possible?  See pleasure or relaxation any way you could?  Not Jesus.  He knew His death was imminent, and how did he spend his very last moments with his friends?  He spent that precious time serving them.  The full extent of His love was on display because he loved them right up to the end.  He didn’t take those last precious moments to live it up or seek some kind of personal pleasure.  Love isn’t selfish.  Even in the face of death, He never quit showing the disciples His love.  Some translations say, “He loved them to the end.”  They didn’t fully get it.  They didn’t truly understand what Jesus was doing for them or what He was about to do for them, but love doesn’t wait for understanding.  Love is lavish and expressive whether people can fully receive or appreciate it at the time.

3.     Love is Unbeatable.  Why? “Love never fails.”  (I Cor. 13:8)  Why does Scripture
say it never fails?  Because “God is love.”  (I John 4:8)  God can’t fail.  Love will outstrip and outlast everything else.  It holds on when reason or human strength wants to give up.

A New England girl had just become engaged when the Civil War broke out. Her fiancé  was called into the army, so their wedding had to be postponed. The young soldier managed to get through most of the conflict without injury, but at the Battle of the Wilderness he was severely wounded. His bride—to—be, not knowing of his condition, read and reread his letters, counting the days until he would return. Suddenly the letters stopped coming. Finally she received one, but it was written in an unfamiliar handwriting. It read, “There has been another terrible battle. It is very difficult for me to tell you this, but I have lost both my arms. I cannot write myself. So a friend is writing this letter for me. While you are as dear to me as ever, I feel I should release you from the obligation of our engagement.”
The letter was never answered. Instead, the young woman took the next train and went directly to the place her loved one was being cared for. On arrival she found a sympathetic captain who gave her directions to her soldier’s cot. Tearfully, she searched for him. The moment she saw the young man, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. “I will never give you up!” she cried. “These hands of mine will help you. I will take care of you.”
Love never fails because love never gives up.
Many of you have will recall in the movie, “Fireproof,” that the main characters were on the brink of divorce.  They had grown cold towards one another.  Love was nowhere to be seen.  Love connects people.  They had chosen something else.  They were living separate lives under the same roof.  The husband in the movie had become a workaholic and had let pornography into his mind and home.  Both husband and wife simply began living for themselves.  There was no giving, so there was nothing from either of them to be received.

The husband’s dad, a Christian, gave him a book called “The Love Dare.”  The book challenged the husband to show his wife love through acts of kindness and thoughtfulness for forty days straight.  When she flared up in anger, he couldn’t react in anger back.  When she overlooked his thoughtful gestures, (like when she threw his flowers away!) he couldn’t quit reaching out because love is patient.

At the end of the 40 day experiment, both people softened.  Both were able to express sorrow for their lack of communication and distance.  The husband’s consistent efforts to show love and respect over that 40 day experiment convinced the wife that it could work again.  Both turned to the Lord, and of course, their marriage was saved.

Love never fails because it has transforming power.  When the husband began to show love rather than live to please himself-when he began to show love without expecting anything in return, without thinking that his wife should immediately reciprocate, without giving up, he was transformed.  His wife was transformed.  Their relationship was transformed.  They were made whole by the transforming power of love.

I titled this sermon, “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love,” because I believe it is the transforming power of love, God’s love, that will make people whole.  Listen to the words of II Timothy 3:1-4:  “There will be terrible times in the last days. {2} People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, {4} treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”  Do you think this description fits the times in which we live?

As Dr. Bob Moorehead has said, “The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, and watch TV too much.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less real communication. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships.”
Listen, the world is working harder, striving hard, and looking more intently for stability, comfort, and hope and the world isn’t finding what they need.  I’ve come to tell you that in the times in which we live, what the world needs now is LOVE!
Maybe the reason so many churches are failing is because they aren’t loving.  They are failing because they have given up on people, writing off the lost parts of society.  Love doesn’t give up.  Church, we must never give up because when love is displayed consistently, quietly, patiently, with kindness and the purpose of making others better it has a transforming power that can literally change the world.

We all have at least one relationship in our lives that isn’t what we want it to be or what it can be.  This morning, let’s ask God to use us to love that person that has pulled away or that we’ve pushed away.

You can’t give love, real love that is, until you receive God’s love because God is love.  He is our source for love.  His love is what will mold us into the things that I Cor. 13 says love is about.  We can’t do it on our own. We can’t just will ourselves to love some people.  Some people are just plain ornerier than our human love capacity, but the supernatural love of God can flow into us in order to overflow out of us in ways that help people not just feel better, but in ways that points them to Jesus, the true Lover of their Souls!

Love is unequaled.  Love is unmistakable.  Love is unbeatable.  Won’t you respond this morning in order to be a receiver and giver of what the world needs most which is simply God’s love?

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