The church crowd-love one another

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Year C
Focus Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13;

How many people here have ever been a waiter or a waitress in a restaurant?

Now, I can’t say I have had this experience, but I’ve heard it enough times that I am afraid to consider that it might be true.

For food servers, Sundays are the worst day. Do you know why? The church crowd.

Yep. Us.

Apparently we are the most demanding AND we are the worst tippers.

I have never seen any statistical evidence to support this statement, but I have heard it enough that, when I do find myself in a restaurant on a Sunday, I try to be extra patient and leave a generous tip.

There is one piece of evidence making the rounds online, though. A picture of receipt. The story to the receipt is a pastor took some folks to Applebee’s for lunch after church one Sunday. The policy of the restaurant, like many restaurants, says once your table is over a certain number, you will get one bill and an 18% gratuity will automatically be added on to your bill. According to the server the folks at the table were very happy with their food and seemed to have no problem with the service. When he gave the bill to the pastor, she was not impressed with the 18% gratuity. Even though she was paying for the whole table, the pastor tried to convince the server to split the bill in two to avoid the compulsory tip. The server said no, took the credit card, ran the bill through, left the slip on the table to be signed, and left the table.

After the party had left, the server returned to the table. The bill was there, signed. The 18% gratuity had been scratched out and replaced with a 0. And there was a note which said, “I give God 10%. Why would I give you 18?” and it was signed, “Pastor”.

I think it is really timely that Paul’s thoughts on love come so close to Valentine’s Day. I am probably late to the game but I saw my first Valentine’s chocolates on Wednesday night. For those who have found lifelong companionship, this romantic day is a real joy in celebrating love for one another. As Christians, we know that romantic love is only one colour in the prism that encompasses love.

Paul’s familiar words on love are usually read during wedding ceremonies. They make a perfect framework for a wedding homily. Be patient and kind with one another. Don’t snip at each other when you are angry, even though it will be tempting. Because at the end of the day, when we’ve received our degrees, built our careers, raised our kids, owned our homes, retired and left to our beds, all that is left, after all the bumps along the road, is love. Right?

Here’s the thing. Paul wasn’t talking about love between two people who are committing their lives to one another. In fact, Paul didn’t have a lot to say about marriage, and what he did have to say was not romantic or even, really, about love. Paul’s words about love are not for romantic couples, but for whole communities, like the community in Corinth. Christian communities. Our community.

What kind of love is so powerful, that it can be experienced not just between two people, but within an entire community? The love of God, revealed in the cross. Verses 4 through 7 are so well known: patient, kind, not envious, arrogant or rude, not insisting on its own way.

Take a moment, and imagine how those traits are lived out in this church.

When are we kind? Patient? To one another? To our community? The world?

Last week we held our vestry, and Jason reminded us of the many gifts that thrive in this church. We have an overabundance of gifts at Christ Church. We’ve just had an opportunity to remember not only our 17 organized ministries, but the many activities and acts that happen every day as each of us lives out our faith. But we all know, we are far more than a social service club. We are here because the love of Christ compels us to love in community. Is it possible for us to so completely love one another? On our own…no. If we live in and express ourselves as the presence of God’s love, as a community of Christians who live in that love, together, working our way through it, then yes. (Feasting on the Word).


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