Join us for worship this Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Dakota Wesleyan Sherman Center as
we discuss what it means to be thankful in a land of abundance.
Bring a friend. See you then!
Below is the text of the message given on October 30. Enjoy!
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.
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.
Eleven and a half minutes. Eleven and a half minutes is all it takes to show us not just an entire movie but a life. We see a video of Ellie’s life with Carl, from how she met Carl and lived with him through all the ups and downs that life brings, all the joy in their marriage and her death. You saw just a small portion of that amazing 12 minutes in worship today.
The reviews for Up were amazingly positive, getting a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes which is amazing. Many critics are quoted as saying the first 12 minutes are the best in any movie in a long time, maybe ever. I remember seeing previews for Up and thinking this will be a funny movie about a cranky old man and a Boy Scout who end up traveling through South America.
The movie is about that but, oh, so much more. Instead of a flat, one-dimensional old man, we see a good chunk of Carl’s life. And, now, we know exactly why Carl is a cranky, cantankerous old man. As you see him throughout the movie, you feel for him; yes he is funny when he is upset or disgusted at things but we know why: he is an old man who doesn’t want to love again, to risk to love and to lose yet again. It hurt too much and still hurts for Carl. The writers of Up, whether they knew it or not, are teaching us a deeply spiritual lesson.
How many times do we encounter people who seem very angry, upset or short with us? Then we assume, because we can be so vain and self-centered, that we did something to them or they don’t like us. Then we don’t ask any follow-up questions. We can be so self-centered we don’t realize they are hurting because they lost someone, they failed a test, they lost a job, or they lost a friend. We are so focused with our day, with what we need to get done, we miss the opportunity right in front of our faces to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We need to be a people that look deeper when someone standing right in front of us is in need to vent, for a hug, a friend, or a shoulder to cry on. We need to be sensitive to the people that are right in front of us which is a hard thing to do in a world that moves so fast and is so hyper-connected like ours.
Unashamedly, Up is one of my favorite movies because we get a very different picture of romantic love than what we see in most other movies and television shows. Usually the love we see is very physical romantic love: boy meets girl, boy and girl sleep together, boy and girl learn each other’s names, crazy antics ensue because boy is girl’s boss. For the fans out there, that was the first 5 minutes of the very first episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Entertaining but no way to live or to build a healthy lifestyle of relationships.
Romantic and physical love is a gift from God but, historically, Christians have put certain boundaries on it for its proper use. The Christian notion of no sex before marriage is not because God is a cosmic killjoy but because Christians believe that is the ideal way to experience the romantic and physical love gift from God, with the emotional and spiritual bonds that go with it! As a culture, as a whole, we’ve moved from that with 80% of young, unmarried Christians having sex with 2/3s sexually active in the past year. That is not surprising as, over the past 50 years from 75% of folks in their 20s getting married to only 25% in the 20s getting married today. Cohabitation, living together, is also at its highest rate it has ever been.
Adultery is also a boundary because Christians believe that destroys the emotional and spiritual bonds in a relationship that make healthy romantic love impossible. There are many practices in the Christian life are about self-denial, or waiting until the appropriate time, or not doing them altogether. We, as 21st century people, do not like to hear that “love is patient” or that we shouldn’t do some such activity because it requires waiting or simply saying no.
When we base our entire relationship with another person on physical attraction and nothing more, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Physical attraction can come and go, and with nothing else to base our relationship, we find that relationship ending and seeking another person to whom we are physically attracted. Typically, we are first physically attracted to a person which is a perfectly normal and healthy response; it becomes abnormal if we base our entire relationship around a physical response.
Does the way we approach relationships look more or less how Dug approaches a new relationship? Take a look at this.
Using physical attraction as the sole foundation for a relationship looks like this: [PHYSICAL TO EMOTIONAL TO SPIRITUAL TRIANGLE]. This is the model we see in many movies and what many people use in relationships. Have you ever wondered why so many people you see on television sleep with one another with ease but freak out when one of the partners say “I love you?” You have just been naked with one another and now three little words freak you out. It is because the entire relationship is physical and those three words move to the emotional level. Very rarely, if ever, do we see people in movies move to the spiritual level.
What if we invert the pyramid? What if we start with the spiritual move to the emotional then to the physical? What you’ve got is an attempt at the kind of love we read about from 1st Corinthians 13, the go-to passage for weddings where love is this. Let’s read it together: 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.
So what does this pyramid look like? I believe you will do things like this: pray together, chat about what you believe, how you think life should be lived, serve together, play together, learn each other’s likes and dislikes, worship together, hang out with each other’s friends and family and share hobbies together. Yes, it sounds very much like starting out as new friends. Did you know making friends is a spiritual activity? We so often separate traditional spiritual activities with the other stuff not realizing everything we do in life is spiritual! This is a much different model than we have seen, experienced and modeled around us.
Before we were married, my wife and I ended up trying both pyramids. We dated when we were in high school and definitely followed the pyramid on the left. I was the first one who said the infamous three words first (I love you) and she was taken aback, by surprise, because I was pushing us to a new level. That relationship didn’t last because it was based on the physical and we were both getting fairly serious about our faith at the same time.
Later, attending the same college (which happens to be this one), not knowing we chose the same one, tried the pyramid on the right. We attended worship together, we served together, we prayed together, we went through a relationship book together, we shared hobbies together and were seriously trying to get to know the ins and outs of each other. Knowing our past we even waited to kiss until our wedding day, a little over 2 years from when we began dating the second time. The physical is not going to be a problem if you are bonded together on a spiritual and emotional level first.
For us to build a relationship on the physical is simply childish, yet so many grownups do it. We are called and we are designed for a different, much better way not just in romantic relationships but how we should treat and love each other every day. Our passage this morning has our author, Paul, urging the followers of his day to grow up and put away some of their (and our) childish things.
This passage comes in a book where Paul addresses a people who have serious issues with relating to one another: there are followers of Jesus having regular sex with temple prostitutes and arguing about who is better because they have the gift of administration or discerning people’s motives or speaking in an angelic tongue. Paul says all of the gifts that God gives us really pale and is worth nothing if we do not have the capacity to love God and love each with other with this kind of love in 1st Corinthians 13.
We are a people who are made in God’s image. A problem, though, is that the image of God in us is distorted and broken in us so we are people that make mistakes and plenty of them, myself included! In fact, the very people that we love the most, our family, our friends, usually get the brunt of it when we are hurt, angry, sad or depressed.
My daughter got her first doll last year when she turned one. It was the first present she opened, she immediately hugged it in all of its wrapping, and proceeded to hold it while opening all her other presents. She is now almost 2 and carries it everywhere she goes: on walks, down the slide headfirst, grocery shopping, you name it! The other day she saw a cricket in our house, said “bug,” and immediately proceeded to take the baby and [BAM! BAM! BAM!] bash the baby’s head into the cricket on the floor! Effective yes but not very loving.
We attack the people we love. We’ve had a long day, something doesn’t go right and we lash out at the people closest to us. We might do that because we are tired, worn out, or, we know deep down inside of us, they will forgive us, they have to forgive us because they love us. So we do it knowing it will be uncomfortable for awhile but ultimately it will be okay.
Carl does this to his makeshift family that develops in the movie. He lashes out at Dug & Russell because he was not prepared for this incredible adventure they were having; he was not prepared for encountering a new family that needed him while he was trying to fulfill a promise to his wife.
This is a wrong, unhealthy and a distortion of what we are called to be. The Scripture reading calls us to be patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not irritable, and keeps no record of wrongs. The reality is that we will mess up, we will be irritable and rude at times, and we need to be honest about it when it happens. We need to own up and say “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lash out at you; I’ve had a rough day.” Two most important words in any relationship: I’m sorry.
Carl has been so consumed with getting this house to a specific spot on a rock, he is missing life and adventure happening around him. A boy, Russell, who is connecting with him and needs a stable father figure; a dog named Dug who loves him and needs a good master; and a female bird named Kevin (yup, you heard me right) who needs their help. Carl has become so tunnel-visioned and consumed with his sole goal of keeping a promise to his late wife that he doesn’t even know the promise of adventure has already been fulfilled.
Take a look at this…
When we choose to love anyone, we are taking a risk. We are taking a risk they won’t like us back. We are taking a risk they will leave us by distance. And we are taking the ultimate risk that at some point we will be separated by death. But we still choose to love, we still choose to risk it because that is how we are designed by a loving God.
Just because we will lose or already have lost people we loved does not mean we shut down and stop. We hurt, we cry, we grieve, we remember and we continue to love. My mother died of cancer when I was 15 years old and I am acutely aware that, in this next year, I will pass the point when I have spent more time on this earth without her than with her. But that does not mean I stop loving other people; I cry, I grieve, I remember and I continue to love.
Put simply, we are incomplete if we do not love. I’m not just talking about romantic love but love of our family and love of our friends. We have been designed to love by a Creator who showed us love in a very powerful way, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1st John puts it this way: God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us (1st John 4:9-12).
We are loved by God, deeply with a love as described in 1st Corinthians 13, the wedding passage. We are called to go live it and give it likewise to our family, our friends, and all those that we meet. We may fall short from time to time, being human, but that means we say I’m sorry. We are called to love, to risk love, and to continue to love even if we are hurt, beaten up, and bruised because we’ve been shown a powerful love and powerful way to live through Jesus Christ. Let’s pray together…