Power Up: Week One - "Powered Up To Love"

Today we are launching a brand new sermon series that is going to take us all the way through the summer months--it's entitled "Power Up" Becoming Empowered By The Holy Spirit.

That's right, we're going to be talking about for the next several weeks--the Third Person of the Trinity, or the Holy Ghost if you're into the traditional, spooky kind of thing.

Some people have written about the Holy Spirit as the "Forgotten God," because most pastors, churches, denominations or church-y organizations spend most of their time talking, preaching and singing about Jesus, with a healthy dose of God, the Father, Creator and Sustainer in there, too.

But the Spirit seems to get short shrift in most churches, unless you happen to be Pentecostal, and then it's all about the Spirit, baby.

What or Who is the Spirit?

What images come to mind for you when you think of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost?

A dove?
A dove on fire?
Casper the friendly ghost?
Is it in you, like Gatorade?

There is a piece of art in the Black Abbey in Kilkenny Ireland that is one of the oldest depictions of the Trinity. 

Does that come close? 

The easiest way for me to explain it is this:  The Spirit is the energy between us, the force that empowers us.  The Spirit is the voice within you, urging you to do what is good, beautiful and true.

The Spirit is the connection we feel when we worship together, pray for one another, share our burdens, lift each other up.

The Spirit is the mysterious, creative, eternal space between all things--the Spirit is the power that revs you up, shapes you, convicts you, teaches you and guides you to be the people that God dreams for you to be.

And when I say God, I also mean the Spirit.  And when I say Christ, I also mean the Spirit.  Because the Spirit is in all through all and is all.  And if you are super confused right now--don't be.  Just sit for a second and let yourself be quiet.  And that's the Spirit, too. 

The Spirit is referred to by Jesus as the Paraclete, the helper, the guider, the harrasser, that which convicts us, calls us to repentance, moves us to action, fills us with joy at the things that bring God joy, and sorrow at the things that grieve the heart of God. 

And it is through the power of the Spirit that you can become your truest self. 

And this series is going to explore all of the ways that Spirit of God empowers us to be the people God longs for us to be--to be that truest self. 

Today we're going to begin our series by exploring this one very important and foundational idea:  The Spirit empowers us to love as we are loved.  

Our conversation partner today is the Apostle Paul himself, and a passage of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13--a chapter that is most often read at.....  you got it, weddings! 

Here's the thing, if most brides and grooms did an actual study of this passage like we are going to do today--they might not want it read at all. 

Because this passage is where the Apostle Paul basically outlines just how impossible it is to love the way that God desires us to love---unless you get some serious help from... you guessed it, the Spirit. 

There's a lot that has been made about the use of 'agape' which is one of the many Greek words for love.  Agape love is the kind of love that is self-emptying, sacrificial, wholly other focused... the kind of love that is almost an aspiration.  

But Paul explains what he means when he says "love" in more detail.  

There are 15 verbs describing love in this passage-- 7 positive and 8 negative.  What Paul is saying here is that love is an action, it's not abstract, it's not an idea, it's not merely an aspiration--we can do this.  

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Just to point out a few words here--the Greek word for boast here is connected to the concept of being proud, and is described as being "puffed up."  The phrase "dishonor others" is actually the Greek word for "rude" which means outside of propriety, hurtful.  

Then Paul drifts into the language of taxation when he says it keeps no record of wrongs, and then veers into the language of law when he says that does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  

Verse seven uses the word "panta" which is always--it means a protective kind of cover, not gullible, but trusting.  

The whole thing starts off with the word "patient" or makrothymos, which simply means "a refusal to retaliate, refusal to be worn down."  That's the essence of Paul's understanding of love.  It's the "hesed" of God, the never-ending, never-running out, undeserved, impossible love of God. 

8 Love never fails. 

Verse 8 sums it all up.  "Love never falls down."  Paul uses the imagery here of a strong house that withstands whatever storms might come. 

How in the world do we live into this?  This is beyond the feel-good, read this at your wedding with a wink and nod kind of thing.  The love that we are talking about here is the kind of love that is fierce, heart-bursting, ready to take on all the evil in the world to save the day kind of love. 

This is the kind of love that tells a story--the greatest story.  And to quote Tyrion from  the Game of Thrones finale, "There's nothing more powerful than a good story." 

Intimidating isn't it? 

You're thinking to yourself, "HOW?  How can I love like that?"

There's a circular shape to this kind of love that is powered by the Spirit, the source of all of this fierce, heart-bursting, big-story love.  I mean, that's where it would have to come from, right?  God is love.  Love is God.  And so the source of Love emanates from God to us through the Spirit.

And then if it is to have the desired effect, if it is to become what it must become, what it has to become, it must flow from us to others and then return to the Universe where it flows out again. 

Here's a simpler way to see it. 

Substitute your own name for the world "Love."  

_____ is patient, ____ is kind. ____ does not envy, ____ does not boast, ____ is not proud. ____ does not dishonor others, ____ is not self-seeking, _____is not easily angered, ____ keeps no record of wrongs. 6 ____does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 ____ always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

______never fails. 

What do you think when you read it like this?  Does this feel true to you?  What would it take for you to make this true about yourself?  

You might be thinking at this point--it would take a miracle to get me there.  
Let me help you out... 

What if you substituted the word God for the word love in the passage?

4 God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. 5 God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. 6 God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 God never fails. 

How many of you are visual learners?  Me, too.  So here's a visual that will help you get how the Spirit steps in to help us become love.  

If you picture a circular pattern with you at one end of the circle and others at the other, and the way to reach those others is through love, which is what is returned to you when you do.  

But what keeps us from getting there?  Fear? Doubt? Hurt? Distrust? Even if we are able to break through one or more barriers, there always seem to be more and more.  

When we begin to realize that there is no way for us to fully express love without some help, that's when things begin to change.  When we surrender to the Spirit, allow the Spirit to guide us, give the Spirit control rather than trying to do it all on our own... that's when we begin to see love flow freely from us to others and then back again.  

In order to live into this, you have to be willing to make love an action.  It can't just be an idea.  It can't just be a slogan.  You have to put it into practice each and every day--constantly being willing to break through the barriers, even the ones you set up yourself.  

We say here at Shepherd that we love God and love everybody.  But what happens when we are called to love people we disagree with?  Or who are incredibly unlovable?  What happens when to love like God would have us love moves us beyond our comfort zones?  

That's when we need to rely on the Spirit the most.  

One of the difficult people in my life to love.  

The Spirit empowers us to love as we are loved.  


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