Kenora Epiphany + 4
31 January 2021
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
God of liberation, who comes not to destroy but to set us free, bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion; through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
Today we see Paul tell us: “we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs us up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor 8:1)
And this may be the way in which our society is either made up, or may be dismantled.
Now, in this world, and for many generations, we’re all told we need an education, but we’re not told what it is we need to learn. We go to school and we learn to read, to write, and we learn the rudiments of mathematics.
We’re taught skills and trades, all of which provide some level of knowledge.
We’re encouraged to go on to higher and higher levels of education based on our individual interests, and the skills needed to grow in our chosen occupations and fields.
But where in all of this comes love?
Where into this comes compassion? Or even the knowledge of right and wrong and how it affects the decisions that we make on a day to day, year by year basis?
So, we return to Paul’s words that we all possess knowledge, and such possession is able to make us feel self important, indeed, to feel “puffed up.” But if we’re unable, in the use of that knowledge, to lift up others, to help them to come to an understanding of the world around us that we share, or if we’re unable to share our knowledge with others and learn from their store of knowledge, in return, then I think we run the danger of becoming artificial and isolated in our approach to the world.
Paul reminds us: ““All of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” (I Cor 8:1b)
And we can see that in its own way, knowledge is self-contained, but love, by its very nature reaches out in all directions.
So, the question that we face is how do we buildup others through the love of God?
Paul points out that we are able to have all of the knowledge in the world, but it will take love for our neighbour, it will take compassion for the other in our lives, in society, in the world that encourages us to meet people where they are, and to help them, to encourage them to learn from us, to receive knowledge from us.
But there’s a corollary, an upshot to this as well.
If we’re meeting someone in their journey then we also learn from them to the same extent that they learn from us, especially if we’re able to be open minded about the experience, the encounter.
Like a doctor who’s described as having a lousy ‘bed side manner.’ The doctor is able to dispense his knowledge, his opinion, but it’s pure fact. It’s not rooted in love or compassion, and so the message often doesn’t reach us where we can deal with it, and come to a mutually satisfactory decision between doctor and patient.
Last week I talked about receiving a Call to ordained leadership; and in my own life, such a Call has come twice that I can see, although there may have been other indicators of a Call to serve that I’d not seen before. But before that second Call to ordination, to ordained ministry, I thought I’d become a teacher.
And since I began following where God leads, I’ve discovered that much of what happens in the life of clergy is both teaching and learning.
There’s a great deal of sharing and receiving that takes place, every day.
You know I like to watch movies as I work, and this week, I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and it also parallels this idea of the difference between knowledge and love.
In the movie, Jones Sr. in his life had been occupied in gaining the knowledge he needed to find the Holy Grail. A topic that has occupied fireside stories and literature since the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
So, Jones Sr. has been looking for clues to the location of the Grail throughout his adult life, in literature, and illuminations, and images.
He’s gathered all the knowledge he needed to find it, and with the help of Jones Jr,, Indiana, the item is found.
But it’s when he realizes that the single-minded pursuit of this relic may cost him the life of his son, in the dramatic conclusion of the story, as the grail falls into a chasm, the chooses the love that exists between them over the treasure before them.
All of the knowledge in the world wasn’t able to replace the love that drew them together as father and son.
So, how are we able to take our knowledge and use it to lift up others? To encourage others in their love of God, even if it’s expressed differently from our own?
And at the same time, we’ll have an opportunity to understand where and how someone else is coming from in their lives until we are able to stand shoulder to shoulder in the love of God that connects us, growing in that sharing of our individual bases of knowledge, each enriching the other along the way.
After all, how many of us, in conversing with another, fails to come away knowing a little more of them, of their story, of their life experiences than we knew before? And likewise, they know us a little better as well, as a result of the conversation.
It’s love that encourages the connection so that knowledge is able to be shared. “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” (I Cor 8:1b)
We can even see this in the gospel, today, where Jesus teaches as one with authority, but also with love.
The gospel tells us: “21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mk 1:21-22)
Jesus teaches with authority but also with compassion as the unclean spirit is cast out. “25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.” (Mk 1:25-26)
So in today’s gospel, we see Jesus teaching, instructing, listening, and responding even to the spirit who is so threatened by the presence of the Son of God, it can’t help but try to use that knowledge of his identity to try to drive a wedge between Jesus and those who are gathered.
Throughout his ministry, we’re able to see how Jesus, the Son of God, uses his authority to lift up the downtrodden, heal the sick, bring the love of God to all in need, all the while learning from them, from us, and teaching us.
And all the while we’re learning from the Son of God, from Jesus, from the Spring of Living Water, from the one who was there at the creation of the world, and we’re amazed that he teaches as one with authority.
“22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mk 1L22)
So, here we are, and here we see what Paul tells to us, tells the people at Corinth, ““All of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” (I Cor 8:1b)
And we know we possess knowledge.
We know we each have different levels of knowledge, in and throughout our lives. After all we come together from different backgrounds and different experiences along the way.
And we’re able to remember Paul’s words today, that Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
And in that sense, we all come together in the love of God, in the light of the Holy Spirit and we are able to share our knowledge of our own journeys.
We’re able to use the knowledge we’ve individually gained to uplift each other in the light of the love of God so that we move forward together.