Hi, I’m Steve Collinson, a retired Headteacher from Cramlington, Northumberland.
I was brought up in Bradford where I first became a Christian thanks to the influence and witness of some close friends who attended a local Baptist Church. I felt a call to be a Methodist Church local preacher back in 2003. Since retiring, I have worked as a listening volunteer with the Samaritans. I am married to my lovely wife, Alison, and we have two children, David and Molly.
When I saw the theme of this year’s Sermon of the Year I was drawn immediately to the words of Paul the Apostle and his description of love and its power and thought, ‘why not give it a go?’
The Power of Love: 1 Corinthians 13 by Steve Collinson
In 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7 we read the following words of Paul on the Power of Love:
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’
The story is told of two TV aerials that met one another on a roof top somewhere in central London. They gradually fell in love with each other and one day one aerial proposed to the other. They got married and invited TV aerials from all over London to this wonderful event. The wedding service itself wasn’t that good, but the reception was fantastic!
Yes, love is a wonderful thing and it can be a very powerful force in our lives as the Apostle Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians. Drawing on Paul’s words, I want to share with you today three aspects of the power of love and these are: the power of kindness, the power of forgiveness and the power of perseverance.
Firstly, love and the power of kindness. Love is patient, love is kind, as Paul tells us. Our God is the God of love and His son Jesus Christ was and is the true representation of love in terms of patience and kindness. During His ministry He always had time for people, people with illness, people with issues, people hurting, people in need. Remember the incident involving Jairus’ daughter. ‘Don’t bother the master, they said, she is dead, there is nothing more to do.’ Jesus could have gone along with this – he’d had a tough and busy day, he had just been healing a woman who had been bleeding for many years. But no, Jesus said ‘Take me to her’. And there He took her by the hand and spoke words of comfort, healing and kindness and her life was returned to her.
Did you know that some years ago a major international survey was conducted amongst students in high school and they were asked to put in order of importance the qualities and characteristics of an outstanding teacher. The results were quite amazing. Discipline was there, yes, but way down the list. The top quality of an outstanding teacher? Someone who is kind and truly cares for us.
I’ve worked with young people for nearly 40 years and I can tell you they are no fools. They know in their hearts when the person in front of them is genuine, caring and above all kind. Kindness is an amazing thing that speaks volumes of the love of God. It was kindness on the part of a Methodist minister that brought my wife to profess faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and saviour. She had experienced the loss of her previous boyfriend through a brain tumour. She did not go to church herself but one day the minister came to see her parents on a routine pastoral visit and they explained about what had happened to their daughter, Alison. A week later he returned. Alison answered the door and said ‘Sorry, my parents are out.’ ‘No, it’s you I came to see, I just wanted to know how you are getting on.’ That minister had a profound effect on my wife, and he did it via a simple act of compassion and kindness. May we all seek to show kindness in our lives to those we meet. In doing so we express the love God has for them, His children. Love and the power of kindness.
Secondly, love and the power of Forgiveness. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. When I was a child I used to love playing cricket by myself in our front garden. I would throw the ball against the wall between the upstairs and downstairs windows, dive and catch the ball one handed. It was great. I pretended I was playing for Yorkshire, and guess what? We won every match. Then one day I was tempted to use a proper cricket ball rather than a soft one. ‘It can’t do any harm’ I said to myself until I accidentally threw it through my mum and dad’s bedroom window. Smash. Oh dear. I went in and my mum uttered those words of potential dread, ‘Wait until your dad gets in, you’ll be for it.’ My dad came in later on and as I hid under the bedclothes in my room I heard him march up the stairs. He looked me in the face and all I could think of was to say ‘Sorry dad’. To my amazement he smiled and said ‘It’s OK lad, it’s only a window, we can fix that.’ And Jesus went to the cross of Calvary because of our sins. He took the guilt upon Him and said ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ The power of love and forgiveness. Even though God had every right to be angry with us and cast us away, He chose the way of love and forgiveness and we must learn to forgive too.
Finally, love and the power of perseverance. Love always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus suffered much as He carried our sins on the way to Calvary. How many times he must have felt like giving up, saving Himself the pain and anguish that were ahead of Him. What about the moment in Gethsemane, full of emotion and pain. On the verge of turning back Jesus said ‘Not my will, but Thine.’ And yet our Lord and Saviour saw it through to the end when on the cross He was able to say, ‘It is finished’. Jesus completed the task given Him by His Father in Heaven and in doing so truly took His place as the King of love, The Good Shepherd and the Saviour of the world.
After two miscarriages and much pain and questioning, my wife and myself took the decision to adopt a little girl 24 years ago. It was a huge step, taking us way out of our comfort zone. In the early days it was hard. Molly had much emotional baggage, was often challenging and very vulnerable. One night whilst being tucked into bed she started to cry and said, ‘When will I be moved on?’ She had gone from one family to another and just assumed we too would say enough is enough and stop the process of adopting her. On occasions we had thought, ‘can we really do this, it’s too hard, let’s stop, let’s give in’. I remember praying, ‘Lord give us strength to carry on and show us how to get through this.’ I heard God saying to me, ‘Just tell her that whatever happens, whatever she does, you’ll never stop loving her.’ And so that’s exactly what I said to her. And it was a kind of turning point in our lives and in Molly’s life. Things got better, we shared fun and laughter and now fast forward 24 years. Molly has grown up, has a Masters degree in nutrition and sports science and lectures us frequently on what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Oh and by the way, we love her and we truly feel she loves us. I thank God for the gift of love, a love which is strong, which never gives up and which perseveres.
What is God calling you to do in your lives today? What is your vision? What is your heart’s desire? What is the mission or calling that He has given you to do on this earth as you serve Him? Remember this – that love, real love never gives up and will always overcome, whatever the challenges, whatever the obstacles.
As Mother Superior says in that great film, The Sound of Music, ‘Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow until (not if by chance you might) but UNTIL you find your dream.’ She goes on to sing, ‘a dream that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life for as long as you live.’1
That is the love which we contemplate and celebrate today. The love of God shown in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. A love of power. A love of kindness, a love of forgiveness and a love that never ever gives up on us. The Power of Love. Amen.
1’Climb Every Mountain’ from The Sound of Music, 1965, Written by Oscar Hammerstein/Richard Rogers ©Concord Music Publishing LLC