Bangor, Northern Ireland, May 19, 1968, I preached my first sermon. Can’t say it was all that great. I was nervous, but somehow I made it through, receiving some generous accolades from the few encouraging Christians that were there.
I cannot speak for other preachers just starting out, but looking back I can say I was not ready for the ‘calling’ to preach. I had wanted to preach like dad, but time and life experience told me, I should have gone a different route, and gone to a College instead of a Preacher’s School, which I was about to leave Ireland for.
Dad suggested the topic of the “Summon Bonum” from I Corinthians 13. Well I didn’t know what that meant much less preach to others about it. It was just a small house church, with a few people attending, but still I wanted to do good. I practiced in my bedroom, going over and over the short (but eternal) lesson. As I sit here looking at the old New Testament that I used then, brings back the memories of a young man, with a life of adventure ahead, ready to preach to all who would listen.
After 27 years of preaching experience, and life experience, with all it’s joys and disappointments, successes and failures, laughter and tears, I can say, life has given me a better understanding of this subject and how critical it is to life.
What is ‘The Summon Bonnum’ (the most important thing)? With this question I began then, and now. Of course the answer is love. No it is not the Hollywood version, nor is it the twisted and warped love of the world in general. The love Paul speaks of is from the Greek word, agape, which is the highest form of love.There are four Greek words for love. ‘Eros’ which gives us the word ‘erotic’ which stands for physical passionate love. ‘Phileo’ gives us the idea of the ‘love’ good friends have for each other. ‘Storge’ is the word which describes the ‘love’ which family has for each other. Strange how the ancient Greeks have so many words to cover our loosely and over used word, ‘love’. These words over-lap in beautiful harmony and enhance the relationship of a man and woman who are married.
‘Agape’ is the word which describes the highest form of love. Which is not based on emotions and feelings which change with moods. Agape love is ‘stable’ and foundational… It is more than friendship, (John 21:15-18). ‘Falling in and out’ of it is not an option because it is particularly Christian, being from the Spirit (Romans 5:5). Feelings change, moods rise and fall, troubles come and go, this love “never fails”(I Corinthians 13:8). Paul describes what agape does and doesn’t do in I Corinthians 13.
This love like the ‘energizer bunny’ just keeps on going and going. It is the love of John 3:16, as well as the love of Matthew 27:35-50; I John 3:16. This love is what enables a home to withstand all the storms of life. Particularly like God, (I John 4:8), this love is far from the Hollywood version, and is truly the “Summon Bonum” the greatest thing.