Through a Glass Darkly

September 3, 2017

Summer of Love 10  Seeing clearly
By September of 1967 the residents of
Haight Asbury had fallen out of love with the 100,000 hippies and flower
children who had descended on their neighborhood for what had come to be known
as the Summer of Love.  The bloom was
coming off the rose for the participants as well and many of the university
students who made up the group left San Francisco to resume their studies. 
On October 6th a mock funeral was held that
was called “The Death of the Hippie”, organizer Mary Kasper explained the
purpose of the funeral:  “We wanted to
signal that this was the end of it, to stay where you are, bring the revolution
to where you live and don’t come here because it’s over and done with.”
And like the original Summer of Love we are
drawing close to the finish of our summer of Love as we have spent the past 10
weeks in 1 Corinthians 13, the so called Love Chapter of the Bible.
And through the summer we’ve been taking
the opportunity to read all 13 verses together. 
This morning we are going to read it in unison.  Please stand with me as we take the
opportunity to read God’s word.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13  If I could speak all the languages of earth
and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a
clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of
prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all
knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love
others, I would be nothing.  If I gave
everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about
it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.  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.  Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages
and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!  Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete,
and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!  But when full understanding comes, these
partial things will become useless.  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, like puzzling reflections in a 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.
Thank you, you may be seated.
Last week we looked at the childish things
that we need to put away as we mature in our faith and this morning we are
going to focus on verse 12,  1
Corinthians 13:12  Now we see things
imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a 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.
In the NIV we read 1 Corinthians 13:12  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a
mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know
fully, even as I am fully known.
In the King James Version we read 1
Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to
face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And while “through a glass darkly” is more
poetic, and has been the title of a number of novels, several poems, umpteen
television episodes and at least one movie it really doesn’t convey to us the
meaning that Paul had in mind 2000 years ago.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of
seeing through a glass darkly, I picture myself peering through a darkened
window.  Which along with being just kind
of creepy is historically impossible because when Paul wrote this letter there
were no glass windows, either darkly or not to peer through.
The Romans had glass, but it was used to
make containers.  Angela actually has a
cross with Roman glass that came from Israel and dates back to the time of
Jesus.  But the technology wasn’t there
to create sheet glass. 
That was all said to say that the glass
that was spoken of here was a mirror. 
And not the mirror that you have in your bathroom.
Mirrors, as you know, are made of glass
coated with a reflective surface, and two thousand years ago they didn’t have
the technology needed to make flat thin glass. 
So mirrors were simply pieces of polished metal, often times using brass
or bronze because they polished well.
And because of the colour of those metals
your reflection was often times dark and not detailed.
So you could tell that you were wearing a
hat but you might not be able to tell that you had some of your lunch on your
chin.  And It was puzzling.
And this was the metaphor that Paul uses to
describe our understanding of our lives.
I’m not sure how you feel about mirrors, I
kind of feel like Rick Wakeman who wrote “There must be something wrong with
the mirrors in our house because every single one I gaze into makes me appear
somewhat overweight.”
And the mirror in our bathroom is ever
changing, when I look into it at 4:30 on Sunday morning I look a lot older than
I do when I look into it in the afternoon.
1 Corinthians 13:12  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling
reflections in a 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.
And maybe that doesn’t resonate with you at
all, maybe you don’t find things puzzling,  
maybe you have everything figured out and when things sometimes go off
the rail you shrug and say “whatever”.
Or maybe your faith in God is so great that
you never question what’s happening, you never ask
“Why?” or say “How come?
In which case, you are a better person than
me because I scratch me head so often that you’d think I’d be bald by now.
And that promise isn’t that we will know
now, but that we will know someday.  And
the promise is that in spite of it all, in spite of the questions in spite of
the doubts that God’s love is still there.
But, there’s that word “But” even when we
trust him we still have the need to ask: why?
We are a little bit like Job who said Job
13:15  God might kill me, but I have no
other hope. I am going to argue my case with him.
Even when we say “God is my only hope” we
want to ask “Why”?  And that’s fine.
So, The Question is: Why?
The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk’s
asked  “why do the righteous suffer?” and
“Why do the evil prosper?”  Those are
good questions. David asked the same questions in the book of  Psalms and Job personalized it in the book
that bears his name asking “Why do the evil prosper and I suffer?”  That’s probably what we want to know.
The word why is used 595 times in the bible
so it would appear that there are some questions in there.
Abraham asked why, Moses asked why, David
asked why, Peter asked why even Jesus asked why.  And so I’m thinking that asking God why isn’t
always wrong.  As long as we live in an
imperfect world and things happen and don’t happen to us the way we’ve planned
then we will ask questions.
When things happen the way we were hoping
they would happen we never ask God why. 
“Why are things going so well God? Why are the kids healthy, why do I
have a good job?  I was just curious
thought I’d ask.”  We don’t do that,
things go well and we presume that we deserved it or we were lucky.
Sometimes when we ask “why” the answer is
self-evident.  And many times, the answer
is one we don’t want to hear.
We ask why and the answer is very plain and
very easy to understand, “Because you were stupid.” 
Now I know that you are thinking, “Well
Denn that wasn’t very nice.”  No, but
true.  We ask “Why did I have to get that
speeding ticket?”  “Because you were
stupid and were speeding.”  “Oh,
right.” 
“Why do I have lung Cancer?”  “Because you insisted on lighting a noxious
weed and sucking the poisonous smoke into your lungs.” “Oh, right.” 
I remember 30 years ago a colleague of mine
was in a very serious car accident, and I heard people say, “Why did that have
to happen?” They wanted to blame God or blame fate but the blame lay with my
colleague who was rushing home in a bad storm and crossed the centre line into
the path of an oncoming car.
A girl gets pregnant and she and her
boyfriend ask why?  Obviously they had
skipped that class in grade 7, grade 8, grade 9 and grade 10.  I skipped various classes in school, never
that one.
Not always but many, many times we are the
author of our own misfortune.  And that’s
tough to accept because from the point when the very first couple sinned we
have refused to accept responsibility for our actions. 
It’s so easy to play the blame game and try
to shift the responsibility onto somebody else. 
And so it’s not our fault that we are fat, and unhealthy it is McDonalds
because they make food that is fatting and unhealthy and then obviously they
hire people to sit on us and force feed us that very same food.
And people say “It’s not my fault that I
smoke, it is the tobacco companies fault. If they didn’t make and sell tobacco
then I wouldn’t have that problem.” 
Interesting that nobody ever sues breweries and distilleries, I wonder
why that is? 
Let me wander into the wilderness of
political incorrectness an area that I am quite familiar with. 
A man beats his wife and she packs up and
leaves and he asks why his marriage ended?
Duh! 
Or a wife cheats on her husband and he files for divorces and she
wonders what happened?
You ever wonder when you hear someone on
the news saying that it’s not their fault they can’t find work in their
community, the economy is a mess and there is no fish or the pulp mill has
closed down, and so they have to be on unemployment and social assistance, it’s
somebody else’s fault. 
But if everyone had of taken that view
through the years then Toronto and Calgary would be empty for that matter the
Mic Macs would have a lot more room in Nova Scotia.  We all make choices.
George Bernard Shaw said “No question is so
difficult to answer as that which the answer is obvious.”
Of course, the real question that we are
often asking is; “Why did it have to happen to me and not to somebody else?”
“Why did I have to get cancer and they didn’t?” “Why did I get the ticket and
not the person behind me?” “Why did I get pregnant and not her?”  And those are selfish questions.
So, sometimes the answer to why? Is: because
of something you did.  And sometimes the
answer to why? Truly is: because of something somebody else did. 
Somebody else drove their car over the
line, a terrorist set off the bomb.   A
girl is raped and becomes pregnant; someone ends up at the mercy of the justice
system and is victimized.
We live in a fallen world and as long as
people have the freedom to make decisions and mistakes other people will be
hurt.  Sometime intentionally and
sometimes inadvertently, but that doesn’t make it any easier. 
But we can’t blame God.  Oh, I know that we can say why didn’t God
stop it? Why didn’t he make the car miss the pedestrian, why didn’t he keep her
from walking down that particular street?  
Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t and I wish I could explain
that but I can’t.
Here’s a thought, have you ever felt that
you should pray for someone, and you do and later you find out that they were
in danger and God seemed to miraculously intervene? 
Sometimes we feel to pray for someone and
we do and later we find out that there didn’t seem to be any reason why we
prayed.   Unless of course it was because
we prayed that things didn’t happen that we will never know about.   
I wonder if sometimes we miss or ignore
those feelings. And if we had of interceded that things would have turned out
differently.  When you feel you should
pray, pray.
People starve to death in third world
countries and we ask: Why? and then we pay farmers not to produce certain
products, stock pile others and destroy still others.  It’s not a supply problem it’s a distribution
problem and a greed problem.  And if we
wanted to then we could feed the hungry of the world.
And sometimes there is no answer and nobody
to blame.  Last month a mud slide in
Sierra Leone left 1000 people dead and 20,000 homeless.  And perhaps if corrupt leadership through the
years had of led the country into development then maybe they would have been
better prepared, but who knows. 
When a hurricane like Harvey hits a
low-lying area like Houston bad things happen.
I remember when Juan ripped through Halifax
a paramedic was killed when a tree fell on his ambulance.  What’s with that? 
Or a couple of weeks ago 32 year old Chris
Godfrey was playing softball in Courtney BC, was running to 1st base and got
hit in the back of the head with a softball, and died.  How do you explain that to his widow or one
year old son?
Sometimes stuff just happens and it’s hard
to explain why and maybe God does have an explanation but I certainly don’t.
And sometimes a “Why” doesn’t even deserve
an answer “Why is it raining?” Because it is. “Why don’t the Leafs win the
cup?”
We don’t have answers to a lot of question
and we don’t like the answer we have to some questions. 
Paul was telling us that part of the
problem with the question is that we now see things imperfectly, like puzzling
reflections in a mirror,
And so The Answer Is: Wait.  Often, we have a timeline and we can’t
understand why God doesn’t do everything according to our time line.  We look at the puzzling bit of the picture we
can see and we don’t understand it and we don’t realize what we are seeing is
only see one portion of a much bigger picture. 
Remember when Habakkuk questioned God about
why the righteous sometimes suffered? God’s response to Habakkuk was simply;
wait.  Listen to God’s response in
Habakkuk 2:3  This vision is for a future
time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in
coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
I am not the most patient person in the
world, as a matter of fact I’m not the most patient person in this room,
truthfully, if there were only two of us here I probably wouldn’t be the most
patient person in the room. 
I want things to happen right away.  If I do something today I want results
tonite, at the latest. 
And that isn’t always the way life works or
the way God works.  And sometimes just because
it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.  French Naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc
Buffon, said “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; Hold
fast; Hold out. Patience is genius.”
It is so tough when we think it should have
happened yesterday or at the latest today and it still hasn’t happened. 
We can’t understand why we haven’t been
healed, why our child is still rebellious, why our spouse still isn’t a
believer, why we don’t have the perfect job, why our church still hasn’t
grown. 
And we need to listen to God for he is
probably saying “Wait” the story is not finished. 
Angela and I were at a movie once and with
15 minutes to go I leaned over and said “Let’s leave now and guess how it
ends.”  We wouldn’t think of doing that,
well actually I did but that’s me. 
But we want to skip out on the movie of our
lives before we get to the credits.  The
prophet Isaiah wrote in one of the verses that we all know Isaiah 40:31 NKJV
But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up
with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and
not faint.   We ask “why?” and God says
“wait.”
And remember that ultimately, we may
discover that what we thought we really, really, really wanted or needed wasn’t
what we needed after all.  But we
wouldn’t have made that discovery without waiting.
A lot of us are kind of like Margaret
Thatcher who said “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in
the end.”   But sometimes the answer when
it comes is not the one we want or the one we were looking for. 
And so Paul tells us to trust that Love
will win,  If the question is Why and the
answer is wait then The Response Is: Trust 
Bottom line is that there will come a time that we have to trust that
God knows best.  Even if what happens
isn’t what we think should have happened.
We learned that lesson from Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego when  they were
standing before King Nebuchadnezzar after he demanded they bow down and worship
the idol he had built or die.  And they
said “We believe that God will deliver us but even if he doesn’t we still will
not bow.” 
The prophet Habakkuk writes,  Habakkuk 3:17-19  Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the
fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the
cattle barns are empty,  yet I will
rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes
me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
I heard someone say recently that being
born in North America is like winning the lottery.  And the poorest of us are wealthier then the
majority of the world, so maybe the next time you are tempted to ask why ask
why you were born in Canada or ended up in Canada.
And when we don’t get our own way or when
we don’t understand what’s happening in our life we still need to be able to
say, “Even though. . . yet I will be joyful in the Lord.”  Because someday you will see everything
perfectly.