No Mulligans

I read an interesting article in the Halifax Metro the other day.  The title was “Euthanasia requests not met in Nova Scotia”.  The gist of the article was that of the 64 requests for assisted suicide in the first six months of this year, only 24 had been acted on.  Of the remaining 2/3’s, some of the patients had passed away, some had lost their mental capacity to agree with the lethal injection, but others had dropped their requests.  Dropped their requests?  Could that be another way of saying “changed their minds”?

So that you understand, one of the complaints was that some people changed their minds. That, because of the time delay, they decided that maybe life was worth living, that maybe a little more time with loved ones was worth the pain.  I can see where that could be a problem for assisted suicide advocates, because now you have to wonder, how many of the 24 who were actually killed by doctors might have changed their minds if there had of been a little longer wait?

But that is obviously a question that can’t be answered, because after the act, it is tout fini.

And that’s the problem with abortion, capital punishment and assisted suicide, there are no do-overs!

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Hidden Treasure

 It is a
serendipitous story, which is a story about serendipity.  Serendipity, isn’t that a great word?  It is probably one of my favourite
words.  You know what serendipity means
right?  Serendipity means an unexpected
discovery.  You know when you are looking
for something and you find something else. 
You know you drop the remote between the cushions on the coach and when
you are digging around looking for it you discover a twenty-dollar bill
instead.  Whoa, that is serendipity.  If you find an old pizza crust that isn’t
serendipity it simply means you have kids.
It sometimes
happens to me when I am reading; I will be enjoying a novel, kind of zoned out,
I read fiction for the same reason most people watch TV, for entertainment not
enlightenment. 
And then all
of a sudden I will come across the most incredible phrase or an idea for a
message.  And that wasn’t what I was
looking for.  It is serendipity, which is
not to be confused with fortuitous.
And this is a
serendipitous story.  The hero of the
story is working in a field that he does not own, we don’t know if he was hired
to do whatever he was doing or if he was helping someone out as a favour.  All we know is that in the process of doing
something he unexpectedly found something and the something that he found was
of greater value than the something he was doing or even of the field he was
doing something in.
We are told
that he immediately covered the treasure up, went and liquidated all of his
assets and bought the field, and presumably the treasure as well.  I don’t know how he explained his sudden
affinity for the field to the previous owner but it is just a story. 
This is one
of the eight times in the New Testament that Jesus begins a parable with the
words “The Kingdom of Heaven” or “The Kingdom of God” is like a . . .  A parable is simply a story with a
meaning.   Kind of like a fable but
parable sounds more spiritual.  Aesop
told fables, Jesus told parables.  They
could also be called allegories, but they aren’t they are called parables.
And so,  we begin our journey to discover what the
Kingdom of Heaven is like.  And Jesus
begins to draw a variety of pictures which describe his Kingdom.  Matthew
13:44
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure
that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and
sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.
And you might be smarter than me, and this
might make perfect sense to you but these thirty-six words make me ask a whole
pile of questions. 
What was the man doing in the field?  How did he find the treasure?  What type of treasure was it?  Was what he did entirely on the up and up?  What is actually buried on Oak Island? 
Well the last question didn’t come out of the
scripture but it had to do with treasure and the scripture made me think of the
Oak Island Treasure.  I personally am
torn between it being Captain Kidd’s treasure and the lost treasure of the
Knights Templar.  The Oak Island
Treasure, not the treasure in the field, but I regress.
The answer to most of those questions,
including the Oak Island one is that we don’t know.  And it obviously wasn’t important or Christ
would have told us, it’s just a parable. 
The important part of the story is that the man found something he
wasn’t necessarily looking for and was willing to give all he had in order to
obtain it. 
Upon first reading and without putting it in
a historical context it is easy to question the ethics of the man in the
story.  He finds this treasure that
doesn’t belong to him and he doesn’t tell the owner of the land about it,
instead he reburies the treasure and negotiates the purchase of the land, which
apparently would have been worth more if the treasure had of been figured into
it.
So here is the question, who owned the treasure?  The simplest answer would be: Whoever hid the
treasure in first place.  But apparently,
they were no longer in the equation, it couldn’t have been the land owner
because he was willing to sell the land with the treasure still buried, so it
can be assumed that he didn’t even know the treasure was there. 
So, if the original owner was no longer
present than the short answer is: whoever owned the land owned the
treasure.  But here is the caveat, only
if he knew about it. 
Let’s put it in a modern setting.  Next Saturday as you are driving out of
whatever estate you live in you notice a yard sale and so you stop and as you
go through the treasures that the home owner is selling you come across a
really ugly painting that has $8.00 marked on it, you ask the person if that is
the best they will do and they agree to drop their price to $5.00 and you
purchase the painting.  
Now if the painting had been done by Bob
Smith it would be worth $5.00 and the seller would have received what he wanted
and all would be well with the universe. 
But what if the painting was a Jackson Pollock and was worth $200,000,000.00?   The seller still got the $5.00 he wanted
from the painting.
But, shouldn’t he get some of the $200,000,000.00?  What about the person he got the painting
from? And perhaps the person that person got the painting from?  And what if it was a painting that Jackson
Pollock had sold in 1948 for $5.00 because he wasn’t famous yet and sold it for
the price of the canvas.
 If you
knew it was a Pollock would you have a moral obligation to tell the seller what
you knew?  Or would you be within your
rights to simple give him what he wanted for the painting?
Sources tell us that 2000 years ago it was
very common for people to bury items of value. 
There were no banks or investments companies
as we know them, no safety deposit boxes and the area was constantly being
conquered and re-conquered.  There had
been the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, and the Greeks and now the Romans. 
And so if it appeared that the occupiers were
going to take your valuables you might bury them, or if you were going on a
trip and wanted to make sure that your valuables were safe while you were gone you
would bury them. 
Remember the story of the man who gave the
money to his servants to invest, two of them did exactly that and saw the money
increase but do you remember what the remaining servant did with the money he
was given? 
Sure you do, Matthew 25:18 But the servant who received the one bag
of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
The downside of course was if something
happened to you and nobody else knew where you hid your money, oh well. 
In the Daily Study Bible William Barclay
tells us “Jewish Rabbinic law was quite clear: “What finds belong to the
finder, and what finds must one cause to be proclaimed? These finds belong to
the finder–if a man finds scattered fruit, scattered money…these belong to
the finder.” In point of fact this man had a prior right to what he had
found.”   Or roughly translated
“Finders Keepers.” 
So, if the man was ploughing or digging or
whatever he was doing and found the treasure and the owner of the land did not
know it was there than it belonged to the person who found it, that was the
common law at the time, and we wouldn’t even have been having this discussion
because everyone would have understood the concept.  When people heard the story, their reaction
would have been “dude that is so cool, wish I found a treasure.”
I think it’s interesting that instead of just
taking the treasure, which apparently he was entitled to do that instead he
purchased the land before he claimed the treasure. 
And so as I worked on this message I was
thinking about what the treasure was. 
Was it God’s love?  Was it God’s
Grace?  Was it Salvation?  The answer is: Yes. 
Because the treasure is: The Kingdom of
Heaven.  The question that Jesus is
answering here is not: what is the treasure? 
That is the answer not the question. 
The question is: what is the Kingdom of Heaven?  And the answer is Matthew 13:44 “The
Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field.
In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough
money to buy the field.  And we all know what a treasure is right?  It’s a treasure.  It’s not ordinary and every day, it’s special
and it’s valuable.  In this case it was
worth more than everything else the man owned. 
The Treasure Was There for
Whoever Found it
the scripture
doesn’t say that he was a special man, just that he was a man.  He didn’t find the treasure because he was
special, he was special because he found the treasure.
I think it’s interesting that the man wasn’t even
looking for treasure, he was just going about his life.   We
talk about those who are on a spiritual quest, looking for answers and seeking
a higher meaning. And that is wonderful because the word of God promises us in Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God
without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and
that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
 But
it’s not always like that, most times God simply interrupts our lives, but too
often we ignore him.
The night I met God, that wasn’t the plan, it
wasn’t on my agenda, my day planer didn’t say: get up, putter around the house,
go for a long drive with the roof down, have supper, go to church as a favour
to a friend, become a Christ Follower and feel called to the ministry.”
I was just a fisherman home from the Gaspe
for a few days; I wasn’t on a spiritual journey or on a quest, certainly wasn’t
looking for a treasure. 
And yet I found it, or maybe it found me. In
this story, the Kingdom of God was hidden but it could be found, and it could
be found by whoever was open to finding it. 
We don’t know if others had come close or perhaps it had even been
stumbled on before but those who found it either hadn’t recognized it for the
treasure it was, or perhaps they didn’t know what it was they had found.
What I love most about the Gospels is the
calling of the individual apostles.  Some
like Andrew came looking for Jesus, but for many of them they were just
ordinary people going about their ordinary lives when they discovered the
Kingdom of Heaven.  They were fisherman
and government employees and accountants and people trying to overthrow the
government, in other words they were just people.
Seven years ago I received an envelope that
had for a return address “The Protocol Office” 
It was an invitation to a reception being held in the presence of Queen
Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh here in Halifax.   Just Angela and I , Liz and Philip, and
10,0000 other people, but that is beside the point.  It was a very classy invitation.  I later discovered that I was put on the list
because I am considered to be a community leader.  Cool. 
But that isn’t what I was trying for, I am just doing my job.
There is a great statement that closes the
Bible, in Revelation
22:17
we read “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say,
“Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely
from the water of life.  In the King James Version it says whosoever will”. 
   The Kingdom of Heaven is not
limited by our nationality, or our skin colour, or our gender, it is open to
whosoever will.   The invitation 2000
years ago was Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let
anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. And the invitation is there for you today,
maybe not the invitation to the reception for the Queen of England, but the
opportunity to meet the King of the Universe, and that trumps the House of
Windsor.
The Treasure was Free: It was not
Cheap
We
understand that the Grace of God is free and it is there for whosoever will,
but it is not cheap.  Several times in
the Gospels Jesus is asked by people what they needed to do to follow him, or
to have eternal life and his answer was “Go sell all you have and give it away.”
But that wasn’t a requirement of everyone. 
How come?  Because it wasn’t about
what they possessed it was about what possessed them. And the fact that Jesus
didn’t require it from everyone only brings comfort to those he would require
it from. 
But it’s not our possessions Jesus wants,
it’s our loyalty.  He wants to be number
1 in our lives, not number 37 or 25 or 4 or even 2 he wants to be number 1. He
wants to be the priority.  Luke 16:13 “No one can serve two masters. For you
will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the
other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 
You may think you can serve two masters but
there will come a time in your life that you will have to decide: where do my
loyalties lie?  What is my priority in
this situation?  Where will I give my
time?  Where will I give my money? 
One of the stories that I was talking about
is found in Matthew 19, a young man comes to Jesus and asks “what must I do to
have eternal life?”  Good question.  And Jesus tells him to keep the commandments
and we pick up the story in  Matthew 19:20-22 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the
young man replied. “What else must I do?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be
perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and
you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man
heard this, he went away very sad, for he had many possessions.
He discovered what he owned and what owned
him. 
Jim Elliot was a missionary who was working with
Wycliffe  Bible Translators to bring the
gospel to a remote South American tribe in the late 50s, and he was killed in
the process.   And just days before he
was killed he wrote in his journal, “He is no fool – who gives up what he cannot keep,
to gain what he cannot lose.”  In
a very real way the hero of our story gave up what he could not keep to gain
that which he could not lose.
Whatever the treasure was that the man
discovered, it was worth everything the man had.  And that is the lesson that Jesus is
teaching.  The Kingdom of Heaven is worth
everything we have.  We might think we
have it “all”, but “all” will pale in comparison to what God has to offer.  The offer of a past that is forgiven, and of
a future that is assured.
Because the secret of the Kingdom is that in
giving up you get more.  You say “But
Denn, my family has to come first” or “My career is a priority” or or or.  But remember the words of Jesus when he said Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else,
and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.   When the Kingdom is your priority and you live the way that Jesus
wants you to live then you become a better parent and you become a better spouse
and you become a better employee and you become a better employer and you
become a better person and ultimately you gain what you were seeking all along.
And if there is a conflict between the
Kingdom and what you want, it may appear that in the short term your way is the
most advantageous but it won’t prove that way in the long term. 
You probably all remember the WWJD
phase that the church went through.  What
would Jesus do?  But that isn’t the
question, because we aren’t Jesus.  The
question is WWJHMD “What would Jesus Have Me Do?”  And it’s only when we are focused on his
Kingdom that we are able to ask that and answer it.  
Jesus reminds us
in Matthew
6:21
Wherever
your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.   So if you have determined in your life that your treasure is the
Kingdom of Heaven then our hearts follow. 
But don’t expect everyone to see the value of the Kingdom, it was Wesley who
said “The kingdom of God within us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid
from the world”  and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18 The
message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we
who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
Here is the confusing thing: Even though the
man found the treasure The Treasure is
Still There
.  It wasn’t that the man
didn’t find all the treasure, it is the mystery of faith that the same treasure
that was found by Peter and James and Paul, the same treasure found by
Augustine and Wesley and Calvin, the same treasure found by Mother Theresa and
Billy Graham is still there for us today. 
The Bible promises us in Hebrews
13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday,
today, and forever.
And the Kingdom of Heaven is still waiting to
be discovered by you.

That makes sense!

I was getting ready for my day when I noticed how grey my hair and beard had become. Instead of looking like a pirate, now I looked like Santa Claus.
As I wondered how that could possibly have happened without me noticing, I remembered something I was told almost thirty years ago. Roy Corey, a member of the Truro Church, told me how he had discovered his eyesight was directly connected to the amount of pigment in his hair.
When I questioned him more, he told me how he had noticed that when his hair was dark he had no problem seeing, but as his hair became progressively greyer, his eyesight got progressively worse. Ergo, it was apparent that his eyesight was directly connected to the amount of pigment in his hair.
When you think about that, it makes sense. An obvious case of cause and effect. But I have discovered in life that just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s true. Those in the world will often ask you to embrace their culture and their values simply because they make sense. Granted, sometimes they do make sense, but that doesn’t mean they are true or right.
And just because you colour your hair doesn’t mean you won’t need glasses.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

It’s the end of the World: Details to Follow

It’s
the end of the world as we know it.
Really?   There are certain events that spark certain
responses from Christians as a direct consequence of the scripture that we read
earlier.  Let’s go back to the last part
of that scripture:  Mark 13:7-8  And you will hear of wars and
threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the
end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and
kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as
well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to
come.
Almost
sounds like the evening news, doesn’t it? 
There have been promises of Peace in the Middle East for thirty years
but each year it seems to escalate with hard liners taking positions in both
camps. 
And
while we are used to nation going to war with nation, kind of like the threats
that we are seeing with all the sabre rattling between North Korea and the US, so
much of the fighting in Africa seems to be much more in line with Kingdom
against Kingdom.  Although sometimes it
almost seems like it’s Sneetches with stars on their bellies and Sneetches
without.
Add
to that Hurricanes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes, food shortages around
the world and ever-increasing fuel costs and the star of a reality show as
President and I’m starting to hear the “Could this be the end times” rumblings
that periodically emerge.
As I worked
on this message I realized something: We as Christians have lost the vision of
the imminent return of Jesus Christ. 
When I first became a Christian I used to get up every day with the
thought, “This could be it, perhaps this will be the day that Jesus calls his
church home” 
It’s been
awhile since I’ve woken up with those thoughts, although sometimes I find
myself wishing, “I hope he comes back soon”
Now we all
believe that Christ is coming again or at least we say we do, but are we
waiting expectantly for the return of Jesus Christ? I mean really expectantly?
People are
intrigued by the concept of the “End of the World”, how the world will end? and
when the world will end?  Whether it will
end with a bang or a whimper? 
This past
week there’s been a lot of reminiscing about where people were and what they
were doing when the twin towers came down on September 11 16
years ago.
I was at Beulah for a district minister’s gathering
and another minister asked me: “Do you think this could be the beginning of the
end times?” To which I replied, “Well that would certainly solve our pension
problems wouldn’t it?”  
To be very frank I do not live in fear of the end
times, it’s not something that I worry about, it doesn’t keep me up at night
and I don’t read about it constantly.  Now
for some people it is an obsession and that is the reason why the Left Behind
series of novels have became best sellers twenty years ago.
I will admit I have only read the first one and that
was out of curiosity.  You say “But Denn,
don’t you want to know what’s going to happen?” 
Well, let’s not go there, no let’s go there.  You understand that the Left Behind Series
are just novels, they are fiction if you were to look for them in the Library
they would have a “F” on the spine, and not very good fiction either. 
I know that’s just personal taste. The Left Behind
Series does not have an inside track on the end times, as surprising as that
may seem.
The authors have merely fictionalized what they found
in the Bible.  If the Left Behind books
cause you to become more passionate to see people won to Jesus they are
wonderful, however if you are reading them in order to gain more knowledge
about the end times you might not end up being the scholar that you hope. 
But maybe people will be won to Jesus with the books,
who knows it’s not a new outreach strategy.
When I first became a Christian in 1979 there was a
movie out called “A Distant Thunder” and it was a fictionalized vision of what
it might be like during the last days. 
The secret of that movie and the other two in the
series that was that you’d invite your pre-Christian friends out to church and
the movie would scare the hell out of them, literally.  Did it work? 
Sometimes.
 
I’m no expert on biblical prophesy, but I do believe
that we need to look into the scriptures to see just exactly what the Bible
says concerning the end times which will either begin or end with the return of
Jesus Christ, depending on your theological perspective. 
The experts tell us that there are over 1800
references to Christ second coming in the Old Testament alone, and that for
every one prophecy concerning the first coming of Christ that there are eight
prophecies concerning his second coming. 
We are also told by the same experts that there are over 300 references
about Christ return in the New Testament, or approximately one every 30 verses.
1) The Reality
of The End Times
Biblical
scholars tell us that the book of Mark was the first Gospel account put into
writing.  And according to Papias, who
was one of the early Christian writers and a man who had known some of the
apostles personally, Mark had acted as a scribe for Peter.  Now taking that into account if we look into
the book of Mark we see Christ making three direct statements referring to his
return.
The first
reference is found in Mark 8:38 If anyone is
ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of
Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father
with the holy angels.”
The second
was two days later, after Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, part of the
scripture that Ben read for us this morning 
Mark 13:1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his
disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the
impressive stones in the walls.”
Boy it
wasn’t hard to tell these guy’s were right off the boat.  Talk about a bunch of hicks, Gawking around
and staring.  You can almost hear them,
“Golly look at them buildings, aint got nothing like that in Galilee”.   
Can’t say that I blame them, remember that I grew up
in New Brunswick and to me a big city was Saint John.
Now it’s been a long time since I was a Saint John boy
and I’ve done a lot of travelling since then, I’ve actually visited 5 continents
and more than 2 dozen countries and been 75 miles east of the North Pole.
And I
thought I was a fairly seasoned traveler, been there done that type thing.  Well, as most of you know, in June, I was
able to visit Egypt and preach in a number of churches there.
We visited
a church that is 1700 years old, chew on that for a while.  When Christopher Columbus was a child they had
been worshipping in that church for 11 hundred years.
And I went
into the Great Pyramid, inside the Great Pyramid.  Stood at the feet of the sphinx and visited
the tomb of Saint Mark. 
And let me
tell, people would never have mistaken me for anything other than a hick, there
was no doubt in anybody’s mind that I was right off the boat.
So, for a
few minute the apostles stood in awe as they looked at the massive temple
building in front of them., and then Jesus told them in the next verse Mark 13:2 Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they
will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Now the
disciples didn’t say anything right off but when Peter, Andrew, James and John
were on the Mount of Olives they asked Jesus when this would take place. “You know Jesus we don’t want to pester you about this, but
when you said the temple was going to be destroyed, did you mean like this
afternoon?”   
And in
reply Jesus gave them a three part answer. 
The first part is given in Mark 13:5-13 when Jesus spoke of the
tribulation that the Apostles would personally go through.  The second part is found in verses 14-23 and
Jesus told them about the tribulation that Jerusalem would go through.  And in 70 AD Jerusalem was totally destroyed
by the Romans.  One contemporary source
claimed that a man could plow from one corner of Jerusalem to the other without
hitting a rock.
In Mark 13:26-27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds
with great power and glory. And he will send out his angels to gather his
chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and
heaven.
There can
be no mistaking what Jesus was talking about. 
He was saying that there would come a time that he would return and
mankind would see him coming.
Now then
the third instance that Mark records Christ speaking about his return was when
Jesus was on trial before the high priest, let’s listen in Mark 14:61-62 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest
asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Listen to
the response of Christ 
Jesus said, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place
of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus
couldn’t have made his message any plainer.
Peter’s
testimony to the second coming of Jesus extends even after the book of
Mark.  In Acts 2:35 on the day of
Pentecost Peter declared that Jesus had been exalted to the right hand of God
to reign until his enemies are made into his footstool. 
And
listen to what Peter says in his sermon in Acts 3:20 Then times of
refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you
Jesus, your appointed Messiah. 
What
Peter preached about in the book of Acts, he writes of in the two letters that
he wrote.  2 Peter 3:4-9 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?
From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since
the world was first created.” They deliberately forget
that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth
out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and
earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of
judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a
thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his
promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does
not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
It is
pretty evident that Peter, one of Christ’s closest friends and confidants was
convinced that Jesus would return.  But
what about other writers in the New Testament? 
Glad you asked.  The conversation
on top of The Mount of Olives is also recorded by Matthew and Luke with only
minor variations.
And John
records in His gospel in John 13:36 Simon Peter
asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me
now, but you will follow me later.”
But then in
the next chapter, only five verses later we read
John 14:3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that
you will always be with me where I am.
And when
Jesus is telling Peter what his future holds, Peter asks Christ “Hey what about my old buddy John”  and John 21:22 Jesus replied,
“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you,
follow me.” and in 1 John 3:2 Dear friends,
we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like
when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see
him as he really is.  Not if he appears,
but when he appears, John was evidently pretty certain that Jesus was coming
again.
And in the
final book of the Bible, John wrote in Revelation 1:7 Look! He
comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who
pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!
When Luke
records Christ’s return to heaven Christ has ascended into the clouds and the
Apostles are standing staring dumbfounded into the sky, which when you think
about it is a pretty appropriate response and two angels appear and say to them
Acts 1:11 “Men of
Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has
been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the
same way you saw him go!”
The New
Testament is full of references concerning the second coming, both direct and
indirect.  As a matter of fact, out of
the 27 books in the New Testament the second coming is mentioned at least in
passing in 23 of them.  Of them four
where the second coming is not mentioned Philemon and 2 & 3 John were
personal letters and Galatians had a very specific thrust.
For the
scholars out there the Greek word most commonly used for the return of Christ
is Parousia, which was used in referring to a
visit from the emperor or governor.  The
word Epipheneia is also used and it means “The
Appearing”, while John is fond of referring to the return of Christ as the Apokolypis, or the revelation.
The early
church was so convinced of the second coming that they actually greeted one
another with the word “Maranatha”, which is
actually two words, “Maran” and “Atha” which when put together meant “Our Lord Comes”. 
The return
of the Lord is a certainty, the Bible and early church tradition lend authority
to that fact, the question that remains then is: The Timing of the End  When
is this going to happen?
The
apostles themselves wondered that same thing and demanded an answer to the
question in Mark
13:4
“Tell us, when will all this happen?
What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?” 
And in
verse 32 of the same chapter Jesus answers them by saying, “It’s none of your
business”  well actually that isn’t
exactly what he said, but it’s close because he says
Mark 13:32 “However, no one knows the
day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the
Son himself. Only the Father knows.”
But that
reply hasn’t kept men and women from playing neat little mathematical games
with Biblical prophecies over the past two thousand years in an effort to
figure out some kind of time frame for the last days.  Through the years many sincere men have
sought by various formulas and mathematical techniques, primarily using the
prophecies of Daniel to arrive at; if not the day and hour of Christ’s arrival
then at least the month and year.
When the
First World War broke out even the secular press was asking the question:  Is this Armageddon?  There seemed to be further confirmation when
Jerusalem was delivered from Turkish rule in 1917.  Dr. C.I. Schofield of
the Schofield study Bible fame actually wrote a book in 1918 proposing that the
world would come to an end before the war to end all wars came to an end.  Obviously he was wrong.
In 1939
World War Two broke out and the next year B.F.
Atkinson wrote a book called “The War With
Satan.”  In his work Atkinson
speculated that the end was near.
While I was
pastoring in Truro I received a book in the mail entitled “88 Reasons Why the
World Will End in 1988”  Now all three of
these books based at least a part of their theories on the “Seven times” that
Daniel spoke of in Daniel 4.  They
multiplied the seven by the number of days in the Jewish prophetic year which
was 360 and came up with a total of 2520 years. The only problem is that three
men used the same figure and one comes up with 1918, one 1941 and one
1988.  The reason for the difference is
that they all have different theories on when we should start counting off the
2520 years.
Now
my favourite theory was put forth by Dr. Joe Kanzlemar, who was my professor in
Bible college who taught our class on the Revelation.  Joe figured that everything in God’s plan
goes back to the sabbatical concept.  And
this goes back to Daniel’s seven days again. 
Joe then adds to this Peter’s comment in 2
Peter 3:8
But you must not forget this one thing, dear
friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is
like a day. 
So
Joe figured that from the book Genesis to the last curtain will be seven
thousand years.  Now if we count the
millennium as the last day, or the day of rest and we use Bishop Usher’s date
to put Genesis 1 at 4004 BC, then we only have to find another 2000 years, so
Joe speculated maybe 2004. And since this is 2017 it looks like Joe blew it
too.
Perhaps
you’ve heard the most recent theory which puts the end of the world in six days
and 10 hours and 13 minutes.
Yep, that
would be September 23rd.  Those
who are promoting that theory base it on Revelation
12:1-2
 Then I witnessed in heaven an
event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon
beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was
pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving
birth.
And maybe
you are thinking so. . . ? 
Well, the
constellation Virgo is the woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her
feet.” The constellation Leo is the twelve stars (three of which are actually
Mars, Mercury and Venus but let’s just go with it).
And. . . on
the 23rd, Jupiter will orbit out of Virgo — a sort of “birth,” if you will.
According
to one of the theory’s proponents David Meade states “It will occur once
on September 23, 2017. It will never occur again. When it occurs, it places the
Earth immediately before the time of the Sixth Seal of Revelation.”
But the
truth of the matter is that David Meade doesn’t know when Christ will return
and neither does anyone else.
Seven
different times in the New Testament it says that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief in the night.  And how does
a thief come?  Well if he is a good thief
then he comes very, very quietly.  Now realize
that the return of Christ is not what is referred to as the rapture which is
the when Christ calls the church to be with him.
Eschatology
or the study of the end times is like golf, it’s fun it gives you something to
do but in the long run it you end up arriving at the same place you left from.  And just like anything else it can become an
obsession and prevent us from doing what we were put here to do and that is to
win people to Jesus Christ. 
But one
thing is certain and that is that the Day of the Lord will happen. It may not
have been in 70 or 1918 or 1941 or 1988 but Christ will return.  And when it happens, He will be more pleased
with the Christian who led one person into a relationship with God then with
the person who spent all his time debating and writing books about the end
times.
Jesus made
it very plain that the timing of the His return is neither our responsibility
nor our business, and personally I think that we border on blasphemy when we
try to wrestle that information from God. 
We look very much like Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge
of good and evil so that they could become like God.
Let
me end this morning with three quotes the first was made a hundred and thirty
years ago by French Scientist Pierre Berthelot,
“Within a hundred years of physical and chemical
science man will know what the atom is, and it is my belief that when science
reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with his big ring of keys and
say, ’Gentleman it is closing time’ “. 
The second quote comes from Sammy Tippit
an Author and Bible Teacher who wrote “The facts are
out there. Biblical prophecy is unfolding before our very eyes. Anyone with a
modest knowledge of the Scripture and a nearby newspaper can easily tell that
history is quickly coming to its conclusion. Planet Earth is on a collision
course with Biblical prophecy.” 
And
finally the words of C.S Lewis who said in
relation to the return of Christ “When the author
walks on the stage, the play is over!”

Making Memories

I subscribe to Yogi Berra’s theory that if you don’t attend other people’s funerals, they won’t come to yours. With that in mind, whenever I can, I attend the funeral of Wesleyan Pastors on our district.
Last weekend the staff from Cornerstone made their way to the chapel at Kingswood University in Sussex to say good-bye to a friend and colleague.  Pastors from across the district gathered to pay their respects to our former District Superintendent David LeRoy, who had passed away after his lengthy battle with cancer.
The most moving part of the service for me, was when his three grown sons spoke sharing their memories of their father.  And as each one spoke of the things that made their father special, I wondered what my children would say about me at my funeral.

And I realized that my children’s impression of me, as their father, is now formed and for the most part, the majority of their memories of our relationships won’t change.  I remember hearing once, that what matters isn’t who your father was, it is who you remember him to be.

So, this Penn is for you parents who still have children at home.  If you want your children to deliver your eulogy, then the time to prepare is now!                    
              
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

These Three Remain

People died, children were conceived,
hearts were broken lives were changed and history was made.  But now the summer of love was over.  By October of 1967 the movement known as the
Summer of Love, when over 100,000 hippies and flower children had descended on
the Haight Asbury district of San Francisco was but a memory.  A mock funeral processional was announced for
October 6th it was called “The Death of the Hippie” and it was to officially
signify the end of the Summer of Love. 
L. Frank Baum wrote in the The Marvelous
Land of Oz  “Everything has to come to an
end, sometime.”
Since June we have been celebrating the
Summer of Love here at Cornerstone as we have dove into 1 Corinthians 13, the
so-called love chapter of the bible.  And
for the 12th time we are going to invite you to stand as we read the chapter
together.   And for our last reading of 1
Corinthians 13 we are going to read responsively. 
Which simply means I will read a part and
then you will read the next section. 
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 as in a
cloudy 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.
And now we arrive at the end of our Summer
of love with the last verse of 1 Corinthians 13.   1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last
forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
For the Christian, when everything is
finished, when the last page is turned, when the credits have rolled and the
story is done, it won’t be finished.  
There will still be three things that
remain.  Faith, hope and Love. 
Paul reminded the early Christ followers
in  Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV For it is by
grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is
the gift of God–  not by works, so that
no one can boast.
It is by grace that you have been
saved.  How?  Through faith.
So we begin with The Faith We Have in Jesus
The bible defines faith this way, Hebrews 11:1 
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it
gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Sometimes I think it would be so much
easier if when we claimed the promise of our salvation and forgiveness it came
with a “Something” that was tangible. 
Maybe a certificate signed by God, or a plaque we could put on our
living room wall.  But the reality is,
that if you are anything like me you’d misplace it anyway.  I haven’t seen my Social Insurance card for
forty years.
And if you didn’t misplace it, then it
would become the assurance of your salvation, and you would come to depend on
that piece of paper as the assurance that your sins were forgiven and that you
were indeed saved. 
Whenever you doubted, you could pull it out
and read it and if anyone questioned your salvation you could show them your
certificate of authenticity. 
And if you ever lost the paper or if it
were destroyed then you’d wonder about your salvation. 
Our relationship with God begins with
faith, later in Hebrews 11 we read Hebrews 11:6 
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to
come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who
sincerely seek him.
There are times that people will tell me,
“I guess I just don’t have that much faith.” 
But we have faith all the time. 
We have faith in the things around us that
we don’t understand and can’t explain.
 When
we drive we have faith that our cars will stop and go and won’t behave
erratically.  We have faith that the
other drivers will stay in their lanes.
When we go to the doctor we have faith they
know what they are doing and will make the best decisions for our health.
Most of us will fly somewhere, if not this
year then probably next year.  And flying
has to be the biggest example of faith that we have.
You are sitting in a chair in the sky.  Seriously. 
And you think you know how flying works, but really. 
The shape of the wing causes the air to
move faster and faster moving air exists at a lower pressure than slow-moving
air, so the pressure above the wing is lower than the pressure below the wing,
and this creates the lift that keeps your chair in the sky.
We have the bible, the word of God that
tells us things like Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that
your sins may be wiped away. 
Repent of your sins, turn to God and your
sins will be wiped away.  That’s the
promise,  It is faith that claims the
promise. 
Martin Luther wrote “Faith is a living,
daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake
his life on it a thousand times.”
And Paul reminded Timothy in  1 Timothy 1:19  Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your
conscience clear.
Cling to your faith in Christ.  When everything seems to fail, cling to your
faith in Christ.
Because when everything else is gone, faith
remains.
But there has to be more than simply  faith, Paul wrote in  1 Corinthians 15:19  And if our hope in Christ is only for this
life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
The Faith That We Have in Jesus Gives us a
Hope for Eternity
Every one of us has birth in common, we
were born.  There isn’t one of us who
just suddenly appeared.  And regardless
of what your parents told you the stork didn’t bring you to them. You were
born.
The other thing we have in common is that
we will all die.  Some sooner than
others, but life is a terminal condition. 
It was Robin Williams who said 
“Death is nature’s way of saying, ‘Your table is ready.”
But while we may all share the experience
of death Christians share a hope that extends beyond death.
Maybe you’ve heard the statement “as long
as there is breath there is hope.”  But
for the Christian that hope goes even beyond death.  It was the Apostle John, one of Christ’s
first followers,  the one who stood at
the foot of the cross and watched Christ die, the one who rushed to the garden
three days later to find an empty tomb. 
It was John who would spend forty days with
Jesus after the resurrection and who would watch Jesus ascend into heaven and
it was the same John who wrote 1 John 5:13 
I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so
that you may know you have eternal life.
So what? 
So that you will know that you have eternal life.  And not just any eternal life listen to the
description that John gives us of the eternity we will share with our creator,
it’s found in Revelation 21:4  He will
wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or
crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
That is the hope that the Christian has,
all the other descriptions that we might have of heaven pale in comparison to
those words. Listen to it again, 
Revelation 21:4  He will wipe
every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying
or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
It is a hope that goes beyond breath.  Which was why John Wesley on his death bed
was able to say “The best of all: God is with us.”  And why William Wilberforce told his family “My
affections are so much in heaven that I can leave you all without a regret; yet
I do not love you less, but God more.”  
And why Puritan preacher Richard Baxter would die saying “I have pain;
but I have peace, I have peace!”
My favorite dying words story is about
Samuel Upham a Professor at Drew Theological Seminary.  When Upham was lying on his death bed his
family gathered around to be with their dad at the end. 
After a period of silence one of the
brothers asked “Is he gone?”  Another
responded “I don’t know, feel his feet, nobody ever died with warm feet”  Suddenly Professor Upham opened his eyes said
“Joan of Arc did” and then he died. 
If you google dying words of believers you
will find scores of statements of hope and faith. 
If you google dying words of atheists you
find Voltaire saying, “I am abandoned by God and man!”  And Anton LeVey, author of the Satanic Bible
dying with these words on his lips “Oh my, oh my, what have I done, there
is something very wrong … there is something very wrong …” And the atheist
philosopher Thomas Hobbes who said “I say again, if I had the whole world
at my disposal, I would give it to live one day. I am about to take a leap into
the dark.”
Sir Francis Newport was the head of an
English Atheist club and as he was dying he told those who gathered around his
deathbed: “You need not tell me there is no God for I know there is one,
and that I am in His presence! You need not tell me there is no hell. I feel
myself already slipping.”
The Apostle Paul wrote these words of Hope
in 2 Timothy 4:6-8  As for me, my life
has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is
near.  I have fought the good fight, I
have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of
his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look
forward to his appearing.
And the hope that Paul had was the hope
found in Christ.  In book of Matthew we
read this about Jesus  Matthew 12:
21  And His name will be the hope of all
the world.
If you haven’t experienced that hope you
can.
Because when everything else is gone, faith
and hope remain.
And the reason for that hope and faith come
from John 3:16  “For God loved the world
so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him
will not perish but have eternal life.
The Faith That We Have in Jesus gives us a
Hope for Eternity and it’s all Grounded in the Love of God
It all goes back to God’s love for us.  John Ortberg wrote  “People sometimes think it’s a miracle that
God loves them. No. God simply IS love. It would take a ‘miracle’ for God to
NOT love somebody.”
And that love was so great that God gave us
the ultimate gift, himself, he took our sin on his own sinless nature so we
could be forgiven. 
Which is why we are told in Romans
5:8-9  But God showed his great love for
us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  And since we have been made right in God’s
sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s
condemnation.
John Wesley wrote “Faith, hope, love – Are
the sum of perfection on earth; love alone is the sum of perfection in heaven.”
Because when everything else is gone, three
things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is
love.
Love ties it all together.  William Barclay wrote “Faith without love is
cold, and hope without love is grim. Love is the fire which kindles faith and
it is the light which turns hope into certainty.”
And as we come to the conclusion of our
Summer of Love we ultimately have to ask the question that burns on all of your
hearts when I preach and that is “So what? 
What does this mean for me?”
One of the greatest descriptions of this
agape love is given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 
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.
We are all familiar with that passage, or
at least we should be after this summer.
And last weekend that passage was read at
both of the Cornerstone weddings that were celebrated. 
I want to finish the series by looking at 1
Corinthians 13 a different way.  The way
that God displayed his love for us was that he came to earth as a baby, lived
33 years and died on a cross for us. 
Jesus was love personified. That’s why the Bible tells us in John
1:17  . . .  but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness
came through Jesus Christ.
And if that is the truth then we should be
able to see the character of Christ reflected in 1 Corinthians 13.  Let’s try. 
Here’s 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 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.
So if Jesus is Love then we should be able
to change it from Love to Jesus and see how it reads:  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Jesus is patient and
kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jesus does not demand
his own way. Jesus is not irritable, and he keeps no record of when he has been
wronged. He never rejoices about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins
out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, he is always hopeful, and endures
through every circumstance.
What do you think?  Works? 
Let’s take it a step further. 
What is a Christian?  A follower of Christ?  Would it be fair to say that Christians are
to be Christ-like or like Christ? 
Ephesians 4:15  Instead, we will
speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is
the head of his body, the church.
Ok, so let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 13,
we changed the word love to Christ, now let’s take it a step further let’s
change Christ to Christian and see how it reads 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Christians
are patient and kind. Christians are not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
Christians do not demand our own way. Christians are not irritable, and they
keep no record of when they have been wronged. Christians never rejoice about
injustice but rejoice whenever the truth wins out. Christians never give up, never
lose faith, Christians are always hopeful, and endure through every
circumstance.
So now let’s personalize it and read it
together as the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 We are patient and kind.
We are not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. We do not demand our own way.
We are not irritable, and we keep no record of when we have been wronged. We
never rejoice about injustice but rejoice whenever the truth wins out. We never
give up, never lose faith, We are always hopeful, and endure through every
circumstance.
Hmmm, maybe we could stand a little
work.  Jesus told his disciples in John
13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my
disciples.”  Is that how people identify
you as a Christian? 
Two secrets to exhibiting this type of
love.  You ready.  1) It has to be intentional.  It’s not just going to happen; you are going
to have to want it to happen.  You are
going to have to come to the place that you intentionally say, “I am going to
exhibit agape love in all my relationships” 
2) You can’t do it.   Or maybe it would be more accurate to say
You can’t do it yourself.  And you don’t
have to.  Do you remember the scripture
that we started with?  Galatians
5:22-23  But the Holy Spirit produces
this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and
self-control. There is no law against these things!
It doesn’t say we will produce, but the
Holy Spirit will produce.  Is that your
desire today?  When you look at your life
does it match the description given in 1 Corinthians 13?  If not it can. 
And while the Summer of Love in 1967 came
to an end, I hope that what we’ve learned this summer about love is only the
beginning.
Frank Herbert wrote “There is no real
ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
You will choice to live a life
characterized by love or not.
Let’s pray together:   Lord help me to be patient and kind.   To not be jealous or boastful or proud or
rude. Help me to not demand my own way. Help me to not be irritable, and to
keep no record of when I’ve been wronged. Help me to never rejoice about
injustice but help me rejoice whenever the truth wins out. Lord, I want to
never give up, never lose faith, always be hopeful, and to endure through every
circumstance.  In Jesus name AMEN

Say What?

I was sitting in my office annex the other day and was listening to folks use Canada’s third official language as they ordered their double doubles, triple singles and four by fours.  Which begs the question: is a coffee with four creams and four sugars still a coffee? But again, I digress.

As I listened to the customers speaking in a code readily understood by those who served them, I wondered about the language we speak in our churches.

How often do we assume that everyone who comes through our doors on Sunday morning speaks the same language as we do?  And I’m not talking about English but when we bandy around terms like “grace” and “vestibule” and “propitiation”, maybe we don’t bandy propitiation around so much these days.

I have to remind myself from time to time that not everyone understands “churchy” language. Part of my job is to act as a tour guide, as I lead people to catch a glimpse of the eternal.  And part of that job is occasionally acting as a translator, translating “Christianese” into everyday English.
If you get the wrong coffee because of a miscommunication, that’s a mistake that can be corrected. If you miss eternity because of a miscommunication, that is a tragedy and it’s forever.
                                                                                                                       
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Through a Glass Darkly

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.