Summary: A sermon on Christian unity through love.
"Now We See A Reflection"
Tom Long, Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University tells a story about meeting a man while fishing in a stream.
They got to talking, and the man asked Tom what he did for a living.
Tom told him and the man said, "I used to go to church, but I got disgusted by the disagreements in meetings, and the workings of the church."
Down through the ages, people have been disillusioned with the church...having thought that it would be something that it is not--a place filled with perfect people--and have thus, left to go do their own thing.
Right now, due to a number of issues within the church there are a lot of young people who are turning away from what they call "organized religion."
And in no way am I here to "demonize" the folks who get disgusted with the church.
It's easy to get discouraged.
We read the words of Jesus.
We read the biblical account of His teachings and His life and then we look at His Church, and His Church often doesn't live up to Its Lord.
At the beginning of this service Chet read from Matthew 22:34-40.
A legal expert came up to Jesus and asked Him "what is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands."
I don't know about you, but I'm not very good at this.
It's my goal.
It's what I live for.
But I am still not very good at it.
I can get cranky, self-centered, frustrated, angry, tired, annoyed, and very forgetful.
I often get caught up in: me, me, me and forget about God and neighbor.
Often, I'm not even aware I'm doing this.
As Paul said in our Scripture passage from 1 Corinthians 13: "Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face."
I like the way the New King James Version reads on this one: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face."
The city of Corinth--where the church Paul was writing to was located-- was famous for manufacturing mirrors.
But the mirrors in the 1st Century were much different than the mirrors we have today.
The mirrors made in Corinth were made of highly polished metal and, even at best, they gave a very imperfect reflection.
Ever try and see your reflection in polished metal, perhaps in the metal of a shiny car or something else?
We get some idea of what we look like, perhaps, but it's distorted.
We don't see the "full image" or the "perfect image."
Even now, with the mirrors we have today we see ourselves in reverse, never quite the way others see us.
Mirrors just don't match a "face-to-face" meeting.
As the Church, we are called to reflect Christ.
We are called to love God perfectly and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Sadly, we live in a broken world.
And although, as followers of Christ, even though we are saved and forgiven--we are not a perfect reflection of Christ.
Try as we may, we will never be "perfect" in this life.
So, we make mistakes.
We say the wrong thing sometimes.
We sometimes get angry at our neighbors.
We can get consumed with self.
We sometimes forget the hungry person outside our door.
And we can be judgmental, pharisaical, legalistic, you name it.
But in the meantime, we strive forward as Paul writes in Philippians 3:
"It's not that I have already...been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose...
...I myself don't think I've reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me.
The goal I pursue is the prize of God's upward call in Christ Jesus..."
That is our call as Christians...
...to pursue Christian perfection--knowing good and well that we haven't reached it...
...and also, Christian perfection isn't perfection as we sometimes think.
It's not legalism.
It's not don't do this; don't do that.
It's all about love.
As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism put it: Christian perfection is "having a habitual love for God and neighbor."
And that love grows as we grow in our love for and knowledge of Christ.
That love grows the longer we "live with" the imperfections and short-comings of our brothers and sisters and ourselves--in empathy and love--and realize that the church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.