If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a 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.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)
Last Saturday marked, for me, the end of the vegetable growing season in my garden. The very last of my vegetables, the beetroots, were pulled up out of the ground and by lunchtime they had been turned into beetroot and potato soup.
It has been a good year for vegetables in my garden. I allocate a very small part of the garden as a veg patch so I grow most of my beans up tripods in my flower beds and my squash was so successful that I had to train it up over an arch. As I reflected on the many crops that I have harvested from my garden I saw that they fell into three different categories. First there were the crops likes the beans and the squashes, these all grow in plain sight above the ground. It is easy to follow their development as they grow and you can see exactly when they are ready to be harvested. Secondly there were the crops like the beetroots and the shallots, these all grow in the ground with part of the crop showing and part of it hidden from sight below the earth. It has been slightly more difficult to know when they are ready to harvest as you can’t be exactly sure of what you can’t see, but you had a fairly good idea from what you can. Lastly there were the crops like the potatoes, these all grow completely below ground, so that you cannot see them at all. In fact it is important that you don’t see the crop, as if you do they can become inedible. Knowing when to harvest potatoes is much more difficult than the other veg, you have to trust that they are developing and you only know when you dig them up, or in my case, tip them out of the big pot they were growing in, how successful you have been.
In some ways reading the bible can seem a bit like harvesting vegetables. Firstly there are the passages that are completely clear in what they are telling us. They are like harvesting beans, where we are left in no doubt about what to do. The second passages simply don’t tell us all we want to know and we are left wanting more information, they often require interpretation or knowledge of the situation at the time or an understanding of the person who wrote it. These are like the beetroots where only part of the crop can be seen and we have to make a judgement about the rest. And then lastly there are the passages that we just don’t understand or where we cannot see what is going on or which appear to be missing from the bible altogether. These are like my potatoes, things that are not revealed until harvest time.
There are many things that we do not know about God and many things that we will not understand until the day that we are harvested. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul states that “For now we see only a 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.”
So when reading my bible I know that some passages will be crystal clear, some will need interpretation and some I won’t understand and for those parts that I don’t understand or feel are missing, I need to trust that God knows best and that one day I shall know fully, but that will not be until I am able to meet with God face to face at my harvest time.
Lord of the harvest, help us to grow strong in the faith, full of love for each other and hope for the future.