EPIPHANY LECTIO DIVINA 5 Read 1 Corinthians 13-14 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
13 What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others. 3 What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others. 4 Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or 5 rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. 6 Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. 7 Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. 8 Love never fails!
Everyone who prophesies will stop, and unknown languages will no longer be spoken. All that we know will be forgotten. 9 We don’t know everything, and our prophecies are not complete. 10 But what is perfect will someday appear, and what isn’t perfect will then disappear.
11 When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do. But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways. 12 Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face. We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us. 13 For now there are faith, hope, and love. But of these three, the greatest is love.
Speaking Unknown Languages and Prophesying
14 Love should be your guide. Be eager to have the gifts that come from the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 If you speak languages that others don’t know, God will understand what you are saying, though no one else will know what you mean. You will be talking about mysteries that only the Spirit understands. 3 But when you prophesy, you will be understood, and others will be helped. They will be encouraged and made to feel better.
4 By speaking languages that others don’t know, you help only yourself. But by prophesying you help everyone in the church. 5 I am glad for you to speak unknown languages, although I had rather for you to prophesy. In fact, prophesying does much more good than speaking unknown languages, unless someone can help the church by explaining what you mean.
6 My friends, what good would it do, if I came and spoke unknown languages to you and didn’t explain what I meant? How would I help you, unless I told you what God had shown me or gave you some knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If all musical instruments sounded alike, how would you know the difference between a flute and a harp? 8 If a bugle call isn’t clear, how would you know to get ready for battle?
9 That’s how it is when you speak unknown languages. If no one can understand what you are talking about, you will only be talking to the wind. 10 There are many different languages in this world, and all of them make sense. 11 But if I don’t understand the language that someone is using, we will be like foreigners to each other. 12 If you really want spiritual gifts, choose the ones that will be most helpful to the church.
13 When we speak languages that others don’t know, we should pray for the power to explain what we mean. 14 For example, if I use an unknown language in my prayers, my spirit prays but my mind is useless. 15 Then what should I do? There are times when I should pray with my spirit, and times when I should pray with my mind. Sometimes I should sing with my spirit, and at other times I should sing with my mind.
16 Suppose some strangers are in your worship service, when you are praising God with your spirit. If they don’t understand you, how will they know to say, “Amen”? 17 You may be worshiping God in a wonderful way, but no one else will be helped. 18 I thank God that I speak unknown languages more than any of you. 19 But words that make sense can help the church. That’s why in church I had rather speak five words that make sense than to speak ten thousand words in a language that others don’t know.
20 My friends, stop thinking like children. Think like mature people and be as innocent as tiny babies. 21 In the Scriptures the Lord says,
“I will use strangers who speak unknown languages to talk to my people. They will speak to them in foreign languages, but still my people won’t listen to me.”
22 Languages that others don’t know may mean something to unbelievers, but not to the Lord’s followers. Prophecy, on the other hand, is for followers, not for unbelievers. 23 Suppose everyone in your worship service started speaking unknown languages, and some outsiders or some unbelievers come in. Won’t they think you are crazy? 24 But suppose all of you are prophesying when those unbelievers and outsiders come in. They will realize that they are sinners, and they will want to change their ways because of what you are saying. 25 They will tell what is hidden in their hearts. Then they will kneel down and say to God, “We are certain that you are with these people.”
Worship Must Be Orderly
26 My friends, when you meet to worship, you must do everything for the good of everyone there. That’s how it should be when someone sings or teaches or tells what God has said or speaks an unknown language or explains what the language means. 27 No more than two or three of you should speak unknown languages during the meeting. You must take turns, and someone should always be there to explain what you mean. 28 If no one can explain, you must keep silent in church and speak only to yourself and to God.
29 Two or three persons may prophesy, and everyone else must listen carefully. 30 If someone sitting there receives a message from God, the speaker must stop and let the other person speak. 31 Let only one person speak at a time, then all of you will learn something and be encouraged. 32 A prophet should be willing to stop and let someone else speak. 33 God wants everything to be done peacefully and in order.
When God’s people meet in church, 34 the wives must not be allowed to speak. They must keep quiet and listen, as the Law of Moses teaches. 35 If there is something they want to know, they can ask their husbands when they get home. It is improper for women to speak in church.
36 God’s message did not start with you people, and you are not the only ones it has reached. 37 If you think of yourself as a prophet or a spiritual person, you will know that I am writing only what the Lord has commanded. 38 So don’t pay attention to anyone who ignores what I am writing. 39 My friends, be eager to prophesy and don’t stop anyone from speaking languages that others don’t know. 40 But do everything properly and in order.
12 Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see God face to face. We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us. 13 For now there are faith, hope, and love. But of these three, the greatest is love.
When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a young man, living with his father Leopold (himself a fine musician) in Vienna, he is said to have played a trick on him from time to time. Young Wolfgang would come home from spending a riotous evening with his friends; his father would already be asleep in bed. Wolfgang would go to the piano, and would play, loudly, a rising scale of notes, getting slower and louder as they reached the resolution at the top of the scale…and then he would stop, one note short, and go to bed himself.
Old Leopold, so the story goes, would toss and turn in his bed as the unfinished scale came into his dreams and imagination. The frustration of having one’s musical senses aroused in that way without resolution would become too hard to bear. Eventually he would have to drag himself from his slumbers, stagger downstairs, and play the last note.
No doubt he had ways of getting his own back, but that is another story. What we are concerned with here is the way in which Paul describes the call of love, and of life itself, as an unfinished scale, going ahead of us into God’s future (“Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see God face to face”). The music of love, which will one day be completed, is therefore not just our duty. It is our destiny.
Paul sees all of life within the framework of God’s future – God’s future which has burst into the present in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and especially in his resurrection, which has marked him out as God’s Messiah, the world’s true Lord. In that future, Paul sees a world of joy, delight, and above all, love. So in the present there are three things which point into the future: Faith, which looks at the God made known in Jesus and trusts him for everything; Hope, which is already assured by Jesus’ resurrection; and Love, which will finally know as it is known, and embrace as it is already embraced. - N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone, 1 Corinthians
What do I experience as “an unfinished scale” in my relationship with God? What do I yearn to know about God? In what ways do Faith, Hope and Love operate in my life and in my relationships with family, friends, and strangers?
O Gracious God, help me to know and feel, at all times, your presence in my life. Give me the grace to build upon the foundation of faith, be sustained by a holy hope, and receive and share your love every day. Amen.