"For now we see through a screen darkly..."

Oh boy …

I had my worst Zoom experience ever a few weeks ago.

There were about 20 of us on a group call organised by a helpline which I work for as a volunteer. (It’s a bit like Samaritans for UK lawyers.) It was the first meeting of its kind so volunteers could share their covid experiences. So, to be fair, it was an experiment.

But it was noisy, confused and only minimally facilitated. Some people had their video off, so all we saw was their name. Internet reception was patchy for others. Screens kept freezing. Mouths didn’t time with the words they seemed to be saying. Few had their mics muted when others spoke, which meant the sound regularly lurched to a meaningless chaos. In short, it was a total dog’s dinner - which actually would be an insult to all purveyors of pet tasties - so, my apologies to them.

Anyone listening in would have found it inexplicable and obscure. A bit like doing a cryptic crossword with clues missing. Or looking at one’s face in a steamed-up bathroom mirror. Or a parable without an explanation. An enigma.

And it seemed an apt metaphor for our covid confusion.

So many of us trying to get some clarity on rapidly changing distancing rules, workplace regulations, our children’s education, local lockdowns, quarantine after travelling abroad, politicians worldwide pulled between electoral loyalties and scientific advice, and, and …

All of which would have come as no surprise to the Apostle Paul.

In one of his more poetic blogs (to the believers in the city of Corinth, in the very poetic land of Greece) he tried to get them to grasp that there would come a time when the mist would lift and they would see clearly. Mysteries would be revealed. Obscure languages translated.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

And the word ‘dimly’ is key. Literally ‘an enigma, something obscure, a riddle’.

A mirror in olde worlde Greece was made of polished metal. The viewer could only get a very rough idea of what their face looked like. Nothing like our glass mirrors today. A bit like a Zoom screen with poor reception.

So he was saying that our understanding of ourselves, of others, the future, reality, of God himself even, is only partial. For the moment, at least, maybe.
When Churchill spoke on the radio in 1939 about Russia’s motives for entering the war, he described it as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. Throw in a paradox and anxiety for good measure and that could sum up what so many of us are feeling about these times.

But for Paul’s focus here is not on the mystery of tomorrow, but on present certainty. We have a trinity in our hands. A trinity of gifts from the Trinity: faith, hope and love.

We hold them to enjoy, certainly.
But mainly to share.
In the words of Bruce Cockburn: ‘It only lives when you give it away’

Angus Lyon