During his sermon, the vicar used a striking metaphor. He was commenting on that famous passage, 1 Corinthians 13, that is always used at weddings:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
St. Paul is talking here of the three theological virtues: faith, hope and love. This he sets out in the culmination of the chapter:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Without getting into a sermon of my own, these are the specifically Christian virtues, given by God, that will get us into Heaven. The vicar was then explaining that the above line is saying that once we are in Heaven, we will no longer need faith or hope; that only love will then remain. The image he used was of one of those ginormous space shuttles with side boosters (see the picture below). These side boosters are needed to get the shuttle off the ground but fall off once the shuttle is nearing space, as they are no longer needed. Similarly, faith, hope and love are needed to get us into Heaven, but once we are there only love remains; so like the side boosters, faith and hope can fall away.
I strongly suspect that St. Paul did not have the image of a space shuttle in mind when he was writing his first letter to the Corinthians. This led me thinking.
Jesus liked to use parables. Since He was talking to simple, uneducated folk, He liked to use familiar images from their everyday lives that they would all understand. For example, as many of His disciples were fishermen, He recruited them with:
Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Or He often used farming metaphors – such as the parable of the sower, where He compared the word of God to seeds that have been sown; some falling on the path, or on rocky places, or among thorns, so producing no fruit, but some falling on good soil so producing good fruit.
But now we live in a society where very few are engaged in fishing or planting (except as a hobby). I wonder what metaphors He would use if He came to modern day England? I’m just glad our vicars are earning their living thinking of good ones.