Hebrews 7: 23-28 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Mark 10: 46-52 October 28, 2018
Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”
Prayer: Open our eyes, Lord that we may see, visions of truth you have for us. Amen.
I think we all have vision issues, of some sort, don’t you think? Some more than others. Just look around you. Lots and lots of people wear glasses, and if they don’t, they wear contact lenses. Some have color blindness—I know I have a mild case of red/green colorblindness, although Barb would beg to differ with me on ‘mild case’ part. I’m just saying… I tell her. I say, “I see all the colors; I just don’t know their names!” Yeah right. Ask me later how that’s going for me!
But, she and I, and I suspect many of you who may be older… we have what’s called ‘presbyopia.’ No, it’s not something only Presbyterians get… “presby” is Greek for elder/older, and “opia” is Greek for eye/sight. So, presbyopia is when our vision slowly gets fuzzy as soon as we hit 40 or 50, and our arms get too short, and people make fun of us saying that they’ll hold the paper 10 feet away so we can read it! You know you have presbyopia when your reading glasses are stashed all over the place—at home, at work, in the car, anywhere you read or need close up vision.
One thing I found though, is that in well-lit conditions, I can see clearly, close-up without my readers. And, I got to thinking about that! I love this idea! Lots of light helps sharpen my vision and my focus. It’s great for my vision.
And catch this—lots of light—God’s light—is also great, metaphorically speaking, for sharper vision on our faith journeys. Because the light of Christ, the presence and influence of God, the impact of the way of love—these points of God’s light help us see life clearly. These help us grow out of whatever blindness we may have. With the light of Christ, we can see our world, our lives, our contemporary issues in new ways. We’re seeing again, fresh, as if for the first time.
With regards to our contemporary concerns, I invite you to consider Jesus’ question: “What do you want me to do for you?” If Jesus were to ask us that question today, what would we answer?
As I said, we all have vision issues, more or less, I think. We have different types of short-sightedness. Obstinacy can make us short-sighted. So can intolerance. Narrowmindedness is a form of blindness. One-sided thinking—“My way is the only way” mentality. All are forms of vision issues. We can’t see clearly when we have these. If Jesus were to ask us “What do you want me to do for you?” could we say, “My teacher, let us see again?” Could we persistently say, “O God, have mercy on us, for we do not see as you see.”
Funny thing about these kinds of blindness; we often don’t know that we have them. We can get so used to our familiar ways, so used to life in our own little world, so comfortable with our privilege that when someone like a þ Bartimaeus shouts out, crying for God’s mercy, begging to “see” like everyone else sees, wanting to have a life that everyone else has—that person is sternly rebuked. Oftentold to be quiet. The crowd tried to put Bartimaeus back in his place on the socioeconomic sidelines. I Call it socioecopia. And, Bartimaeus cried out all the more when the crowd tried to silence him.
In our day, the migrating group of thousands of people, heading north from Honduras through Mexico in search of a better life, fleeing a life of poverty, guerillas, gangs, and drug cartels, are told to turn back. And, if they don’t, they will be met with military force. When will we have an effective immigration policy? I call this blindness borderopia. And the voices of immigrants will cry out all the more. Are people of faith in our nation’s leadership listening?
In our day, we know we’ve got blindness because of the wide polarity in our public discourse. We’ve lost the ability to engage in discourse that respects critical thinking and opposing points of view and dialogues and learns from them. Instead, pipe bombs are made by somebody and mailed to people who disagree, effectively saying, “Silence your criticism, and if you don’t, you will be blown up. You will lose your life.” I call this form of blindness critiqueopia. And the voices of those wanting healthy dialogue in the public square are crying out! Is anyone listening?
In our day, there are people living on the church’s margins—people of the LGBTQ community, people of different races and ethnicities, people of different socioeconomic status and backgrounds, all seeking a place to worship safely, wanting to love and be loved without judgement, needing to forgive and be forgiven, desperately craving to be who they are, crying out to God and praying that God’s representative on earth, the Church, would welcome them, would affirm them. Only to be told in many churches, you must change in order to be here, you must not speak about “your cause”, or your problem. You must fit in the way we are. I Call this blindness churchopia. And the voices of those on the margins of church life cry out all the more! I encourage us at Christ Church, keep explaining what it means to be an all inclusive church. Let us keep listening!
In our day, after years of searching archaeologists may have found the ruins of Nicaea, the famed, but lost city where the first Council of Nicaea met in 325 A.D to hammer out the Nicene Creed which declared that God and Jesus were both God, and also set the formula for Easter Sunday. It’s going to be difficult to excavate because it’s under about 9 feet of water.
And, similarly, in North Carolina, back in 2012, North Carolina’s own Coastal Resources Commission predicted that sea levels could rise as much as 39 inches in a century. So, coastal developers, concerned that this prediction would hurt real estate values and drive up the cost of insurance, successfully lobbied the state legislature to pass a law that bans all policies based on that prediction. Talk about blinders! I call it climate-change-opia (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/12/north-carolina-didnt-like-science-on-sea-levels-so-passed-a-law-against-it, retrieved October 27, 2018). And the voice of our planet earth is crying out all the more. Are we listening?
And the list goes on...this mass shooting in Pittsburgh reveals, again, a gun control-opia. A blindness we have.
These I think are some examples of short-sightedness and blindness in our day, and God never nurses them along. God never encourages us to hold on to our prejudices, our blindspots, or our short-sightedness. Instead I think God wants those to die out in us. And, in their place, God wants the living Holy Spirit to live in us. That’s God’s holy life, love, and values living in us, giving us new sight on all our contemporary issues and concerns. Nothing of the old life, the old ways of seeing remain. With new sight and new insight, we, like Bartimaeus, are encouraged to follow Jesus on “the way.” God’s way.
So, when we hear of people crying out for the same privileges, the same access, the same way of life that many others share, I encourage us not to silence their voices, not to push them off, but to listen and dialogue with them.
And, to do so with a persistent faith that God has the ability to make a difference in our blindness, to shed light into our lives helping us see again, maybe for the first time, the kind of life God desires all humanity to have. It takes exactly that kind of faith to walk in the way, to see all of life again, always influenced by God’s light in us, always having our consciences stirred, to bring wholeness to ourselves, to those we love, and to our world. Amen.