On Sunday I invited the congregation to be seated for the gospel, and put down their bulletins and close their eyes so that in some way we would not use the perception eyesight gives us but to listen to gospel with insight. While their eyes were closed I read the gospel while walking around and through the worship space so that sound and closeness changed as my direction changed, and they could hear the dialogue of the man and the others more clearly. Some people had a hard time closing their eyes. It was not the kids. It was adults. Who felt insecure. But they stuck with it.
And then we opened our eyes...
A few years ago, my mother had cataract surgery. I remember back when my grandmother had it, what an ordeal it was. Now it is so much easier and the results more immediate. There was incredible joy at the thought- “I can see! Look at everything I can see now!”
However, that was quickly replaced by- “oh my, look what I can see” as my mother began to realize that in the light was revealed the things she had not been cleaning so well. And the guilt of what people who would have thought who visited-Lord, have mercy!
Very quickly the joy of the healing was replaced again by the tendency we all have to focus on deficiencies and shortcomings. The places where it is “not enough!”
This is so much a part of our lives that recently a high school student began a program called “Operation Beautiful-the Perfectly Imperfect project.” She realized that so many people look upon their deficiencies so much more than their positives. And she started a simple thing- taking Post-It notes and writing “You are beautiful” or “You are stronger than you know” and other messages and leaving them on places they would be seen like the mirror of the girls’ bathroom. Or inside the cover of books at places like Barnes and Noble. Random places where people can be reminded of who they really are.
Rather than just focus upon who they are not.
Which is where I think our readings take us today.
We hear in I Samuel of the search for a new king and Jesse’s sons being brought forth to find the chosen one. One by one they are noted for their strength, and stature and good looks- qualities we would surely think are important in a leader. And instead God chooses the youngest boy, brought in from the field probably still wearing sheep dung, and we hear that God sees beauty. Where we don’t. God’s eyes see that we are perfectly imperfect and loved by God. God’s eyes see differently. With love.
And then we come to the Gospel and what God sees. Our very long reading today begins with Jesus seeing a man. Yes, a man who is blind. But it really is first and foremost that Jesus notices a man and stops. Jesus sees a man. And wants to heal him.
And almost everything that follows in all those verses is what everyone else sees and thinks. The disciples see sin and judging- what’s wrong, what’s the deficiency? Because of course that is far more important than helping.
The religious leaders see a label. “Blind.” Despite his being in the view for a long time, they know so little about this man other than the label, that when he is not blind, he is like a stranger to them. They are so focused on his deficiency that they don’t even want to let him tell his own story. And they see lots of things they think cannot be or that they don’t know. And ones they are sure others don’t know.
Jesus sees a man who needs to be healed. And heals him. That’s it.
Everything else is about how others are so quick to return to the deficiencies. And the poor man who for his whole life has been excluded from the synagogue and can FINALLY worship there, ends up back where he started. Kicked out. Kicked out of the very life he could finally have.
And he’s separated again.
Then Jesus comes to heal him again. Jesus heals him a second time.
He sees the man and restores him. The first time he healed him of his blindness. This time he heals him of the wounds caused by the blindness of others. He gives him a place, and shows him that Jesus stands with him.
I think that Jesus coming that second time helps us see that Jesus meets us here in the places we need to be healed. Because in our lives we too have lists of deficiencies, the one we have for ourselves, and the one that is made up of the deficiencies of others. The places where we think it is “not enough!” Where we think that we are not enough, where we look at our city, or this church or our world and only see it as “not enough.” Places full of what we can’t see or cannot be. These are the lists of word, perceptions, and fears that keep our lives at the surface level only. That keep us from really living. The things that keep us from seeing ourselves as created in God’s image, and loved; from seeing others and our world in the same way.
Jesus comes and sees and wants to heal. Comes again this day to us to heal us. And again and again. To remind us that God sees with eyes of love and grace. To wash away all those deficiencies like so much mud.
To open our eyes to see the light of the world made known to us in the work of the cross. So we can let go of what we cannot see or don’t know. Because the only thing we need to know is the love of God in Jesus for us.
Let us pray- Lord, thank you for coming into our world and healing us from our blindness and the effects of the blindness of others. Thank you for seeing us with eyes of love and forgiveness. Wash away the words, perceptions and fears that we are sure cannot be or cannot change, so that all we see is the only thing we need to know- your son Jesus, the light of the world. Amen