Saturday, April 22, 2017

EYES TO SEE

EYES TO SEE
At the first church I served, one of the young men in the congregation had earned his Eagle Scout award. Although the troop was sponsored by another church, he chose to have his Court of Honor at our church. As his pastor, I was invited to attend. As I stepped out of my car, a gentleman with a Bible in hand stepped out of the car next to mine. I had seen him around town, and was pretty sure he was the pastor of the church that sponsored the scout troop.
Pastor Jones?” I asked.
Yes.”
Welcome, I'm Dann Houghton, the pastor of this church.”
No, you can't be.” he said and walked away. Seems I didn't look like what he thought a pastor should look like. He had sight, but could not see.”

Both of today's stories deal with blindness and sight. In the story from 1 Samuel, Samuel is unable to see beyond his human mindset. Eliab fit Samuel's idea of what a King should look like, And God had to set the record straight: The LORD said to him, "Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart."

In our gospel lesson from John, the man born blind receives the gift of sight, but the Pharisees, blinded by their strict observance of the law, can neither see nor appreciate the miracle of grace. Just as my fellow clergyman could not envision me as a pastor, the Pharisees could not see Jesus as the Messiah.

What we are looking at, and what we are seeing, aren't always the same. It's easy to see what we want to see, that which fits our ideas of what we are looking at.
The captain of the Titanic refused to believe the ship was in trouble till water was ankle deep in the mail room. Only then was it apparent the multi-layered hull had been pierced and the unsinkable ship was going to sink. Ships that could have arrived before the great ocean liner went down weren't summoned until it was too late.

And of course the legend of a US aircraft carrier approaching an oncoming vessel.
US Ship: Please divert your course 0.5 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
Reply: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
US Ship: This is a ship of the US Navy . I order you to divert your course.
Reply: Sorry, Sir, I cannot do that. You need to divert your course.
US Ship: THIS IS ADMIRAL J.W. EYES OF AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS CORAL SEA*, DIVERT YOUR COURSE NOW!!
Reply: This is Lighthouse Keeper D.M. Witt, respectfully suggest you divert, Sir.

Saul, the first King of Israel, whom God had chosen, had disobeyed God; and that disobedience was the cause of his rejection. But even thou God had rejected him, he had not yet been removed from power; so when God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint a new king, Samuel rightly feared for his life. But he went, taking a heifer with him, disguising his purpose as a sacrifice to the Lord. At the Lord's instruction, Samuel invites Jesse and his family to join him. After preparing Jesse and his sons, Samuel has all the young men pass before him as he awaits God's choice: but God remains silent. Finally Samuel asks: “Is that all of your boys?”
There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”
Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”[c]
12 So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.

For Samuel this was a difficult assignment. Samuel had been the one to anoint and advise Saul. He had come to love Saul and his family, and so he found it difficult to let go. How many of us find in hard to let go of things we no longer need. How many of us can't use our garages for cars because they are full of things we no longer use, but can't let go of. That's the position Samuel was in. But God did two things for Samuel. First, God reminded him that he needed to accept God's judgment “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found[a] my next king among his sons.” Sometimes it's hard for us to accept God's judgment We fear the unknown. Our imaginations run wild at the thought of what might happen. “I can’t do that,” said Samuel. “Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

The second thing God did for Samuel was to change his vision from the past to the future. Looking back is easy. Looking back is comfortable. Looking forward is not. Harry Truman told of a new toy; a small wooden bird called the "Floogie Bird." Around the Floogie Bird's neck is a label reading, "I fly backwards, I don't care where I'm going. I just want to see where I've been."

By involving him, personally, in the designation of the new king; God not only changes Samuel's focus, but gives him confidence that things will be OK. We cannot know what the future holds, but as long as we know who holds the future, we have nothing to fear. That was the lesson God taught Samuel.

In our lesson from John, Jesus is walking in Jerusalem when he saw a man who had been blind since birth. (Joh 9:2) Jesus' disciples asked, "Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?"

This was a normal question in a time when, it was believed that the righteous received good things from God, and the unrighteous bad things. Jesus, like the writer of Job, tries to put this false teaching to rest by answering: “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. As long as it is day, we must do what the one who sent me wants me to do. When night comes, no one can work.” And with that, he he spit on the ground. He made some mud and smeared it on the man's eyes. Then he said, "Go and wash off the mud in Siloam Pool." The man went and washed in Siloam, which means "One Who Is Sent." When he had washed off the mud, he could see.

Unfortunately, those who were not blind could not see. In spite of his insistence they argued over whether or not he was the the one born blind, or someone who looked like him. Finally, since this occurred on the Sabbath, they took him to the Pharisees for investigation. (I often wonder, “doesn't investigating what Jesus does on the Sabbath constitute work? And if so doesn't that make the Pharisees guilty of the sin of which they accuse Jesus?)

When the man tells them what happened, Jesus put mud on his eyes and told him to wash it off in the Pool of Siloam, they refused to believe it. Since it was done on the Sabbath, it was a sinful act, therefore it was done by a sinful man, therefore it could not have happened' therefore this man was not born blind. So they sent for his parents to identify him.

Dragged before the Pharisees on a Sabbath, the parents were understandably afraid. When asked: “Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?” They answered: “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he came to see—haven’t a clue about who opened his eyes. Why don’t you ask him? He’s a grown man and can speak for himself.”

Again they interrogated the man born blind. Again they demanded to know what happened.

I’ve told you over and over and you haven’t listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?”

With that they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.”

This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

34 They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street.

Like Samuel, like far too many Christians today, the Pharisees didn't want change. “We like things just the way they are, thank you very much.” And so they closed their eyes to the sight of something that went against the grain of their thought.

When people in power refuse to see things they don't want to see; things that don't support their way of thinking; they are doomed to fail. (Joh 9:35) When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
The man answered, "Tell me who he is, sir, so that I can believe in him!"
Jesus said to him, "You have already seen him, and he is the one who is talking with you now."(Joh 9:38) "I believe, Lord!" the man said, and knelt down before Jesus.
Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind? Jesus said, If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”

The fact that we have eyes does not mean we can see. Millions of people can look world and
cannot see the hand of the creator, they see only evil, disaster, war, hatred, prejudice, and anger, and nothing but electro-chemical reactions.

We have two choices. We can, like the Pharisees look without seeing, or we can see what the blind man saw. Which will you choose?


AMEN.

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