Yeah, but…

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Following on the heels of John 3:16, we have another popular verse this week.  Last week, it was, arguably, the most oft-cited verse, this week, the most popular pulpit inscription.  Like John 3:16, John 12:21b is often ripped out of context and jammed into whatever usage the preacher might need, but I guess that’s a bit of how it works in the larger story anyway.

From the first Passover of Jesus’ ministry, we have skipped ahead to the last.  Whether this is the second or third Passover that Jesus has spent with his disciples is open for debate, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  The end is nigh, and Jesus knows it.  As the crowds begin to swell in Jerusalem for the festival, Jews and Proselytes from all over the known world are there to celebrate the Feast in hopeful expectation of what God might do this year; how God might save the Jewish people from their bondage-in-place at the hands of Rome.  The must have been a buzz in the city as people from all over shared stories of one particularly brazen Rabbi who was performing miracles and teaching with a conviction with which they had not known.

Word spread far and wide, until even Greek converts began to seek out Jesus.  A group of them approached one of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, and said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  What follows is one of the most puzzling non sequitur responses that Jesus gives, and he was pro-level at the random reply.  Here, he doesn’t even begin to engage the request that Philip and Andrew make on behalf of the Greeks, but rather goes down a rabbit hole that the time has been fulfilled.  It is dangerous to mix Gospels, especially the Synoptics (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) and John, but if the timelines are close, then this is likely the day Jesus turned the Temple a second time.  Things are tense, to be sure, and so, we can forgive Jesus’ somewhat odd response.  Except, that there are still some Greeks who are out there hoping to see Jesus.

I imagine Andrew and Philip standing there, listening to Jesus, thinking, “Yeah, but…”  They had heard him talk like this before, but it hadn’t stopped him from proclaiming his message of repentance and salvation.  This time, though, it seems different.  This time, Jesus seems to be of a one-track mind.  The Greeks will see him, but not in the way they had hoped.  Instead, they will soon see him glorified, lifted high into the air on his cross, with arms outstretched, as the savior of the world.  This is more than a pulpit inscription, but rather, the Greeks name what will be the desire of all nations one day.  That we might see Jesus in his glory, welcoming us into his arms of love and the reach of his saving embrace.

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If Christ is King – a sermon

You can listen to this on the Christ Church website, or read it here.


In the Fall of 1925, Pope Pius the Eleventh threw a fit.  The Pope was upset about the growing power of modernity in the world.  As people believed more and more what science was coming to discover, Pius and many other religious leaders, were afraid that the Bible would have less and less power in peoples’ lives.  He was anxious that the Church might become irrelevant and he desperately wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.  On top of that, the Pope was embroiled in a nearly hundred-year-old controversy between the burgeoning Kingdom of Italy and the Papal States.  Since 1849, a newly unified Italy had been fighting with the Roman Catholic Church over who controlled the city of Rome.  The Popes were sure that the Church was in charge.  The Italian Parliament had other ideas.  By 1925, Pius, the fifth Pope to take on this fight, had had enough.[1]  On December 11, 1925, he published an encyclical entitled Quas primas which argued for the Kingship of Jesus above all others and reiterated that the Roman Catholic Church was the “kingdom of Christ on earth” with the Pope obviously serving as its temporal ruler.  Finally, to commemorate these two foundational truths, Pope Pius the Eleventh created the Feast of Christ the King.[2]

In the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the Last Sunday after Pentecost uses, almost verbatim, the Roman Catholic Collect for Christ the King, but it stopped short of making today a Feast Day.  When we adopted the Revised Common Lectionary in 2009, Christ the King was included in the package and became a thing in the Episcopal Church.  Some would say it shouldn’t be a thing seeing as, if you look in the Prayer Books in your pews, you’ll find absolutely no reference to the Feast of Pope Pius the Eleventh’s Temper Tantrum.  I’m sure Pius is in heaven today, scratching his head and wondering how a bunch of Protestants ended up subscribing to a feast created to affirm the earthly authority of the Pope, but here we are, on the Last Sunday after Pentecost, celebrating the Feast of Christ the King.

While I find this Feast Day’s genesis to be questionable, what I appreciate about having a day set aside to honor Jesus Christ as our King is that it gives us an opportunity to imagine Jesus in an unusual way.  21st century American Christians aren’t well versed in the language of kings.  We live in a country that was founded in rebellion against the King of England.  If I’m honest, most of what I know about kings and queens is the result of whatever the American news decides to pick up from the British tabloids.  Yet this image of Jesus Christ as King is a well-established, apocalyptic, theme in the Scriptures.  Dubious feast day or not, it is worth our time to ponder what it means to call Jesus Christ our King and to live within his Kingdom.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning, we find a very clear image of what it means to live within the boundaries of the Kingdom of God.  Remember the context for this parable, and for all the apocalyptic parables we have heard over the last month. [3]  Jesus isn’t making general claims to a large audience, but rather, these are final words about final things, addressed to his closest disciples.  It is Tuesday in Holy Week, and the cross is quickly approaching.  Jesus knows that his disciples have already committed quite a bit to following Jesus.  He isn’t trying to tell them what they need to do to be included in his Kingdom, but rather, what is expected of those who claim to live under the authority of Christ the King.  As inheritors of this Apostolic Tradition, we should read these words carefully, not as a parable of judgment against those who do not know Christ, but as a stark judgment against those who claim to follow Christ the King but can’t be bothered to live in his service.  This parable is a helpful reminder that the proper response to the love of God is to reach out with compassion to those Jesus came to save.  We who are bold enough to claim a place in the Kingdom of God bring honor to the King when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, take care of the sick, and visit the incarcerated.

What is particularly interesting in this parable is that neither the sheep nor the goats realize they had seen the king in the poor, the hungry, or the sick.  One group was motivated to action, not out of guilt, fear, or shame, but out of love.  This group saw a need, and decided to do something about it.  Living in the Kingdom of God means having your eyes open to see God’s hand at work in the world about you.  Yet it means more than just seeing.  Living in the Kingdom of God, being counted among the sheep, means seeing and being God’s hand at work in the world about us.  As Episcopalians, we affirm this Kingdom truth every time we renew our Baptismal covenant; promising that with God’s help, we will seek and serve Christ in all persons.

Over time, I have become more and more convinced that the true work of discipleship is learning how to see Christ in our neighbors.  It is only when we can see that we can then act to relieve their suffering.  In the Ephesians lesson, Paul prays a prayer that is becoming the foundation of my that understanding of discipleship.  “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

We grow in relationship with God by learning how to see the world through God’s eyes.  As we become more in tune with the heart of God, we see more clearly the injustices of this world, we see the suffering and are moved with compassion, we see the lonely, the anxious, the hungry, the naked, the poor, the outcast, the incarcerated, and the hopeless and we are compelled to act because in them, as in all our neighbors, we see the face of Christ.  Of course, this does not happen on our own.  The only way to fix our spiritual eyesight is with the help of God.  Through prayer and studying the Scriptures, God works to focus the eyes of our hearts, making us more and more able to see, so that, when the day of judgment comes, our question cannot be, or at least should not be, Lord when did we see you, because as baptized followers of Jesus Christ the King, we have already made a promise, that with God’s help, we will seek and serve Christ in every person we meet, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Pope Pius the Eleventh might not have had it 100% correct, but he did get some things right.  Jesus Christ is the King of kings.  It is under his authority that all of humanity lives.  One day he will come with power and glory to sit in judgment upon his throne, and all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, members of his Kingdom and subject to his authority, will need to be ready to have an answer to the question: Did we see our neighbors in need and respond with love or with apathy?  Everyday, we see dozens, if not hundreds, of our neighbors.  All of them need God’s love.  This morning, our lessons invite us to see Christ in each of them, to reach out in compassion, and to offer the love of God, not out of fear of judgment or guilt or shame, but as a loving response to the love which our King has shown to us.  Who knows, one day, with God’s help, we might just find ourselves counted among the sheep and pleased to hear these words, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  Amen.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_of_Christ_the_King

[2] http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas.html

[3] https://evandgarner.blogspot.com/2017/11/one-sunday-two-voices.html

When did we see you?

The Good Shepherd and two angels. Mosaic (6th)

Okay guys, look surprised

One of the things that gets me each time I read the parable of the final judgment in Matthew’s Gospel is that both those judged to be sheep and those judged to be goats are completely surprised by the King.  It seems as if they are expecting some other mark of judgment as they gather before the throne.  I think I’m struck by this because I imagine that I too will be surprised on the day of judgment.  I will likely be as surprised by who God lets in as I will be the starkness of my own judgment.  The one thing I hope I won’t be left asking is the question that gets asked by both the sheep and the goats.

“Lord, when did we see you?”

While I think Episcopalians, myself included, have a tendency to lean too heavily on the Baptismal Covenant, an invention, albeit a very good one, of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that we pretend was handed down to us by Saint Peter himself, I do think this lesson is one of those opportunity to be reminded that if this is the criteria by which we are going to be judged, we have already made vows to fulfill the obligation.  With God’s help, of course.

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prays that God might “enlighten the eyes of their hearts to know the hope to which they have been called.”  This phrase is increasingly becoming the foundation of my understanding of discipleship.  I think we grow in relationship with God by learning how to see the world through God’s eyes.  As we become more in tune with the heart of God, we see more clearly the injustices of this world, we see the suffering and are moved with compassion, we see the lonely, the anxious, the hungry, the naked, the poor, the outcast, the incarcerated, and the hopeless and we are compelled to act because in them, as in all our neighbors, we see the face of Christ.

Of course, this does not happen on our own.  The only way to fix our spiritual eyesight is with the help of God.  Through prayer and studying the Scriptures, God works on the eyes of our hearts, making us more and more able to see, so that, when the day of judgment comes, our question cannot be, or at least should not be, Lord when did we see you, because we know, with God’s help, that we see Christ in every person we meet.

Believing is Seeing

Audio of today’s sermon can be heard on the Christ Church website, or you can read the text here.


Lost in the busyness of Holy Week was a publication by the Gallup pollsters that once again reminded the Church of the importance of good preaching.  In a survey that asked people what factored into their decisions about church attendance, 76% of respondents said that “sermons or talks that teach you more about scripture” were a major factor in where they went to church.  75% also listed “sermons or lectures that help you connect religion to your own life” as a major factor.  With no offense intended to my colleague Ken Stein, only 38% suggested “a good choir, praise band, cantors or other spiritual music” as a major factor.[1]  These statistics are nothing new.  I’ve been hearing about the need for quality preaching since before I went to seminary.  Seminaries, to their credit, do the best they can within the confines of a three-year curriculum to help would-be preachers begin to hone their craft.  At VTS, we were required to take a semester and a half of homiletics during our Middler year.  Much to my benefit as a preacher, I had the Rev. Dr. Judith McDaniel for a full semester.  Judith’s teaching style matched me to a “T”: she is exceedingly Type-A and loves rules.  She worked hard to mold us into good preachers.  Her goal was to teach us how to “proclaim the gospel in such a way it can be heard by the head and the heart.”  Even though I violate most of them on a regular basis, including at least two in that last clause, I still have Judith McDaniel’s patented “12 Homiletical Norms” saved in my files.  I will never forget her number one rule in preaching: “Settle for one point, well made.”  She was so serious about the need for one clear point that without an obvious thesis statement in the body of the first paragraph, your sermon could not be graded as an A.

Having now violated that norm as well, I can say that I am in good company.  It isn’t until his Gospel is almost over (and some scholars think maybe it was over) that John finally gives us a clear statement of his purpose for putting the story of Jesus to parchment.  “These are written,” John writes, “so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  All the poetry, the signs, the discourses; all the time spent on the high priestly prayer and the Passion; all the details and the care with which he wrote them, were included so that we might come to believe.  It might feel like this thesis statement is simply an appendix, tacked on after the story has been told, but I think John decided to include it here on purpose.  This thesis for belief comes right at the tail end of a story that shows us what belief requires.

This story takes place while it is still Sunday, the first Easter Day, the first day of the week and the first day of new life.  That whole scene at the tomb that we heard about last week had just happened that morning.  John and Peter had seen the empty tomb and gone home when Mary came barging in, breathlessly declaring, “I have seen the Lord.”  And what did the disciples do with that news?  There was no Alleluia Party, I can tell you that.  No shrimp cocktail.  No champagne punch.  No cake.  Only fear, disbelief, and locked doors.  This pattern of testimony and skepticism wasn’t new.  Back at the very beginning of John’s Gospel is the story of Andrew who, after he had encountered Jesus, went to tell his brother Peter.  Peter needed his own encounter, and so off they went to meet Jesus.  The pattern repeated the very next day when Philip ran off to find Nathaniel who is famous for responding to Philip’s testimony with, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  Belief based on the testimony of someone else proves challenging in John’s Gospel.  John knows that belief in Jesus is easiest with a personal encounter. [2]  But after the Ascension, John also understands that coming to faith based on the testimony of someone else is the norm, and so he wrote his story, that we might come to believe having never seen.

Back in that locked house on Easter evening, other than Mary Magdalene, we have no idea if any of the disciples gathered there actually believed that Jesus was really risen from the dead.  If anyone did believe, they were likely the most afraid.  When Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, it sealed the deal on his execution.  Imagine what havoc Rome and the Temple would wreak upon Jesus’ friends if he really had the power to come back from the dead!  Those who were still unbelieving likely had similar fears with the added thought of how awful it would be to get yourself killed for following some guy whose tragic death was made more pathetic when he wasn’t resurrected like he said he would be, but his body was stolen to perpetuate some ridiculous hoax.  The disciples had heard Mary’s testimony, but they couldn’t come to believe, when suddenly, Jesus appeared in their midst.

That morning, Mary’s encounter with the risen Lord was simply her name.  Now, the disciples were offered peace and his wounds, and like Mary, they rejoiced at the sight of their risen Lord.  Well, not all of them.  For whatever reason, Thomas wasn’t there.  Like Andrew going to find Peter and Philip running off to find Nathaniel, the disciples went in search of Thomas with the Easter proclamation of Mary Magdalene on their lips.  “We have seen the Lord!”  Here is where most preachers will go off on a tangent about Doubting Thomas, but I refuse.  Partially because Judith McDaniel’s voice is reminding me that I’ve already failed pretty miserably at settling on one well-made point.  But mostly, I refuse to beat the dead horse of Doubting Thomas because I think calling Thomas “doubting” is a bad reading of the Scripture.  Thomas didn’t have any less faith than the rest of the disciples had shown the week before.  All he asked for was what Mary and the rest all received on Easter.  He wanted to see and touch Jesus.  Like everyone else in John’s Gospel, before Thomas could believe, he needed to encounter the risen Lord.

It took eight days, but Thomas got his chance, when back in that same locked house, Jesus once again appeared in their midst.  Again, he offered peace.  He invited Thomas to touch his wounds and asked him to give up his unbelieving ways just as the rest of them had a week earlier.  Jesus invited Thomas into a relationship, which is what belief is all about.  Believing in Jesus means that we trust that he is who is says he is and will do what he has promised to do.  It means that through his resurrection, we can enter into an ongoing relationship with him by following where he leads.

It is into this relationship that John hopes all of us will enter.  Both he and Jesus know how difficult that will be for those of us who would come later.  Unlike Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel, Mary, the Ten, and eventually Thomas, we don’t have the opportunity to encounter Jesus face-to-face.  Much as we would like him to, Jesus isn’t likely to miraculously appear in our midst, offer us peace, and invite us to touch his wounds.  We who believe without seeing are blessed, Jesus assures us, because ours is a faith much more challenging to maintain.  The disciples came to believe through seeing.  We will have to come to see through believing.  Eventually, if we stick around long enough; if we can hang on to belief through its infancy; if we are open to the Spirit, we will have our own opportunities to see Jesus, to receive his peace, to feel his wounds, and to know the power of his resurrection.  Through belief, Jesus enters our lives, despite whatever doors we may have locked in fear, and we are blessed.  He enters offering peace, and invites us to abundant life in his name.  God knows, it isn’t easy to maintain an Easter faith without seeing Jesus face-to-face, but when we can, we are assuredly blessed in believing.  Amen.

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/208529/sermon-content-appeals-churchgoers.aspx

[2] http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3222

Learning to see – a sermon

You can listen to my sermon on the Christ Church website, or read it below


After four months of being in transition, this week I decided to get back into the routine of life.  No more sleeping in until just before the kids wake up and rushing through the morning, the alarm now goes off at 5am, and thanks to our recent return to Daylight Saving Time, it is still very dark.  In those first moments of the morning, I struggle to stay awake.  It is so dark, the bed is so comfortable, and I really would prefer to just roll over, but at least for this week, I was able to stave off the snooze button.  The hardest part, however, isn’t the waking up, it is those first few seconds while my eyes adjust to whatever light source I introduce.  Usually, it is my iPhone.  After the alarm goes off, I check for overnight messages and then open up the Forward Movement website to read Morning Prayer.  Slowly my eyes adjust to the brightness of the screen.  At first, it is almost painful as my dilated pupils rapidly shrink.  Usually, by the time I have finished reading the Psalm, my eyes are fully adjusted, but it really does take a while.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for the man born blind when he first opened his eyes.  After decades of darkness, never knowing the light of day, suddenly it all came flooding in.  How intense must that first moment of sight been for him?  How excruciating was it as his eyes adjusted to the light for the first time?  How long did it take before he could actually comprehend what he was seeing?  As much as this story is about the miracle of a man born blind being given the ability to see, it also serves as a metaphor for John.  This story is meant to teach us what it means to really see Jesus even as it assures us that it might take some time for the eyes of our heart to adjust.  For John, this story serves as an illustration of what it means to call Jesus the light of the world.  It took the man’s eyes some time to adjust to the newness of the light, and it would take his soul a while to come to see clearly in the light of Christ.  While he is learning to see, everyone around this man were found to be perfectly happy staying blind.

After the man is healed, the questions start, beginning with his neighbors, those who had passed him by for years, but never really saw him.  They had seen his cloak, spread out to receive loose change.  They had seen his rags, barely stitched together.  Some had seen his face and the vastness behind his eyes, but their reactions betray the fact that though they were perfectly capable of sight, they had never really seen him.  The man, on the other hand, continues his journey toward sight.  “Who did this to you?” They asked him.  The man responds, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes… and I received my sight.”  In the initial stages of his spiritual seeing, the man only knows the name of the one who healed him, but as the story unfolds, his soul’s vision will increase.

His neighbors don’t buy his answer, and so they drag him off to the Synagogue where the Pharisees essentially put him on trial for heresy.  Again, he gives the details of his healing.  When pressed about the man called Jesus, the once blind man’s understanding deepens.  No longer able call Jesus simply a man, the eyes of his heart continued to open and he tells them, “He is a prophet.”  Not content to leave it alone, the Pharisees push things further.  They call his parents to testify that he was, in fact, the man born blind.  Afraid of what the Pharisees might do to them, and unwilling to comment on who this Jesus character might actually be, his parents make themselves blind to their own son’s healing.  “Ask him,” they say, “he is of age.”

Again, the man is brought back before the council, and again they ask him for the details of his healing.  How can the details of this story be true, they wonder, for Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, clearly he is a sinner and God doesn’t work through sinners.  So, who healed you, God or this sinner?  The man can clearly see that they are missing the point.  He wonders if maybe they secretly want to be disciples of Jesus.  He assures them that he has no idea how it all happened, but that this Jesus who healed him has to be of God.  As he considers the truth that never before had anyone ever heard of someone blind from birth being healed, his spiritual vision continues to come into focus.

Finally, the Pharisees have had enough.  Their eyes are scrunched closed so tightly that they may never see anything the right way again, and they throw this man out of the Synagogue.  Jesus, having heard about it, tracked him down, and the man born blind was able to see Jesus for the first time.  Here, with physical eyes wide open and spiritual eyes ready to see, he comes to see and to understand fully that Jesus is the Son of Man, one of John’s favorite names for the Messiah, and he becomes the only person in John’s Gospel to worship Jesus.[1]  It was difficult work, coming to see Jesus fully, but the man born blind was blessed in the experience.  His eyes were made open by Jesus, but more than that, his heart became open to God.

I am more and more convinced that learning to see with the eyes of our hearts is the basic work of discipleship.  In Baptism, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit and with it, the spiritual eyes needed to see God’s hand at work in the world.  Over time, by the grace of God, the pupils of our hearts slowly adjust to the light of Christ.  As our spiritual vision comes into focus, we see the hurting and the lost and we care for them.  We see the joyful and the blessed and we rejoice with them.  We see blessings poured out and we give thanks for them.  We see the work of the Kingdom and we join in it.  The process of learning to see the world through the eyes of our hearts is never ending, but with God’s help, every day, our spiritual eyesight can get a little bit better.  As our eyes adjust to the light of Christ, the progress might be slow, even painful at times, but in the end, our eyes will be open and we will be ready to worship Jesus, the light of the world, the Son of God.  Amen.

[1] http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=906

Coming into the light

My least favorite part about waking up in the morning is that moment of first light.  Usually, it is my iPhone, ready to offer me the Morning Office from Forward Movement, but sometimes it is the light in the kitchen to feed the dogs or the bathroom to… well that’s somewhat self-explanatory.  That first moment of light can be excruciating as my eyes adjust from full dilation during what has been the darkness of night and to the constriction of what will be the brightness of the day.  I can only imagine what that experience must have been like for the man born blind.  After decades of darkness, how intense was that first experience of light?

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As the story unfolds, John uses this ongoing metaphor of darkness and light to show us how the man’s spiritual pupils had to slowly adjust after his encounter with Jesus.  The adjustment doesn’t seem to happen quite as quickly as that first moment of actual light, but it seems the experience was just as painful as the man searches for meaning.

Immediately, the questions begin.  “Weren’t you the beggar we knew?  Who did this to you?”  The man responds, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”  The crowd near his home doesn’t buy it, and so they drag him off to the Pharisees for what amounts to a heresy trial.  He once again tells the story of the mud and the Pool of Siloam, and when pressed by the Pharisees, “What do you say about him?” the man’s understanding deepens.  He is no longer able to say that Jesus is just “the man called Jesus,” but now he sees him as “a prophet.”

The saga continues as now the man’s parents are brought before the council to give account of this miracle.  Unwilling to comment on who  Jesus might be, they turn the ball back over to their son saying, “ask him, he’s the one who was healed.”  So again, the Pharisees question the man.  He wonders aloud if they want to maybe be his disciples, affirms that he’s not sure how it all happened, but that the man who healed him had to be “from God.”  As he considers the truth that never before had anyone ever heard of someone blind from birth being healed, his spiritual vision continues to come into focus.

Finally, after the man is removed from the Synagogue, he is once again encountered by Jesus.  Here, with physical eyes wide open and spiritual eyes ready to see, he comes to see fully that Jesus is the Son of Man, one of John’s favorite names for the Messiah, and he becomes the only person in John’s Gospel to worship Jesus.  It was difficult work, coming to see Jesus fully, but the man is blessed in the experience.  His eyes are opened, but more than that, his heart is open to God and he becomes a disciple.  Would that our hearts might be made open to see God’s hand at work in the world about us.

Who and What Do You See

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My first year of undergrad was spent at the University of Pittsburgh.  Pitt is located in an urban neighborhood called Oakland, and, like many densely populated areas where people travel by foot, was home to several panhandlers.  By the time Christmas rolled around, I had already figured out how to be like the rich man in Sunday’s Gospel lesson and not see the beggars who sat at the proverbial gate of campus.  They were passive annoyances, easy to pass right on by as if they never existed.

There were a few who were more engaged in their craft. One guy stood at the door in front of the Rite Aid store in such a manner that only he could open it.  Whether you were coming or going, you were at this man’s leisure to let you in or out.  He had a white Styrofoam cup in hand.  It would jingle with a few coins as he reached to open the door.  it was clear that he expected to be paid for the service he rendered, whether you asked for it or not.  He wasn’t as easy to ignore.  You saw this man, but what I saw was simply an annoyance I had to get past.  I never saw him as a human being upon which I should have compassion.

It isn’t hard to be like the rich man.  Whether our ignorance of someone is active or passive; or if we see them, judge them, and cast them aside, we are no better than the rich man, no matter how poor we might be relative to his purple robes, linen suits, fatted calves, and fine wines.  And while it suits Luke’s theological narrative to have this be about rich and poor, I don’t think it is only about that.  Our inability to see another as beloved of God happens again and again, everyday, in every aspect of life.  We see the Republican is a xenophobic rube.  We see the Democrat as a bleeding heart sap.  We see the Terence Crutcher and other big black men as “bad dudes.”  We see police officers as trigger happy symptoms of systemic racism.

Every time we fail to see another human being as beloved of God, we sin in the same way the rich man did.  As his siblings still on earth, we have a chance to repent.  We have Moses.  We have the prophets.  We even have someone who rose from the dead.  We have eyes to see. We have hearts to love.  Who and what do you see?