VIEWS: 18 PAGES: 3 POSTED ON: 11/5/2010
What do you see? Luke 7:36-50 (2 Samuel 11:26-12:13) The Rev. Donna Giver Johnston Second Presbyterian Church June 13, 2010 After 14 years, this is my first time preaching with glasses. I just couldn’t stretch out my arms any further and had to give into getting progressive lenses for reading. Do you know what I mean? Some of you do. All of you will eventually. They have a name for it: presbyopia—the gradual loss of the ability of your eyes to focus on nearby objects. In spite of its name, it is not a condition reserved for Presbyterians—it is a not-so-subtle reminder that you’ve reached middle age. Truth is, whether 13, 43 or 93 years old, no matter how good our vision, we don’t always see things right in front of us. Recently, my daughter Rebecca and I watched the movie Sherlock Holmes. We were fascinated at Sherlock Holmes’ ability not just to see, but to take note of the little things that most people miss. For example, did you notice that in this sanctuary, there are 22 windows—19 rectangular and 3 round; 36 pews; 2 pianos and 1 organ; 4 steps up to the chancel, and 35 panes in the window behind me. Certainly we can’t take note of everything, but the important things—matters of faith, things in the Bible—we don’t miss. After all, we Presbyterians are people of the book. But, I continue to discover in the Bible, there are people I have never seen before--there’s Huldah, Keturah and Jephthah’s daughter, and the widow of Zaraphath. And there’s a woman I met in the pages of Genesis, named Hagar. She is a slave-girl who is abused by Abraham and Sarah, and runs away. In the wilderness God appears to her. She says, “You are El-roi,” that is, “You are the God Who Sees.” So, what does this God of Seeing have to reveal to us today? Both of today’s Scripture lessons, I think, illustrate the importance God places on seeing through the eyes of faith. These lessons provide God lenses, through which we can see ourselves and others differently. Our vision check begins with the first Scripture lesson. It’s about David. King David, Great leader of Israel David, beloved David, writer of the psalms David. That’s how we see David, right? But, God saw something different. David abused his God-given powers by taking for himself a married woman Bathsheba and then killing her husband Uriah. David did what was evil in the sight of God. God saw Bathsheba’s pain. God saw David’s sin. And God sent the prophet Nathan to give David a vision check. When David saw a despicable man in the story, Nathan said, “You are the man! Through the lenses of God, David saw a part of himself that he did not like and so repented of his sin. David, who abuses his power and status, preys on women and does what is evil in the sight of God is alive and well in our world today—in the National Football League; in the halls of Congress; even in the Church. There are also Bathsheba’s in the shadows of society today. A young man I know recently texted a friend saying he was having suicidal thoughts. This boy is intelligent and talented, and yet he doesn’t see it because people at school have teased every ounce of self out of him. Truth is, we live in a world that reflects a distorted image of us. We all need a messenger like Nathan, who is not afraid to tell us the truth, challenge our illusions, and give us lenses that help us see ourselves for who we are in God’s eyes—sinners in need of and worthy of redeeming. Some need to focus on the words “sinners in need.” Some need to focus on the words “worthy of redeeming.” Whoever you are, God sees you—sees all of us—as sinners in need of and worthy of redeeming love. Our vision check continues in the Gospel text, in which Simon sees a woman with an alabaster jar pour the ointment on Jesus feet. He sees her bathe his feet with her tears, and wipe them with her hair. He sees her, alright. He sees her as a sinner, nothing more, and he cannot understand why Jesus doesn’t see her the same way. Jesus replies, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” When Jesus tells a story of a creditor who canceled two debts, Simon rightly understood that the one with the greater debt canceled will love him more. Then, turning toward the woman, Jesus gives Simon a vision check: “Do you see this woman?” As if to say: Look again. I want you to really see her, the way I see her. She is a sinner in need of and worthy of redeeming, capable of great love, just like you. Do you see, Simon? But, Simon is not the only one who has trouble seeing others as more than our preconceived images will allow. A couple weeks ago, as I was reading the paper, my daughter looking over my shoulder read the headline, “Mosque backers give up plans to build in Brentwood.” She said “What? How can that be? Don’t they see?” At the Vanderbilt library I was shocked when a patron came in, making derogatory comments to my co- worker John, from India. “Where are you from boy, you’re not from here are you? I was born here, I belong here.” He saw John as foreign, not worthy of a second glance. I asked this rude patron to leave the library; he did, but his comments lingered, making me realize that we all wear different lenses, and some of them are very shaded. Of course, it’s easy to recommend vision checks for others, asking ourselves “Don’t they see?” It’s much easier to point our fingers at Simon, saying “shame, shame” than it is to realize that Jesus may also be talking to me and you. Do you see this woman? Who is this woman? She is the one who we’d rather not see; after all we already know who she is. For this congregation, she may bear the name Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. She could be Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who signed the severe immigration law, in effect, legalizing racial profiling. This woman could be the pastor who preaches and votes against ordaining homosexuals. She is a card-carrying member of the Southern Baptist Convention against women preaching. She may believe in Jesus, but her Bible is a literal word. She does not protest capital punishment nor write letters to prisoners, and does not make room in the inn for the homeless. She is not us. She does not look like us. She does not believe like us. She does not act like us. She comes into our presence and we pretend not to see her as anything more than a misguided sinner. But God sees her—and all of the people she represents as sinners in need of and worthy of redeeming, capable of great love—the very same way God sees us. When my son Christian was younger he used to refer to his friends with white skin as vanilla and those with darker skin as chocolate. It was a simple as that--chocolate and vanilla. I think our children are born wearing these “God lenses” through which they see all others as children of God. Sadly, we often take them away, and replace them with lenses shaded with fear and judgment. Today, we are invited to put on our God’s lenses and take another look. When I first got my progressive lenses, the doctor told me to be careful. Things will look different. It takes awhile to get used to seeing through new lenses. Through God’s lenses, things look different. People look different. It takes awhile to get used to a new vision. Likely it took Simon awhile to see others the way Jesus saw them. But seeing others was not the only problem. When Simon saw the woman only as a sinner, he could not see Jesus. “Who is this who even forgives sins?” To help Simon see him more clearly, Jesus did not give a lesson on who he was, but simply pointed to the woman, “Do you see this woman?” Look closely. In her you will see reflections of yourself. In her you will see reflections of your neighbors. In her you will see reflections of me. In her you will see reflections of God. I imagine Simon had some days when he saw clearly. Then there were other days. Simon is not alone. For us, there are days when we put on our God lenses, and see others as God sees them. There are days when we see Jesus. And there are even some days when we get glimpses of God. Then there are other days. Life happens and in spite of our faith, from time to time, our lenses get shaded, our faith gets jaded, and we can no longer see how God would have us see. Here in this sanctuary, there was a Taizé service on June 2—the one-month anniversary of the flood that devastated Nashville. There were prayers, songs, Scripture and silence, to pray for the people affected, tell our stories, grieve and reclaim the power and promise of water. As we watched disturbing images of the flood and its victims on the wall, we heard the rain begin to pour down upon the church. More rain. More water. Some prayed for eyes to see water anew. Some prayed for the faith to see God anew. More rain. More water. More prayers. As the service ended and I was preparing to go, I could still see images of the flood in my mind. Just then, I heard, “Mom, come quick.” I went to the door, and they pointed to the sky, saying, “Look!” It was a rainbow—a brilliant rainbow, a rainbow that seemed to touch the church, a rainbow that we could not miss even if we tried. By then others who had gone to the service were huddled together staring out the window, looking up at the sky. It was as if God had heard our unspoken prayers, “If you are the God who Sees, then Show us a sign of your promise and power. Help us see your redeeming love. In the rainbow, it was as if God had answered, “I see you. Do you see me?” Thanks be to God!
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