Chebeague Community Church Sunday, August 28, 2022 John 9:1-34
Take Another Look
Open our eyes, O God, open our eyes to see and recognize your word
as it calls us into life, life abundant, life in your son, the living Word. Amen
“Father, Mother, I can see!” The first words I ever spoke in church, or at least from the front, up here, the chancel of a church. I was eleven or twelve years old and playing the role of this young man we just read about in our Sunday School Play as part of the morning service. And these five words were my lines, my only lines, “Father, Mother, I can see!” I have remembered those lines quite well, as you have just seen, some 76 years now, and counting. But what if it was ALL about seeing? What if Jesus came to teach us how to see, to reveal to us a whole new perspective, a new dimension of reality, a dimension he called “The Kingdom of God”? He said, after all, right here in this passage – verse 5 – “I am the light of the world” He literally restored sight to a multitude of blind beggars as he traveled the highways and byways. “In him WAS light…” we are told at the outset, the very beginning of John’s gospel, “… and that light was the life of all.” So maybe it was… maybe it still is all about seeing.
Seeing this world, for one thing. Last May, in an inspired moment, I pressed a few zinnia seeds deep into the soil all around the edges of my veggie garden up there at the East End. They got watered and fertilized along with the lettuce, peas and beans and finally they blossomed, surrounding, framing the entire raised beds with a band of radiant color. And then the feast began: butterflies and bumble bees – monarchs, fritillaries, spicebush swallowtails, solitary bees too, even the occasional humming bird – a bunch of buzzing, flapping, scrambling nectar seekers. Mhairi and I sit in the afternoon sun and watch them with fascinated delight; their sheer elegance, their industry, their floating, flitting grace. The pollinators going about their business of keeping the planet alive, keeping you and me well fed.
Or take our kitchen counter, plagued this summer by sporadic sieges of ants. And as I swat them aside, curse their stubborn persistence, I recall that we are busy up there scouring the universe, blasting off mission after mission, probe after probe, hunting for the tiniest trace, the merest glimpse of life, of life in any form. The miracle, the preciousness, the rareness, yes, the sacredness of life. It was William Blake who wrote:
To See a World in a Grain of Sand
and a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
and Eternity in an Hour.
Father, Mother, I can see!... I can see this world in all its glory.
Perhaps the second thing Jesus came to teach us to see is to see each other, to look at the person next to us in the pew, on the ferry, waving to us from behind the wheel, on the evening news, and to recognize a sister or a brother. We are one flesh, after all. And that’s not just poetry, philosophy talking. Science has told us the same thing. Do you recall, some years ago now, the DNA folk, the geneticists announcing they had finally traced us all back to one common ancestor? Yes the Blacks and the Whites, the Jews and the Gentiles, even the Scots and the Irish. We are one flesh, all related, all with places reserved around that vast Thanksgiving table, Labor Day cook-out, family meal of God.
There is a tale told of the shepherds around Bethlehem many centuries ago, how they loved to sit debating in the long night watches out on the Judaean hills. One night, toward dawn, their guide, an older shepherd, posed them a probing question. "How can we know when the night has ended and the day has begun?" "Could it be..." one of the young ones blurted eagerly, "could it be… might we know the night is ended when we can look out to the flock and distinguish between the sheepdog and the sheep?" "That is a good answer," said the Teacher; "but not the answer I would give." After a long silence another raised his voice, "Perhaps we know daylight has begun when we can look at the trees around us and distinguish the olive leaf from the fig." Again the Teacher shook his head. "A fine answer, indeed, but not the one I seek." At last they begged their teacher to share the answer he had in mind. He looked at each of them intently for a moment and then he said: “When you look into the eyes of a fellow human being and see a sister or a brother you know that it is morning. If you cannot see a sister or a brother you will know that it is still night.”
Father, Mother I can see… I can see family, I can see where I belong.
And thirdly now let me suggest that Jesus came to teach us how to see God… to show us how to see God. The search, after all, goes back at least as far as we do, back to those massive hunks of rock, those monoliths set in circles on the hill tops, all the way back to those images in wood or stone or clay buried with care alongside our long forgotten ancestors. We have built soaring temples, written entire libraries of holy books, devised all kinds of elaborate ceremonies, rituals, prayers. And then Jesus comes along and simply declares, “Open your eyes folks, open your eyes and look around.” “God is love…” The scriptures themselves tell us, “Where love is… “ Saint John writes, “… wherever love is, there is God, right there is where you will find the deity you seek.” And there is what it’s really all about, the whole thing really, what we’re here for, built for, designed to do, created to be. It’s not all that difficult. It’s as obvious as a new-born infant reaching out its arms to be held.
As the years have hurried by me, now approaching – not just the three score and ten allotted in Psalm 90 but four score and ten and maybe more – in these even more senior, frailer years I have been surprised, and delighted by the outpouring of assistance I receive almost daily. Struggling down the dock with heavy bags or boxes, pausing before a flight of steps or stairs, a slippery walkway, people, sometimes friends and neighbors but often complete strangers step forward to offer help. They reach out and say, “Let me assist you, carry your bag, hold that door, take your arm, fetch a cup of coffee.” Small gestures to be sure – nothing spectacular or world shaking – but glimpses, if we will only see them, snatches, momentary revelations of a deeper, far vaster, far more basic human instinct, acts of love.
We speak of love and think of splendid movie moments, the background music swelling, someone perhaps kneeling, pledging, even giving his or her life for someone else. But its these little, daily moments, really – in a world where atrocities, what Robert Burns called, “Man’s inhumanity to man.” Seem to overflow the daily news – a mother serving a meal, a father teaching a child to ride a bike, a sister or a brother holding hands in a scary place, that’s what makes the world go round. That’s what makes the world go round. Just like those busy, graceful – grace full – pollinators they keep us going, keep the whole thing going, keep us all alive. And there, yes right there, wherever love is at work, is at its ancient, ever-new labor of love, building bridges, taking hands, opening up new possibilities for cooperation, for sharing, for being together, working together, living together, right there you will see God at work. Right there we will find our God.
Father, Mother, I can see! A new vision, a fresh and living, hope filled look at this world, at one another, and even at our God. Maybe there is more to this, all of this, than meets the eye. Let us pray:
Be Thou our vision, Lord.
Grant to each one of us a new perspective on life,
on this world, on each other, and on you.
That we may live in the light,
the radiant light and grace of your presence. Amen
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.