First Reading: “To See As God Sees” Meister Eckhart here
Second Reading: John 9:1-12 here
Gospel Reading: John 9:13-41 here
Today’s sermon includes a video clip from the short film Overview.
You can listen to the audio and watch the video clip from the “Overview” below.
I was just a little girl the first time I flew in an airplane. I can still remember just how excited I was to get on that airplane. I couldn’t wait to fly high up in the sky. I was convinced that once we got up into the clouds I would be able to see things; amazing things. I couldn’t wait to see God and Jesus, and angels, and people who had died all walking up there on the clouds. Heaven, we were going to see heaven. Jesus would be up there. I can’t remember what I was expecting them all to look like. I vaguely remember peering out of the airplane’s window desperately trying to see them all. But I could not see them.
I was too young to understand what happened to me that day. But something did. I saw things differently after that. I had seen the clouds and they were lovely, but nobody was living up there. I could see that what I thought was true was not and there was no going back. My eyes had been opened and nobody could ever convince me that heaven was up there in the sky, or that Jesus was waiting for me up there, or that God was watching me from up there, or that anybody was looking down on me from up there. I once was blind to this reality; it only took one ride on an airplane to cure my blindness. I once was blind, but up there in the sky I could see. Having seen the reality of what was actually up there, I knew enough to look elsewhere for Heaven, for lost loved ones, for Jesus, and for God. Once your eyes have been opened, the gift of vision opens you to an entirely new realty and once you’ve seen the new reality you can never go back to your old ways of thinking.
Watch the video.
It may have been simpler when we could not see; when we were blind to the reality that surrounds us. The blind man was a beggar. He knew the contours of his reality. He probably got up each morning and travelled by a familiar route to his spot on the street. He’d adapted to his reality. He learned to live in a world that was defined by his lack of vision. Having his eyes opened exposed him to a world he’d only known by touch. Suddenly a whole new sense was opened up for him. New vision can be exciting and terrifying all at the same time. But once his eyes had been opened, he could not go back, he could not un-see what he was seeing, he could only shut his eyes, or look really look and see.
When I was a child I could not see beyond my limited horizon. I learned to live in a world that was defined by the adults in my life. Sometimes, I could not see beyond what I was told about what I was seeing. Sometimes, my eyes would be opened in ways that caused me to see beyond what I was being told that I was seeing, and it was so exciting and it was also terrifying. But once my eyes had been opened, my vision changed and I could no longer see the way I once saw. I could shut my eyes or I could look and see really see the new reality that was beginning to take shape in my field of vision.
The Pharisees were blind. They could only see within the parameters of the Law and the traditions handed down to them. Jesus tried to heal their vision but they did not want to see, they kept their eyes shut, only opening them to confirm the safety of their parameters or to locate the reassurance of the Law and the traditions.
The Church whose eyes had been opened by Jesus couldn’t abide the bright light so they put on blinders of doctrine and dogma designed to keep the light from over-stimulating their senses lest they wander too far from the safety of the parameters they had established using their blinders. The Church learned to live within the confines of those parameters. From time to time someone would dare to go out beyond the confines of what was known about reality. These explorers were dangerous because they tried to provide new visions of reality. So the Church learned to shut its eyes as tightly as it could until the light shone so brightly that it penetrated their defenses and they couldn’t help but see the earth is not flat, that the earth is round and it revolves around the sun. This new knowledge about the nature of reality was exciting, but it was also terrifying. It was tempting to keep our eyes shut. But we could not go back. Once the church could see beyond the parameters, there was no going back, so the gateposts were moved, the parameters expanded and there was no going back. Oh, a few people try and some succeed but the pain of their limited vision pales in comparison to the wonders of the new vision of reality.
Our vision has expanded beyond the wildest dreams of the generations who once filled the churches. We have seen the Earth, taken her picture from as far away as Mars and we have travelled to the tiniest reaches of Creation and mapped the DNA of our existence. Our vision has expanded and it is so exciting and it is so terrifying and we might be tempted to shut our eyes, but there is no going back. God is not up there above the clouds. We need to peer beyond the parameters of our expanded vision of reality and open ourselves to new visions; visions of what it means to be human; visions of Divinity that are so exciting and so terrifying, because there is no going back.
Jesus lived and died trying to open the eyes of his contemporaries to his expanding vision of what it means to be human. Jesus pointed to a ONENESS with the Creator he called Abba that was as exciting and terrifying as it was liberating. The freedom that Jesus lived, trusting in the Grace of the One he knew intimately as Abba, opened Jesus and his followers to a new way of being in the world and there was no going back to the old reality. Those of us who follow Jesus here and now, we can try to shut our eyes to the visions of reality that are all around us, we can shore up the parameters and strengthen our defenses.
This new reality that is emerging is exciting but it is also terrifying and the comfort of the familiar ways that we have been taught is so inviting. There are days when I’d love to put God back in his heaven and get down on my knees and pray for things to go just the way I want them to go and not worry about what is going to happen to me when I die, because I know that if I just have faith and believe Jesus will save me, because he paid the price for my sinfulness. I know the parameters of that formula backwards and forwards and that old-time-religion was good enough for Grandma so it ought to be good enough for me and when I close my eyes, I want to know that God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. Blindness can be so familiar and alluring and who I am I to go wandering off to see the bright lights of reality. But we cannot go back there to the safe, familiar, comfort of our blindness to the reality that surrounds us. So, we open our eyes and gaze beyond the limits of our horizons and let the excitement and the terror open us to the wonders that await us.
But we do not stand peering into the light by ourselves; we have the company and the love of one another. Together, we can find the courage to open our eyes and learn about the parameters of this new reality that is beginning to emerge. Together, we can find the wisdom to understand the freedom that Jesus embodied and be Christs to one another. Together, we can develop a new vision of the ONE who is beyond all visions as we experience the wonders of life, trusting that it is the ONE who gave us life who beckons.
There is no sin in blindness, so we can close our eyes and rest in the comfort of the dark, but just for a moment or two, now and again, when we are weary or afraid, just long enough to gather our courage for the journey into the light of all that lies before us. For we were blind and now we see and there is so much more for us waiting beyond the limits of our horizons. Let us go and see the realities of our God, trusting that the ONE who beckons is was and ever more shall be LOVE.