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“Before I formed you in the womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I dedicated you. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
I have this distant memory of walking along a sidewalk. I couldn’t have been more than five years old. I was bent over watching intently, determined not to miss a single crack in the sidewalk. Step on a crack – break your mother’s back. A silly childish rhyme. A wild idea placed into the mind of a child. An idea that kept me hunched over and focussed upon cracks in the sidewalk. So focussed upon a silly childish rhyme, that even my body was hunched over and my vision was restricted, so restricted that I didn’t even the see the telephone pole that jumped out in front of me and smacked me in the forehead, sent me crashing to the ground and left me with a bump the size of a robin’s egg.
Do me a favour, stand up and bend over. Without straightening your back, take a long look around. How far can you see? Can you see the piano? Can you see the banner’s hanging on the wall? How well can you see out of the windows? Do you see the sky? Ok, straighten up. How much more can you see?
When I was a child, my vision was restricted by a silly childish rhyme that used a fearful idea to direct my focus. Just now the posture of your bodies physically restricted your vision. Earlier, when we viewed the Awareness video, the instructions about where to focus, restricted your vision and most of you missed the moonwalking bear that pranced across the screen. Bent out of shape, crippled by ideas, traditions, fears, prejudices, allegiances, peer pressure, or narrow focussed lenses, our vision can be restricted to such an extent that we are blind to what is going on around us. Obstacles to our progress can actually jump out in front of us and knock us down or out.
I’d like us to focus for a moment on the very narrowness of our focus. How bent out of shape are we as a result of who we are and where we live? How does our history shape the way we see reality? How does our education impact the way we see? How does our family history restrict our vision? How do the things we were taught to believe about God narrow our view of the Source of our existence? How do the stories we have been told narrow our focus? How does our status as privileged, mostly upper-middle-class Canadians narrow our focus and leave us blind to the realities of life in the world around us? What might it take to help us stand up and talk a good look around us? How many Moondancing Bears have we missed?
Let me give you a few examples of the Moon-dancing Bears that I have begun to notice. For the past two weeks the world has been treated to the spectacle of the Olympic Games. The world’s media has been focussed, honed in on the world at play. We’ve seen some amazing sights as young people from all over the world have stretched their bodies to do some amazing things. The competition has been spectacular and I expect that many of us have found moments when we could shift our focus from the day to day demands of our lives to spend a few moments cheering on these beautiful examples of our species preform at their best. Now if sports aren’t your thing, the world’s media has been able to provide an alternative competition as they turn the election of the most powerful person on the planet into a reality gong show. The orange-fellow whose name I refuse to mention in this sanctuary, has provided a perverse kind of entertainment that seems endlessly able to suck up all the attention of the world’s media. Our vision has been directed to the top stories as this summer’s two spectacles have us cheering olympians or gearing an orange man with ever so tiny hands. All the while some ferocious bears have danced across our field of vision and which we have all but failed to notice.
Oh there was a flicker of recognition when little Omran was pulled from the rubble in Aleppo. We noticed if for but a moment the blood as a dazed little lad wiped his forehead and sat in stunned silence on staring out from eyes robbed of their innocence by the endless bombing that has permeated his entire five years on our planet. But this horrific vision was too much for us to take in so we quickly looked away. Even the floods in Louisiana were easier on our eyes than the bloodied dust-covered face of a child. Buildings we can envision replacing, childhoods lost are beyond our ability to see let alone envision ways to restore. So we turn away, or we allow the media to turn away on our behalf and our vision is restricted to that which we can take in from our bent and busted world-view.
Dare we stand tall and take a good look around us? Are our eyes capable of taking in all that surrounds us? Remember once we’ve actually seen what’s out there we can’t just bend over and pretend it’s not there. There is a part of me and I suspect there’s a part in some of you, that would just as soon pretend. I’d rather not have seen, and know that I have seen, I can’t help but bow my head and close my eyes. The trouble is that where once I was able to simply utter a prayer as if praying with my head bowed was enough, now, just as avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk won’t save my mother from anything, I can no longer stand here with my head bowed, eyes closed, seeking the help of a childhood notion of a power strong enough to heal the pain, stop the war, or silence that horrible orange guy.
Growing up, my view of the LOVE that I call God, was narrowed down to a particular vision, maybe it’s a vision that you can relate to as well. It involves an old, white, bearded man that sat upon a thrown tallying up my transgressions, he was making a list and checking it twice, he was everywhere, there was nowhere I could hide, and his main interest was all the stuff I got wrong, all the messes I made, all the bad choices I couldn’t seem to stop making. The way I was taught to see things this god liked nothing better than to judge me, because after all is said and done it’s all about me and whether or not, I’m going to be rewarded in the end. My view of this god was restricted to childish notions that restricted the nature of this god to a judge that could only be placated by the death of his most beloved creation. My vision of this god, crippled me in a kind of fear that is designed to control behaviour. My crippling fear was alleviated by the stories I was taught about Jesus, who soothed the agonies of being bent out of shape with a balm that helped me live with my ailments. My restricted vision meant that I was constantly being hit square in the middle of my forehead by all sorts of barriers that I didn’t see coming.
Learning to stretch and expand my vision continues to reveal all sorts of new and exciting things about the LOVE that some of us call God. Talk about a moon dancing bear! Why I’m even beginning to see that God dances in, with, through, and beyond the bear! Tossing balls in the air in the midst of such an amazing reality is mind-bogglingly, eye-popping! There is so much to see that I can’t even begin to tell you!!! In fact, sometimes it can be so overwhelming that I just have to close my eyes and give myself a rest. Once or twice I’ve even caught myself bending over, just so that I can see things they way I once saw them, and for a moment or two wander around in the familiar, narrow places, unchallenged by the expansive views that surround us. But even as those dancing bears do challenge me to see beyond my comfort zones, I’ve grown rather fond of the sight of powerful bears dancing in, with, through, and beyond us.
Standing bolt upright, can we begin to look one another in the eye and reveal the splendour and the pain that surrounds us so that together we can actually embody the prayers that are screaming to burst forth from us? Can we become the prayer that actually embraces those who desperately need us to see them? Can we become the prayer that offers healing? Can we our lives be our prayer?
If we have the courage to open our eyes to see beyond our narrow visions, I suspect that we won’t be able to be anything other than that which the world desperately needs. For once we have seen the needs of our neighbours, we can’t help but become the LOVE that the world so desperately needs. If we but have the courage to stand up and look around, the LOVE that lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond us will compel us to be LOVE. For surely we are all called into being by the LOVE that is our Creator. For this we were formed in our mothers’ womb. So let us be all that we are created to be; the LOVE that IS God. Amen.