This morning’s sermon! Enjoy …
Rehoboth Congregational Church
March 30, 2014
A Faith That Opens Our Eyes
Do you have ever have one of those mornings where you just do not want to get out of bed?
Okay, okay, that is actually most mornings for me.
But – night owls aside – do you ever have one of those morning where you just do not want to open your eyes and face the day? Where you just want to be naïve to whatever challenges you are currently facing? Where you imagine a day with no accidents or tragedies, where good things happen to good people and where everyone can feel happy, healthy and loved? Do you ever have one of those mornings where you just want to keep your eyes closed and pretend that everything is okay?
Sometimes the world is a very scary and unfair place to live. I opened the Boston Globe homepage yesterday morning and the top three headlines read:
“Man shot in car in funeral procession in Duxbury”
“As firefighters mourned, probe focuses on heating system,” referencing the continuing investigations of Wednesday’s fatal Back Bay fire.
“Officials losing hope of finding slide survivors”
I know some people question my choice of journalism sources when they see me reading People Magazine, but – let’s face it – the top headlines on people.com yesterday were about Lisa Marie Presley’s recent weight loss and a floral dress that was so gorgeous, three stars wore it in seven days.
Apparently it was Dolce and Gabbanna.
I will admit – sometimes I prefer People Magazine over the Boston Globe. Sometimes I prefer celebrity gossip over real tragedy. Sometimes I prefer light and whimsical news over raw and heartbreaking news. Sometimes I just do not want to see what is actually happening in the world.
Because it is hard. It is hard to see the truth. It is hard to experience the truth. It is hard to feel emotions that the truth makes us feel. It is hard to process that and figure out how to move forward.
(You know, sometimes I think God has a funny sense of humor, because as I was working on my sermon yesterday I had the word document up on one of my computer screens and the Boston Globe up on the other. As soon as I wrote that last sentence, “It is hard to process that and figure out how to move forward,” bostonglobe.com automatically refreshed itself and the raw and heartbreaking top headline was replaced with one about the Bruins win over the Capitals. So apparently one life lesson I can share with you all today is that for every raw and heartbreaking story in the world, there is a hockey victory.)
This morning’s Gospel story is a story with many layers. The top layer is one that very often we focus on – the layer of miraculous healing. Jesus gave sight to a man born blind with mud made from his saliva and dirt, washed off with water from the pool of Siloam.
The second layer is a layer of both believe and disbelief, of confusion and of a little bit chaos. No one understood why this man could see. The Pharisees were upset, the Jews did not believe that he had actually been born blind and his parents were unable to explain how their son could see.
The third layer is the one that I want to talk about today. It is the layer where God did something in someone’s life, something kind of unexplainable – and their life was changed by it.
When you focus on this layer, you realize that there is so much truth to the hymn, “Amazing Grace”.
“I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
The song does not explain how one was found or how one could see – it just states that it happened; that it happens to people of faith, people who are touched by God’s grace, by God’s amazing grace.
And it states that when someone is touched by God’s grace, they will be saved. Their lives will be forever changed.
God opened the eyes of the man in this story and his life was forever changed. And I think that – in some way, shape or form – God opens all of our eyes. I think that throughout our lives God’s grace – God’s amazing grace – touches us and opens our eyes to see things that we need to see.
Many of you know that before I moved to Rehoboth, I worked as a chaplain at a Level 1 trauma hospital in Atlanta. My eyes were opened during my time as a chaplain. I saw things that were heartbreaking, tragic and scary. But as awful as it was at times, I was and am so grateful that God opened my eyes to some of those realities that exist in the world. Because now I see things – I see life! – in a different way. And because my eyes were opened I want to make a difference in a way that I probably did not before. God used my sight to create a vessel for ministry within me.
It is not easy for any of us to look at the news and see raw and heartbreaking headlines. It would be so much easier to close our eyes, pull a blanket over our heads and imagine we are on peaceful tropical island somewhere.
Or at least open people.com to see who is wearing that Dolce and Gabbanna dress.
But I think God wants us to see those raw and heartbreaking headlines. God wants us to see the realities of the imperfect and broken world that we are living in. God wants to open our eyes so that we might see the truth. And God does not want us to be disheartened by that truth or broken by that truth; rather God wants us to be touched by it and to use the emotions that we feel from it to push us in our lives and in our ministries.
And God’s grace is what gives us the strength to do that.
Too often we look at this story and see only that first layer – that layer of miraculous healing. And while that is an important part of what happened, I think there is more to it than simply one act of miraculous healing. I think this story teaches us that someone’s eyes being opened was not a one-time thing. In fact, it is something that God does to each and every one of us every single day. Living a life of faith means allowing our eyes to be opened so that we can see, so that we can really see the world that we are living in.
And let’s face it – sometimes it is not easy to look around and see the world for what it is. It is funny – when the man in this story was healed by Jesus, the gift of sight was such a wonderful thing. But for so many of us, waking up and opening our eyes to see and face the day is not always a wonderful thing. It is often difficult and frustrating and exhausting.
But God’s grace – God’s amazing grace – opened the eyes of a man so that he could see and it changed his life for the better.
And it is that same amazing grace that opens our eyes and, sometimes against all odds, changes our lives – changes our lives for the better – as well.
We are called to open our eyes so that we might see.
It would be very easy for us to pull the covers up over our eyes and live in the darkness. But we are not called to live in the darkness. In fact, Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus reminds us of this fact.
“For one you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light!”
Not only are we called to open our eyes and face a sometimes dark world, but we are called to bring light into that dark world.
This is not easy. For some reason it is just easier to succumb to the darkness than it is to bring light into it.
But God opens our eyes for a reason. God’s grace – God’s amazing grace – opens our eyes for a reason. And I really do not think that reason is so that we all get depressed and decide there is no hope for the world. I think God opens our eyes so that we can see the work that needs to be done and commit ourselves to doing the work and to living out God’s call in the world.
I am going to let you all in on a secret that I hope does not put me out of a job. Faith does not fix things. Being part of a church community will not magically heal the world, change those heartbreaking headlines, stop accidents from happening or replace war with peace.
But what faith does is it opens our eyes so that we can do something about the brokenness that exists in the world. Faith opens our eyes so that we can bring hope, healing and love to those in need. Faith opens our eyes so that we can see inequality and fight for justice. Faith opens our eyes so that for every heartbreaking headline there is about something we cannot control there is a headline about someone living out God’s call, trying to make a positive difference in the world. Faith opens our eyes so that we might see the way that God is alive and at work and still speaking in our lives.
Isn’t it amazing how the sight of one blind man gave sight to an entire world that God is using for ministry?
So let your eyes be opened. Let your eyes be opened so you can see the good, the bad and the full of grace. Let your eyes be opened so God can show you the world that you are living in. Let your eyes be opened so you can see what God is calling you to do. Let your eyes be opened so you can see the abundant hope that is being brought forth by people of faith, people who are letting their eyes be opened as well.
Today we give thanks for a faith that opens our eyes.
Thanks be to God!