March 22, 2020, What Are You Hungry For? Vision, by Pastor David Tatgenhorst
Let’s take a moment for quiet reflection on what we just heard, to think about ways we may have been blind to some of the needs around us, that even now are coming to sight.
What are You Hungry For? Vision
I first got glasses when I was in fourth grade, and I was amazed to be able to see leaves on trees, instead of just a blob of green. It was stunning. All of a sudden I could see that those white marks on the chalk board meant something decipherable and I started doing a lot better in school. I even got an award that year for ‘most improved student of the year’ which I found totally insulting because I had been trying my best the whole time.
“I once was blind, but now I see.” That line in this scripture and in the song Amazing Grace is a constant theme in our spirituality and in our faith, because it is a consistent and powerful theme in scripture. What were we blind to three weeks ago, at the beginning of Lent, that now we are starting to be able to see?
It’s amazing how much has changed in the last three or four weeks, isn’t it? This is an extraordinary time, a time for us to open our eyes and see what God wants us to see. (I’m not saying that God is causing coronvirus, of course, but God calls us to respond faithfully nonetheless.) Most of us haven’t seen anything like this before in our lifetimes and we will be telling our kids and grandkids, if we make it to that, about this time in our lives. “Back in 2020, that coronavirus pandemic, that was a scary time. A lot of people got sick, and a lot of people died. But we got through it. God pulled us through and God opened our eyes to things we weren’t even seeing before. We learned to do things differently and we learned a new kind of resilience.” Let me name three ways that God may be inviting us to see better, to see more.
1. Social distance. A few weeks ago, at the beginning of Lent, who would have known what we you were talking about if you talked about “social distancing?” We were at the beginning of the season that we say is important to us to take time apart, to pray, to think about ourselves, to reflect on death and difficulties, and to prepare for a time of trial. But we couldn’t even see what that really meant. Social distancing is not just a health mandate - and it is a very important health mandate for us to take seriously - social distancing is a spiritual discipline. We see it in a different way now, don’t we? This time apart, this time of social distancing feels really different here in the middle of Lent.
May our eyes be opened to the power of this Lenten discipline as we take this time apart seriously and take time to pray for ourselves and for each other. Find a quiet place wherever you are this week, to create some distance. Turn off the news for a while. You don’t need to have the mortality rate in your face 24 hours a day. Create a little distance so you can notice, so you can see, so you can remember that God is faithful, even when things are hard, that we will get through this, and we do not need to be afraid. (That’s my first example of what God is inviting us to see - that taking time for social distance in Lent is a discipline we really need.)
2. Social connection. Jesus in our passage for today shows the religious people that the blind person could see, and encouraged them to realize what they can not see. Three weeks ago, we thought we were pretty connected with each other. We thought we were pretty close. But now that we are socially distant, there’s a way in which we are seeing how connected we can really be and need to be. We depend on each other in ways that we often don’t even see.
We all live in the same eco-system, our whole world does. We are effected by the same circumstances. We are all at risk, and we have to watch out for each other, for everybody. We thought we were healthy, but now the sickness of our country is being manifested in ways that we can all see. It’s not about resources, it’s about priorities. We have had the resources to care for each other, and now we will be forced to use those resources in new ways, in ways that show how much we depend on each other and how much we care about each other.
If we don’t open our eyes, if we don’t learn the lesson God has for us in this moment, we will hoard the resources and just take care of the privileged. We will continue to neglect the poor and try to blame our pain on some other group of people. In spite of what Jesus has been teaching us we will continue to be blind. We will give out $1200 to each person and try to shut them out of our consciousness, our vision. We so easily forget that we are all connected, that we are all part of the same eco-system, and we have to take care of the whole. (This is the second example of what God is inviting us to see at this moment, our social connection.)
3. Social consciousness. Thirdly, God is inviting us to see that we will get through this by being aware of God’s presence with the poorest among us.) This pandemic is forcing us out of our sanctuary, church -forcing us into the world where we belonged in the first place, forcing us to find ways to connect with each other online and in our communities, forcing us to find new ways to communicate and to see each other and have compassion for each other.
You know, in scripture, it often says that Jesus sees somebody and has compassion for them. I always remember when I learned in seminary, that the word in Greek for compassion is “splanknizomai” a crazy word like that which means that his guts turned, his guts moved for the person. I was thinking about that when I called this sermon series “What are You Hungry for?’ What makes our guts churn for somebody so that we reach out in compassion, so that we see them for real, and decide something matters besides our own comfort? this is why we need to be watching and making sure that the money congress has allocated gets to the poor, the vulnerable, the people most in need.
God is at work in this time. Even in the midst of the coronavirus God is at work. If we get the message of God’s presence and possibility in this time, we will tell our children and our grandchildren about this time of great suffering and of new awareness and new life. We will tell them that God was present with us and opened our eyes to social distancing when we need to, and social connection when others need it, and a new kind of social consciousness and compassion. We all need to be behaving as though we have the coronavirus. We can’t panic but be aware of each other. We don’t know for sure who has it and who doesn’t so we need to care for each other with social distance, social connection and social compassion. Because God is showing us that the community is the patient during this time. And God’s healing means that we all learn to see.
Responsive hymn: 3008 Open the Eyes of My Heart