Blind Spots

Just sharing my thoughts from the pulpit today.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I heard a joke awhile ago that fits this week.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they laid down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up and tell me what you see.”

Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”

“What does that tell you?” Holmes said.

Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see God is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you?”

Holmes said, “Watson you idiot, someone has stolen our tent.”

Sometimes we are blind to what is going on right in our midst, and in a spiritual sense, we can be blind to what God is doing so well for us.

Okay, now we can get down to business, but you’re going to participate. I want everyone to cover their eyes. Come on, no cheating.

Now, I want you to take one hand away. What do you see?

Okay, now take off your second hand. Is the picture clearer and more complete?

Clear vision. Let’s see if we get some.

I’m not sure whether I am the blind man or Jesus’ disciples or the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. I’m probably a little of each … and I’m going to share some personal testimony to illustrate what I mean. It’s a little lomg-winded, but you need to know the context and history before it all comes together {I hope}.

As most of you know, I was raised in the Catholic tradition and was an altar boy for eight or nine years through high school. At one time, I thought my vocation might be the priesthood. I could “preside” at a mock Mass, knowing every part, every word … and back then it was in Latin! The only thing that stopped a trip to the seminary was the realization those pesky little girls grew up into very good looking young women.

Now, Karen and I came to “faith” from different paths. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t trust in the Lord with all my heart. I made that commitment formally when I received confirmation way back in grade school. At that time, I pledged my heart and soul to the Lord.

Karen’s journey was a little different. While she, too, was raised in the church as a youngster, it wasn’t until March 1977 when she fully understood and accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior.

I traveled the traditional path. Karen enjoyed a rebirth. I focused on the Old Testament as a foundation for the New Testament. Karen reveled in the New Testament as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. I was more comfortable with orthodoxy and hymns. Karen enjoyed good worship music and energized services. I had an exclusive personal relationship with the Lord. Karen was more inclusive. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my faith. Karen was quite comfortable sharing her faith. I was reluctant to lead prayer. Karen was open and willing to lead prayer. Karen introduced me to contemporary Christian music. I taught her how to discern matters of faith. Karen opened my world to diversity and evangelization. I drew her into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus. Karen showed me how to share my faith. I showed her how to live her faith.

She was supportive as I embarked in my ministry in the Catholic press and behind me all the way when I was became an elder at Tyre Reformed, jokingly referring to me as “Pastor Joe” when I delivered my first sermon. I encouraged her to start Manna, a Christian magazine, and pushed her – without too much resistance – into being active in the church. We were Eucharistic ministers at St. Ignatius and prayer partners for each other throughout the years, although, regrettably, we did not often pray together.

But it wasn’t always so. I vividly remember a “discussion” we had shortly after Karen was “reborn.” We were at a crossroads … she was attending a more Pentecostal church while I was going to the Catholic chapel at the local hospital. Our finances were unraveling. Our 8% ARM was adjusted up the maximum 2%. One of the kids was a;ways sick. We were facing stress-related health issues. I was spending more time working and less time at home while she was spending more time at home dealing with five children.

On day we got into a terrible argument about something I don’t even remember. I flew out of the house and peeled out, spending the next few hours at the park in Belvidere just reflecting. When I got back home, ready and willing to apologize, I was greeted with “Do you feel like a man, now?” referring to my rubber-burning departure. I simple said, “No,” and went to bed (although that was an impressive strip of rubber).

The next couple of days were strained to say the least. That weekend she went off to her church and I went off to mine. When we got back I said, “We have to talk about this.” She said, “Yes, we do.”

So we set aside the time to just talk. Neither one of us could remember what sparked the original argument, but the conversation quickly turned to our faith journeys. I told her I was uncomfortable with her church which, to me, was too Pentecostal and had some questionable doctrines. I liked the pastor and the people, but it seemed too divisive. The church seemed too willing to separate the sheep and to cast non-members as non-believers who should be avoided … even if they were spouses. Karen wanted to be baptized again at that church. I told her I wouldn’t stand in her way, but before she made that decision, she should pray on it and check out its doctrines, especially concerning speaking in tongues as a prerequisite for believers. Just because the pastor says something doesn’t make it true.

She told me she wasn’t comfortable in a Catholic church. “All you do is stand up, sit down, kneel down, stand up,” she noted. “There’s no worship, no songs of praise. Even during the sermons, rarely do you hear a priest talk about Scripture or the plan of salvation. It’s the same thing, over and over. And when was the last time you saw a Catholic with a Bible? They don’t even bring them to church.”

The debate lingered. My defense was simply my faith was in Jesus Christ; I believed Jesus Christ was the promised Savior; He became man and died to free my personal sins; through Jesus Christ I was assured salvation. My religion was an extension of that faith.

But she pressed me further and asked if I was a Christian (remember, she had been “reborn” just a few months back). I answered a resounding “Yes!” but I was taken aback. How could this baby in faith question me … who had walked the walk for years?

“I thought so,” she replied. “But I never was sure.”

It was sobering moment for me. I guess I may have walked the walk, but I certainly didn’t share that walk, especially with Karen. But the discussion became an opportunity for us to get on the same faith page. We both learned – sometimes to our regret – congregations can become so wrapped up in the form of faith, they forget the substance of faith. Going to church can become an obligation rather than the celebration it was intended to be … a celebration of praise and thanksgiving to our Father for the gift of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives … a celebration of repentance for our transgressions against God and our fellow man … a celebration of prayer and fellowship with others … a celebration of our faith as told through Scripture … a celebration of our victory in Jesus Christ through the actuality of Eucharist.

Karen taught me those truths. I had blind spots. She was my Jesus spitting in the dirt, putting mud on my eyes and healing my eyesight.

The disciples in today’s Gospel didn’t get it. They asked the wrong question. The Pharisees certainly didn’t get it. Many of them were more concerned with the fact Jesus healed on the Sabbath rather than He healed a man blind from birth. The Pharisees should have been jumping for joy that a blind man could now see.

The man’s parents didn’t get it. They were so afraid of being put out of the synagogue they deferred questions to their son rather than acknowledge this Jesus guy.

The man got it. “I was blind but now I see! …” he tells the Pharisees. “You don’t know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes. We know God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does His will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” To this the Pharisees replied, “How dare you lecture us!” Sound familiar?

Before we criticize these Pharisees too much, we have to acknowledge they were religious leaders, well trained, educated and respected in the community. They could speak doctrine with the best of them. They were known for their spirituality, for their religious observance. Good church member material were these Pharisees.

We often chide them for their hypocrisy, for their outward displays of piety when God was looking at their inward feelings of haughtiness and arrogance. That outward stuff, those things we with mere mortal discernment can ascertain, spoke very highly of the Pharisees … praying all the time, reading the scriptures on a daily basis, strictly adhering to religious law. But they had a spiritual blind spot when it came to Jesus and Jesus is pointing out here, even if you are spiritually gifted, there are still going to be some blind spots.

Those same blind spots appear in our first Scripture reading. Samuel was commanded to visit Jesse of Bethlehem and choose one of his sons to be king.

Samuel didn’t get it. He initially was afraid. The elders didn’t get it … they were filled with fear. Jesse didn’t get it. He paraded his sons before Samuel. The Lord spoke to Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him …”

So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

From that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

Now David, to me, is hardly a model of faithfulness to YHWH. He is and has always been one of my blind spots. Succeeding stories about him certainly show a great destiny. But, what about his sordid affair with Bathsheba, the subsequent cowardly murder of her husband, Uriah, or his deathbed command for Solomon to seek revenge on one of his old and helpless enemies, the act more of a Mafioso don than a king of Israel? In what way is David “a man after YHWH’s own heart”?

So you see, no matter who you are, no matter your theological training, no matter your years of experience at being a religious person, everyone has a blind spot. And when you have a blind spot you are unwilling to check on, or maybe unwilling to admit you have, then you just might miss out on what God is doing right here in your midst.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

How we live is vitally important. I believe Paul is concerned with two things:
When our actions or way of life get in the way of Christ (the light of the world) they cast a shadow over the world. Our actions block the light of God’s love. Those who should be receiving Christ’s love do not, and we are to blame.
But, as we “live in the light” we reflect the light of God’s love into the world. We share the love of God for all humanity into a darkened world. Those who could not see because of darkness are illuminated!

Every one of us has blind spots. Every one of us is susceptible to not seeing things God is doing, to not seeing how our behavior affects people adversely. All of us do it. None of us is immune to this kind of blindness.

Okay, put one hand over one eye again.

Now completely cover your eyes.

The hope of the Gospel is we will acknowledge our blindness, we will be aware of our blind spots, we will proceed with caution toward others. If we insist on maintaining our arrogant attitudes and our self-righteous spirituality, if we fail to recognize we, too, are blind, then we limit the ability of Jesus to give us spiritual eyesight.

Uncover your eyes … Open your heart … And let the faithful say Amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Sever the ignorant doubt in your heart with the sword of self-knowledge.


About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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2 Responses to Blind Spots

  1. Hubris. Hadn’t thought of it quite as “blindness” before, but that’s it. It’s so difficult to see truthfully, when we have that log in our eye.

    But humbling ourselves to admit there’s a log there—that’s a feat of self-effacement accomplished only with the grace of God.

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