“Lord, give me eyes to see”- that’s Jeanne Phelan’s favorite prayer.
When I hear this prayer, it makes me think of the suffering, the injustice, the pain that is too painful to let in- so we turn away, lest we see too clearly. But I also hear, ‘what is it in myself that I will not, that I cannot bear to see?’
I’ve been seeing a counselor for the past several months to try to understand what my inner self will be going through once I retire. I’ve been a pastor for the past 32 years. It has been where I have found meaning, purpose, community. In a very real sense, it is Who I Am. And in 4 weeks, I will no longer be that person. So who will I be?
It has been a real struggle to be able to discern who I am, and who I will be when I am no longer your pastor.
My guess is that everyone, at the point of retirement, has that same struggle. And not just retirement.
A young man graduates from college with a degree in Political Science. A very good degree. But… he as of now, he is no longer a student. He has been a student for the last 20 years. Other than infancy, he has never been anything but a student. So… who is he now, and what does the future hold?
A middle-aged woman suddenly finds herself divorced and alone. She is no longer ‘wife’; her children are all grown and on their own. Who is she, and what does the future hold?
And then, when our spouse dies, and the companion who defined our days and our habits is no longer there. Oh, the struggle that comes in those days and months after that. Who are we without the other half of ourselves? And what can the future hold?
When the structures and relationships we have created around ourselves are no longer there… what can we see? In our pain, struggle, confusion, what is it that we cannot see about ourselves? “Lord, give us eyes to see.”
It is as if we are blind, stumbling in the dark, hitting our shins, disoriented, not knowing where we are or where to turn. We yearn for a light on our path, some way of orienting ourselves.
This is the hope, the promise revealed to us in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. In the beginning was the Word which calls us into existence. For that Word was Life, and that Life was the light of all people. That true Light, which enlivens each of us, is coming into the world.
That’s the promise. That is the reality. In the philosopher Plato’s work, Republic, Plato writes an allegory about us. We are like people in a dark cave, with a fire behind us. And all we can see are shadows- large, distorted, sometimes frightening. The shadows are us, as the fire silhouettes us onto the cave’s wall- but only a distorted, 2-dimensional image of ourselves.
What would it be like, if we could walk out of the cave into the sunlight, and see what is real? See our world, our neighbors in their reality. We still can’t see ourselves, because our eyes are on the wrong side of our face! But we could see parts of ourselves: our hands, our arms, our legs and bellies. Parts, but not the whole.Take a look at that black and white note card in your bulletins. The story on the back tells its origin. A Chinese photographer took a picture of snow with the black earth showing through. When he developed the photo, he was amazed to see in it the face of Christ, full of tenderness and love. Seeing this, he became a Christian. Look intently at the picture. Can you see it? Can you see the face of Christ?
It can take a while to see it, but when we finally find it, we can’t stop seeing it. When we look deeply into ourselves, into our world, when we see Christ, we can’t stop seeing Him. He is everywhere around us.
How could we miss the face of Christ in the poor, the disabled, the hungry. That’s where Jesus said He was in the Gospel of Matthew: (Matthew 25:34-40)
“’I was hungry,’ Jesus says, ‘and your gave Me food. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. I was naked and you gave Me clothing. I was sick and you took care of Me. I was in prison and you visited Me.’ ‘Lord,” we ask, ‘when was it that we saw You hungry, or thirsty? When did you see You a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison?’ And Jesus replies, ‘Truly I tell you, whenever you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.”
Lord, You are the light within us and around us. In your light, give us eyes that we may see, and seeing, may we act in faith.
In the Name of the One who loves us so much that He will not allow us to live in darkness, even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Scripture for January 5, 2020 JOHN 1:1-9
In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word was in the beginning with God, and all things came into being through the Word,
and without the Word not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in the Word was Life, and the Life was the Light of all people.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify to the Light, so that all might believe through him.
He himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light.
The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.