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Reflections on the Sense of “Sight”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflection 2018 – Sight

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.      (1 John 1:1)

                Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is always a special time of year not just because of all the fun activities, but because we learn and remember that Jesus Christ arrived to us as a person- as human flesh. Jesus is both -100% God and 100% human being.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. For example, many of you have already felt and smelled the oily ash that was drawn on your forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. In a few weeks we will smell the wonderful Easter Lilies, we will taste the Seder meal, and we will feel the weight of the cross as we place it on our backs and carry it during Holy Week.

This year, during Lent, I want to encourage you to think more deeply about how you encounter Jesus in a physical way.  I am writing a Biblical reflection each week that focuses on the 5 senses. This week focuses on the sense of “sight.”

Mark 8:22-25

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Little trees!  Mark 8:22-25 is unfamiliar for many people. It is only found in Mark’s Gospel. It not part of the lectionary so many people have never heard it or heard a sermon about it. It is short, strange and it is often overlooked. What’s the significance that Jesus needs a second chance to fully restore the blind man’s sight? Why do people look like trees that are walking around? These are questions that I invite you to think about during your Lent journey.

Perhaps the most popular or at least widely known hymn is “Amazing Grace.” We sing this beautiful hymn in worship regularly. It is also a popular hymn for funerals and other special occasions. Even people who don’t attend worship probably know it because it is heard often in popular culture. One of the verses says, “I was blind, but now I see.” It is a very moving verse, but I’ve struggled with it’s meaning. For me, “I was blind, but now I see,” describes spiritual development that goes from 0% to 100% instantly. Like flipping on a switch or turning on a lamp. For some people this may be true, but for me (and I don’t think I’m alone) spiritual development has not been like flipping on a switch. It’s been an arduous journey full of ups and downs.

Whenever I feel like I’m finally seeing life and faith clearly some new insight or experience presents itself and forces me to reevaluate and refocus. Some days are clearer than others and some days are very unclear. Metaphorically, most days I feel like the guy in Mark’s gospel who sees people as little trees. Just like the man, even though I’ve experienced Jesus I still have a difficult time seeing the world clearly.  What I like best about this story is that it shows Jesus staying with the man and refusing to give up. Jesus shows that he is committed to fully restoring the man’s sight even if it means trying again. The man doesn’t go from blind to full sight instantly. His fully restored vision takes time, and it also includes a conversation with Jesus on the journey toward clarity.

The 1 Corinthians text complements the Mark story. I think the Apostle Paul is telling us that we don’t have perfect vision.  We are all looking through a dim and cloudy glass and hence all of us have a limited perception. We don’t enjoy complete clarity and understanding. Our face-to-face time is yet to come. What I get from these texts is that it is ok not to have all the answers right now. We don’t need to be at 100% in order to be “good Christians.” There is a mysterious component to faith – a mystery that will be revealed in time. This is what it means, “God accepts us just as we are.” God is with us and walking along side us on our faith journey.  God doesn’t just meet us at the finish line.