Seeing with God’s eyes
Preacher: The Rev. H. Paul Canady | Seeing with God’s eyes
A sermon by the Rev. H. Paul Canady III
Rector of Christ Church, New Bern, NC, on March 22, 2020
Fourth Sunday in Lent
If someone had asked us in January what might be the craziest thing about the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty, we might have predicted some sporting event or maybe an election result or something with the Tokyo Olympics or some dance crazy. How many of us would have picked a global pandemic that has led to such drastic curtailing of the everyday life we have become accustomed to, and in fact the everyday life that we have so long believed makes the world go around. I doubt anyone asked for such a mammoth disruption to not only our lives, but the lives of billions of others in the Family of God, but here we are.
Here we are on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, with gatherings restricted to 10 people or less who keep about 6 feet apart. Proms, weddings, graduations, vacations, funerals… all cancelled in an effort to keep a virus from spreading, being shared from someone who may have little or no reaction to someone whose very life depends on not being exposed. It’s not where any of us thought we would be, nor wanted to be. Even many of my introverted friends are ready to cry “uncle” on all the alone time. Humanity has faced this before, a little over 100 years ago with the 1918 flu pandemic. The two people I know who were alive back then were very young children and have no real recollection of that time period.
This issue, I hope, has raised our awareness of the many cracks in the safety net of our society and how wide the divide is between the haves and the have nots. One of the ways I’ve seen God at work in this time is the many people are stepping up and using their influence to direct systems to aid those most vulnerable in our communities. The New Bern Police set up cones around restaurants downtown to ensure at-the-door parking for those getting lunch or dinner so we can continue to support small businesses that are just getting back after Hurricane Florence. Craven County Schools is providing breakfast and lunch for all children under the age of 18 in a program called Free Meals on Big School Wheels. God continues to be at work in our community and in communities around the country and the world as people act as though they are indeed their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
We are all finding a new normal, hopefully a temporary normal. For many of us, it means pushing against our very best selves who tend to rush to the side of someone who needs a hug or someone to sit across the table for a cup of coffee or lunch or dinner. But it also means a chance for us to see with new eyes all that God is doing.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent brings us two Scripture stories about how we see. The passage from John is one of my favorites because of the technical level of writing and how John pulls together the story. It is the longest passage in John’s Gospel in which Jesus isn’t present and is structured like a classic Greek drama. But I read it, I find something new. When I realized this week it was paired with the famous story from Hebrew Scripture where a young David is anointed as the future King of Israel, I had to look more deeply at both passages. Most weeks in our lectionary, the Old Testament story has a parallel with the Gospel reading. The parallel this week could be about timely miracles, or it could be about God and Jesus going against the grain of what humanity expects of our Creator and Savior. But at this time in our lives, I have to wonder, what is it that God is wanting us to see? Both of these stories are not just about God doing the unexpected because God does that all the time. But they teach us something about how God sees the world, how God sees humanity. In Samuel’s time tradition would have dictated the oldest or the strongest would be made king, but God chose the youngest and the one with the seemingly lowest job. The man born blind has his sight restored and never questions how or who. He was on the receiving end of this amazing gift, and he gave God the glory. Yet those who had known him as the blind beggar could not grasp what happened to him. Even when he kept saying (and this is one of my favorite lines in Scripture), “I am the man!”
To me, this all begs the question: What is it that God wants us to see amidst a global pandemic? And let me clarify for the record that in no way do I believe God created this or caused this to inflict such harm across God’s creation. But I do believe that in all adversity, God wants us to learn something from it. So maybe it’s not just *what* does God want us to see, but *how* does God want us to see? Do we keep looking with our own eyes and only think the way *we* want to think? Or do we strive to see how God sees, which is to seek out the least among us, the ones on the fringes of knowing God’s deep and abiding love for them, and share a piece of the love God has for us? Because the love God has for us isn’t meant for us to hold on to, but to give away.
I believe God is calling us, begging us, to see this world in a new way, and even to see church in a new way. Just because we as seekers and followers of Jesus cannot gather in person does not mean that the Church is closed. The Church is the people of God, and the people of God are out in the world being the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus. I think we need holy and sacred places to gather and worship. Since humankind first began to articulate an understanding of God, we have designated places, whether trees and mountains, structures big and small, to the worship of God as we understood God at the time. Gathering as the family of God in sacred and holy places like this won’t change once all of this business has passed. But maybe God wants us to see how we connect to each other, how the Church connects to the world around us, and maybe to see all of that in a new light.
As we approach Holy Week and Easter, I hope and pray that we will continue to be mindful of the ways God is speaking to each of us and to all of humanity and that we will have the bravery and the honesty to respond as the people of God.