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Today’s appointed texts are all about vision: who can see, who cannot see, who is healed of sight, who can’t believe that sight has been gained. They are deeply human stories on one hand, and they are stories of the power of God’s grace an another.
We begin with Samuel going to visit Jesse and seeing each of his sons in turn, thinking that each one would be the one chosen as king. He started where we all started: with the usual norms and customs for how things work, how we have expected things to go. He looked for folks who fit into traditional types. But then he ends up with David, and he never expected to see him chosen as king.
But then this reminder which hits us between the eyes: the Lord does not see as mortals see. They look on the outward appearance and the Lord looks on the heart.
Then we have the Gospel reading with the man who was born blind. Those around Jesus ask him who is to blame for his blindness. His parents must have done something. (See how typical it is to look for blame. It is seductive, because it lets off just enough of the pressure from the situation, and that is enticing.)
Jesus tells them that in the man’s blindness God’s presence will be revealed. It is more about transformative possibility and presence than blame for Jesus—always.
So Jesus heals the man, and then we have a series of encounters when folks cannot believe that his vision has been restored to him. It must have been someone who looked like him. They want to maintain the structure of how things have been understood, and they resist anything–or anyone–who calls them to look beyond that framework.
Then Jesus stands before them all when they want to know the root of the healing. Jesus tells them “I’m standing right here and you can see me.” If they would only look. But can they? Can we?
And then the text ends for today with Jesus making this statement: I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.
Here’s how I understand this: perhaps Jesus is saying that his transforming grace enables those who have been blind to have vision, while the consequence of his presence is that those who have relied upon their own sight will have their vision challenged. That makes a lot of sense to me right now: that I have felt for my entire life that what I saw and how I saw made sense and was appropriate, but now I am beginning to see in a different way. My vision has been challenged on one hand and opened on the other—actually that is the same thing for us, isn’t it?
Think of Samuel the prophet standing there and being reminded that the Lord does not see as mortals see, that the Lord sees to the heart. God sees to the heart of things and we are called to share in a more expansive vision that is rooted in God’s transforming grace.
Here is what I am learning these days: this expanding vision or deeper vision—whatever we call it at this point—this stretching of our perspectives has a certain pain to it. It is no wonder that our culture—that human beings—have this impulse to be anesthetized or numb, to be distracted. When you see in a way you had not before, it costs you. You are being stretched into a new way of being.
For two days now a type of falcon has landed near me, once on the fence in our backyard as we finished dinner and then swooping down around me and landing in a tree beside me while on a walk. It is beautiful shade of gray-blue. I paid attention when it flew over my shoulder and lighted in a tree next to me. To some, falcons and hawks and such birds are living reminders of enhanced vision. They are totems, if you will, that invite us to meditate more deeply on our call to an expanded vision. I am on the lookout for the falcon, and my heart has recognized the lesson it has to teach me.
And here is another place where I have seen my vision stretched, if you will: during our weeknight Zoom calls with Compline, our Zoompline. After a week of these calls, it dawned on me that the distance we are experiencing is actually inviting me to see you all in a more profound way. Thank God for the technology to see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices. And, while we are separated physically, we can still see—and perhaps see in a different and more profound way than we have. You notice things when you stand back and take a look at them.
So, this is my prayer for us all during these days: that we keep our hearts open just enough to learn the lessons that the Spirit is offering us. That we remain patient with ourselves and our loved ones as we all are shifted into a new rhythm that is unfamiliar and anxious at times, to be sure. And that our hearts can open more fully to one another’s humanity, and that this community may strengthen in these days.
That is my prayer, and you remain in my prayers each day.
God bless you all!
The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham
Morning Prayer Reflection
March 22, 2020