Sunday, April 03, 2011

Seeing and Hearing

OK I have not posted on here in nearly a year... Kind of busy with the New Priest thing.

I preached this sermon on John 9:1-41.

Our gospel today is about a man who could see because he could hear. Healed, through what must have seemed to him to be a really strange ritual. As wonderful as it was for him, it had to be bizarre when this itinerant Rabbi, (this “Yeshua”) rubbed mud on his eyes and told him to go wash himself in holy water.

I am sure that this formerly blind man found it even more bizarre
that no one would believe what happened. Even though they had eyes that worked and that witnessed everything. He was a a man who showed an entire community their own blindness. Showed them all that they did not see because they could not hear.

I grew up with a person who taught us all how to hear and see. My friend Mark Dowdy could see in some amazing ways because he could hear, even though he was blind. I first met him When I was 13 years old. I had agreed, as a long-term Eagle Scout Project, to be his guide, and counselor and friend. I escorted him about the scout cabin. I taught him how to build a fire and put on his uniform and cook scrambled eggs over a fire. And yes, we even made this blind boy dig latrines. Later on, I drove him around.

(And incidentally, I did not teach him how to drive, though one of our friends did. When he got pulled over by the State Patrol the man asked for his license. Mark said, “Sir I don’t have one.” The trooper asked him, “Why?” Mark said, “Because I am blind!” I think they dropped the charges…)

I recorded things for him to read and taught him the Scout Oath and Law and generally helped him to be a good Boy Scout and became his friend in the process.

One of the first things he taught me to see was that he was not helpless. He hated it when people grabbed his arm and tried to guide him around. “I… Will hold your arm” he would tell folks who tried to help him. We learned how well he could see because he could hear. He taught me how to understand people with disabilities in ways I never would have known. Up until I knew him I was not friends with anyone with any kind of disability. We did not have a lot of that in the mostly middle class, white, over-achieving suburban enclave we lived in around the lake.

His first year at Scout Camp, the rifle instructor wanted to give him a chance to shoot.
He’d never shot a gun before. He rigged a bell behind a target on the rifle range. He connected a string to the bell and ran the string through an eyehook to behind where Mark was shooting. We would ring the bell And Mark would fire at it I remember that afternoon thinking that this was a waste of time and that I was angry this was cutting in to my swim time. He’d never get close, we knew.

Mark lined up the rifle and shot once toward the bell, and was slightly to the left of the target. He shot again and hit the outer rings of the target. On the third shot I felt the string jerk a little right after Mark shot. We put the rifle down and went out.He had put a bullet right through the center of the bell. Mark could “see” the target and “see” the bell that was hidden right behind the target. He could see because he could hear, and we had evidence to back it up!
Even though they could see and touch the evidence and even though the healed man walked among them. Nobody could believe it. He goes back to his parents-
“That man healed me….”
“What? Impossible!” they say… “Go to the Priest,” they tell him, “This does not happen…” He goes to the priests and pleads, “But he healed me..”
The Priests reply, “He’s no healer… no prophet… he can’t even obey rules..”
They cannot see him… even though he stands right in front of them.
“But he healed me…but but I can see!” the blind man keeps pleading.
The Priests will have none of it, “You are born of sin.. yet you teach us? ” they tell him…”Get out of town….”
They see nothing because they cannot hear him.

Our hero heads out of town, probably to the next village where he can start anew. Cast out from his friends and family because he saw and heard. On his way to the next town, he sees a group of men walking along. They seem strangely familiar to him. But he’s never seen them before with his new eyes and his brain and eyes do not connect.
The one that seems to be the leader stops him and asks him what had to be a question from left field-

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The man stutters a reply, saying, “Who is he, where is he so I can see him now..” Staring Jesus in the face ……yet he does not recognize him until Jesus speaks, saying, “You have seen him… the one speaking with you is he…”

The blind man hears and then sees because he remembers Jesus’ voice. His brain probably not trained to recognize Jesus’ face. Funny how John caught a really interesting neurological fact. That a newly healed person who was blind will take a while before his eyes and brain will connect and be able to take in the amazing array of data it requires to recognize a face. Even the newly sighted must hear in order to see.

Years later I saw Mark at a Boy Scout reunion. We got our Eagle Scouts together about 2 years after he joined the troop. My friend had been healed, I had heard, through the miracle of ophthalmological surgery and could see, with the help of very thick glasses. I walked over and stood in front of him and held out my hand. He did not have any idea who I was until I said, “Mark, it’s Tim.” And immediately he recognized me. Hearing my voice, he knew who I was.

We are called today to learn how to see and hear. We are called to connect our eyes with our hearts and souls. We are called to listen for and hear Jesus’ voice so we too can recognize his face in every person and see him in all places and situations and times.

We are called to hear and see, so we can, many of us, finally open our eyes for the first time.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New sermons online!

For those of you who were there, and some who weren't, who would like to hear my sermon from Tabernacle Baptist Church on 6.27.10, I just posted it on my podbean site. It will also be up on itunes as soon as it works through the system. (I have no idea how long that will take). Preaching at Tabernacle was fun-- the Baptists are big fans of preaching, and I felt under a lot of pressure. The preparation for this one was kind of amazing. It is interesting how the prep process for sermons is usually more of an experience for me than the actual preaching. So many interesting things happened to me that week. I'll write more, later. Meanwhile, thanks to the kind and generous folks of Tabernacle their warmth and for listening.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Church Monuments

If you have never read any George Herbert, I commend him to you today. (Especially you Anglican types out there). I am a big fan of poetry. Lately I have been looking at George Herbert and some Billy Collins as well. (Not that they belong in the same breath... but I think Billy Collins has produced some beautiful poetry lately).

George Herbert was an Anglican Priest, and he took up holy orders late in life (kind of like me). He left a rock star life as a scholar and politician to become a parish priest in a small town near Salisbury, England. He was known as a kind and compassionate pastor providing comfort for the sick, food for the hungry and a love for the sacraments. I think he ought to be the patron saint of second career clergy.

A couple of spots in this poem that are worth noting:

I like this line:
"That flesh is but the glass which holds the dust
That measures all our time; which also shall
Be crumbled into dust."

I like how he juxtaposes the image of an hourglass on to the image of human flesh being "glass which holds the dust..." I can picture him going to his old Parish church and praying by himself in a pew, looking around at all the dust covering the ancient structure.

I also enjoy how he captures the moment of being still- doing what the Buddhists call "stopping." He seems to be "stopped" thoroughly in the moment of prayer, taking in what surrounds him in the moment.


Church Monuments- George Herbert

While that my soul repairs to her devotion,
Here I intomb my flesh, that it betimes
May take acquaintance of this heap of dust;
To which the blast of death's incessant motion,
Fed with the exhalation of our crimes,
Drives all at last. Therefore I gladly trust

My body to this school, that it may learn
To spell his elements, and find his birth
Written in dusty heraldry and lines;
Which dissolution sure doth best discern,
Comparing dust with dust, and earth with earth.
These laugh at jet and marble put for signs,

To sever the good fellowship of dust,
And spoil the meeting. What shall point out them,
When they shall bow, and kneel, and fall down flat
To kiss those heaps, which now they have in trust?
Dear flesh, while I do pray, learn here thy stem
And true descent, that when thou shalt grow fat

And wanton in thy cravings, thou mayst know
That flesh is but the glass which holds the dust
That measures all our time; which also shall
Be crumbled into dust. Mark, here below
How tame these ashes are, how free from lust,
That thou mayst fit thyself against thy fall.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On My Way

I have a song stuck in my head. This happens to me on many a day, because I think in song lyrics. Perhaps I inherited this habit from my Mom, who, at the drop of a hat, would take any opportunity to sing song lyrics that she was reminded of in the moment.
Someone would say, "I saw her face..."
And Mom would sing, "The first time... ever I saw your face..."
Or you might say, "It's a beautiful morning..."
And then she would sing, "Its a beautiful morning..."
You get the idea.

Today I have a Simon and Garfunkel song stuck in my head. Luckily, it is one of the happy ones. I keep hearing, "I'm on my way.... don't know where I'm going... I'm on way...Taking my time but I don't know where..."

Strange. At the same time, though, not so strange. Here I am, on the cusp of finishing 3 years of intense study, discernment and work as a seminarian, and I feel as if I am scratching the surface of what I need to know to work as a member of the Episcopal clergy. I am no expert or master of the divine. (I find that degree ironic in its implications. As if anyone could master divinity-- or would want to, for that matter). However, I am on my way. Being on my way feels good, too.

More than anything, I am struck how public ministry is a collaboration with God. The more I "work" to be "good" at this stuff relying simply on my own hutspah and drive, the more frustrated I get. The more I worry about the next job interview, the next day, or the next sermon I preach, the less I progress. However, the more I engage God with prayer, silence, remembering to breath in and out, praying centering prayer, and simply saying, at times, "your will be done..." (whatever that means), the more I seem to move along.

Am I worried about finding a job? Yes, I am. Do I want you to hire me as your priest? Definitely, I do. Do I need some source of income and a place to exercise my public, ordained ministry? I do indeed. However, the more I remember to continue "scratching the surface" in a life of collaboration with God, the further along I move "on my way."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tim LaHaye- Fish in a Barrel

OK, I hate to pick on Tim LaHaye. He's living proof of the old axiom "If he's so dumb, how come he's so rich?" Yes, his series Left Behind has been an international phenomena.Yes, he's got more money than most of us right now... Yes, he got Kirk Cameron to come out of retirement. Yes, he has really wicked looking plastic surgery. Yes, I have spent hours of my life watching him on TV.

However, this stuff he purports as "biblically-based" is a bunch of, well, sensationalistic, isogetical, poop, and he's pumped lots of money out of people's fears. He's turned God and a beautiful book of poetry (Revelation) and made it an entertainment franchise. He seems awfully sure about what's going to happen (and has the color flowcharts to prove it!)

This probably is too easy-- like shooting fish in a barrel, but what the hey--

He wins "Religious Nutjob site of the Day." I must honor his nuttiness. It is epic.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Religious Nutjob Site of the Day-- February 5, 2009

Left Behind Dog Tags!

If you get raptured, how are you going to let people know that you were taken (and they were left behind?)

These folks have a great solution to this problem-- Were U Left Dog Tags.

The site reads:

If you have been directed here by a set of dog tags you found, one of two things is true.

Either the person to whom the dog tags belonged lost them or the person to whom the dog tags belonged has been raptured (caught away) by Christ, with His church. If there are many folks missing then the latter is most likely true and you, like the dog tags, have been left behind. This site is intended, in either case, to offer you hope and to give information on what you might expect next.

This is really creative Evangelism! Let's say you're hanging out with your buddy, you "turn around, he's gone" just like the song says, and you find these dogtags. You can come here and it will give you instructions on what to do next.

Kind of like medicalert bracelets for the saved.

Monday, February 02, 2009

New Feature

I am starting a new feature that will somehow fill the void that not having a TV has left me (especially late at night when I used to watch religious programming).

It is called "Religious Nutjob Site of the Day"

We begin with a dandy-- Rapture Ready.

A full-service, pre-tribulation website! You can leave left behind letters to your unsaved loved ones. (I wonder if I have any. I know they probably take a dim view of us Whiskeypalians).

It also has a top ten feature listing the ten most alarming modern events that are pointing to the rapture!

You can get entertaining wallpaper for your computer or look at their 10 most likely candidates for the antichrist. (Hey, President Obama looks really good in Renaissance versions of Middle Eastern clothing! I'd bet Jesus actually looked more like him than he does the white dudes with beards we see in Sunday School rooms!)

This site is fantastic. Read it and get ready.

(I just hope that I'm not driving my heathen 14 year old around when it comes or cooking eggs!! Oh Lawd!!!!)