Year B 4th Sunday after Epiphany WEDNESDAY, 3 February 2021
Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’
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. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’
We have three stories, pericopes is the fancy word for little Bible stories, that show what is all too often the case. In all three pericopes, those who are encountering Jesus are experiencing raving cases of Missing-the-Point-itis. They could not, for the life of them, see what was right in front of them.
In the first story, people are demanding a sign. They want the magic-on-demand. Jesus, when he does perform miracles, responds to the faith of those in his midst. His is not an act, but a response to faith. They missed the point, looking for something more. They missed the point with the Mind. And because they could not conceive it, they could not see it.
The disciples, they saw such mighty things. And Jesus makes a metaphor about the “yeast of the Pharisees.” They take it literally, or apply it to something altogether other. Though there, right in Jesus’ presence, they cannot see what is plainly before them. And Jesus let’s them know it. They missed the point with their hearts.
And then there are sometimes external factors. In the blind man healed, the first time around he says people look like trees.
(This one has always bothered me. If he was born blind, how would he know what trees look like? So probably, he was not born blind. My 2 cents.)
And when Jesus continues to work with him, the man “looks intently” and then he sees clearly. Of all the pericopes in today’s lesson, we finally get to someone who keeps at it and does not stop where they are stuck. He missed the point, but did not stay there. He would not settle for his delusions. Neither should we.
These days, when we live in a country where half of us believe the other half live in delusions, I pray for clarity. I pray for deliverance from delusions. I pray for all of us.
I had a preacher friend go on a rant about socialism and racism and insanity. I was ashast. He is my friend. He has helped me greatly in the past. I know he knows better than what he spouted.
But we get like those that want more, more, more, when right before us is exactly what we have already received. And that is right before us.
We may start majoring in the minors, like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or what blasphemes the Holy Spirit, or which Collect or Lectionary reading is most appropriate. So many ways can miss the point by zooming in, or having our hearts in someplace other than asking, “Lord, show me what you would have me see.”
And when we miss the point, and this is so hard, hear that from me, THIS IS SO HARD, we need to approach things with an air of humility that we could be wrong. When we are blind to what is real, when we ride our assumptions, when we barge ahead despite the evidence all around us, then we need to stop and go back to Jesus, and ask for deliverance. This is humiliating for many. Especially wise and learned folks. Especially for people who sees themselves as having arrived. Especially for people who believe themselves to be exceptional. Especially for people like me, and maybe you.
We all can be blind. We all need healing. In closing today, I am reminded of an old hymn that was a favorite of my childhood. Just the first verse this morning...
Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,