In nomine Jesu!
I want to talk about vision today. Not what it is or what it should be, but how as Christians β as Lutheran Christians, we are able see it. I want to talk about lenses today; lenses that enable us to see and then live and move and act from faith.
Statistically, 75% of us wear corrective lenses, 64% of us have glasses and 11% of us, contacts. This means that most of us regularly have a lens-fitting experience. Given what's happened to my eyes, I probably have that experience more often than you. You sit on a stool or maybe a chair; a binocular-size instrument is lowered from an arm to rest on the bridge of your nose; and one lens after another is loaded into the mechanism, one eye at a time, with questions akin to this: "Better with A or B?" The process is repeated over and over again β for each eye and then for both eyes β with more lenses (in my cases, many more lenses) inserted until the clearest vision is achieved. We all know that process.
As Christians, you and I expect and believe we are expected to see everything in our life and in the world through the corrective lenses of the
Gospel. Our readings for the last three and for the next three Sundays provide us with a series of lenses and a procedure, much like the optometrist's procedure, for getting those lenses in place. On each of these Sundays, our second reading is from Paul's letter to the Galatians with the Gospel coming to us from the Gospel according to Saint Luke. On each of these Sundays, a lens is put into place. On each of these Sundays, the preacher asks: "Better A or B?"
Pastor Stahler started this process on the past two Sundays. On each of these Sunday's Paul's critics β to whom he responds in his letter to the Galatians, and Jesus' antagonists in each of Luke's stories, show themselves to be both myopic β near-sighted β and with absolutely no peripheral vision, and that is how they want everyone else to see. So Jared, with the technical assistance of Paul and Luke, dropped the first of several Gospel lens into place. Here's how he did it last Sunday:
Saint Luke's Gospel
is a sort of Midrash on the ever-expanding nature of faith,
ever-expanding nature of God's promise.
First to Israel.
And then to all the ends of the earth.
God's promise to those who expect it.
And those who don't.
So, better A β the critic/antagonist vision with a limited periphery and near-sighted view (which, by the way, is what many of us call "reality") or better B, an expansive far-sighted view, that has no limited periphery nor short-sighted view? B, Jared proclaimed to us, is Jesus' point of view and therefore God's point of view and therefore the Gospel point of view. So we must decide, in all that we look at, better A or better B?
Today, with the same technical assistants, I want to drop in another lens through which God invites us to view; better A or B? Let's call lens A the way things appear to be real. Simon the Pharisee sees everything through that lens and from that point of view.
Simon is a nice, upstanding, law abiding guy, a solid citizen with an open-minded point of view. He wants to see what Jesus is all about and so he invites Jesus to his home for dinner. Simon sees things with absolute clarity. Simon is host, Jesus is guest, and dinner will proceed from that
point of view which, in Simon's mind, is clearly God's point of view. Better A or...
Jesus sees everything, every situation and everyone through a different set of lenses and with a different point of view. So when Simon sees a woman, a sinner, an interloper crashing his dinner party; overturning his long-held assumptions; challenging his point of view and when Simon sees Jesus doing every possible thing that is contrary to Simon's point of view, he's inclined to assert his authority and throw the woman, and probably Jesus, out. Better A or...
Better B? The Jesus' lens, the Gospel point of view which I'm going to call, the "as if" point of view. There is Simon's house; Jesus first views everything and everyone through the first of the Gospel lens, the one with a wide periphery and a far-sighted view. There in Simon's house Jesus sees and acts as if his death and resurrection has already happened. So Jesus acts as if he is the host and he is in charge and as if his resurrection view is God's view, that what he sees is what God sees and Jesus acts accordingly. He accepts the woman, he loves the woman, he applauds her service and invites the woman and Simon
and his own disciples and us to do likewise. Jesus sees everything and acts as if death, powerlessness, paralysis and limited vision are all behind him. Simon's lens A is to see things as they "really" are and act accordingly; Jesus' lens B is to see things as God's means them to be and to act as if his resurrection has already happened; to act as if β as he will later proclaim, "the kingdom of God is among you." .
Better Simon's A or Jesus' B?
Resurrected, alive and present; not dead, buried and forgotten. Host, not guest. With authority, not under authority. Expansive, not limited; always with a far-sighted point of view. In Simon's house and in this house, through the woman's tears and those baptismal waters, at Simon's table and this table, that's what we see that Jesus sees; that's what we see that Jesus does; that's the lens through which we are invited to see; that's the way we are called to act. Better A or better B? That's the vision choice that is always before us.
I have to confess that when I go through this process, with my optometrist or with the Gospel, I often am unsure that I am seeing things clearly
and occasionally make the wrong choice. When it comes to my glasses and given their exorbitant cost, if I make the wrong choices I have to live with my mistake.
Not true with the Gospel, because the price for its lenses have already been paid β on the cross by Christ, once for all and always forever. We need not simply live with the consequences because the font with its assurance of life and forgiveness and the table with its nourishment and radical inclusion are β by God's great design β always available to us to give us new vision and to fortify us as we seek to act on that vision day by day. Better A or better B? That's our constant choice and decision. That's the clear vision God give us to see.
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
in the City of New York
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15; Psalm 32; Galatians 2:15-21; Saint Luke 7:36--8:3