June 7, 2020
THE GIFT OF SIGHT
June 7, 2020
THE GIFT OF SIGHT
Romans 8: 14-17
Matthew 28: 16-20
TEXT: "And remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
One of the things about God that should impress us most and bring us the greatest joy is the way in which God gives us signs of His presence, constantly. God gives signs of God’s nearness or of His intention to come to us. And if we follow these signs into God’s presence, we have the opportunity to enter into a deeper union with God: a union through which we receive "wholeness" or "fulfillment;" a union through which we receive a new desire and a new ability to love other people; a union through which we receive the strength and courage to make the difficult decisions in life. All this because of the sign of God’s presence. But this should not surprise us. It has been this way from the very beginning.
Do you remember the story of the "rainbow" in the Old Testament? The rainbow was a sign of God's presence for Noah, after the great flood. Throughout history it has reminded us of God's promise to him. Do you remember the "ladder" in Jacob's dream? Only a dream, after all, but for Jacob it was a sign of the relationship between earth and heaven, a sign of the way in which he could go into the presence of God. Do you remember the "burning bush" in the Book of Exodus? Moses, a fugitive from justice, wanted by the Egyptians for murder, experienced the presence of God in the sign of a burning bush-the fire symbolizing vitality and life and light and warmth. And out of it the voice of God giving Moses the Name to use in referring to Divinity: the great "I Am." With Ezekiel, it was a "valley of dry bones." Elijah expected a sign to come in a very dramatic way: an earthquake, a high wind, or a fire. But, as you remember, he finally experienced God's presence in a quiet, small voice. Sometimes the most decisive sign of all is a quiet, small voice within us.
It is not surprising, then, to find the story of Jesus in the New Testament beginning with a beautiful sign: the Christmas Star. Here was the sign of God's coming in a very special way. As Carl Sandburg says, "This is special starlight." You remember the experience of the "Wise Men" who followed the star to the town in which God was making Himself present to humanity through the Christ Child. We are wise not to miss the opportunity to practice signreading; to practice being aware of the presence of God in these signs. God does not withdraw from us. God penetrates our human situation. This is part of the meaning of Incarnation. And we see this in the signs God is continuously giving us. The tragedy is that we allow our passing preoccupations to blind us to the signs of lasting value that surround us. We need to develop an alertness, a sensitivity to the signs of God's presence.
Helen Keller, as you know, early in her life lost the ability to see, to hear or to speak. She was less than two years old when the fever came and left her in this disabled condition. And yet, through the help of Anne Sullivan, her teacher, and the Perkins Institute for the Blind (where she lived and studied for a time), she became one of the most sensitive, most alert, most aware persons in contemporary life. She was a very sensitive and a very beautiful Christian. This little girl who was blind and deaf developed into one of the most gracious, most cultured persons of our time. She is remembered as a political activist as one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union. As the years went by, she became especially concerned about the insensitivity and the blindness of her friends who had eyes to see. Because of her handicap, she learned to read with her fingers. She learned to sense the reality of life around her. On one occasion, she was walking in the woods with a friend. It was Springtime and Helen Keller was using her fingers constantly to read the signs of new life bursting out in that forest. She felt a slender birch tree and the vibrations of a bird singing in its limbs. She felt flowers and leaves beginning to sprout. She felt stones in a cool brook. And when she returned home, she had the memory of many things that she had "seen" on the walk, even though she was blind. She asked her friend (who had perfectly good eyes) what she had seen. The friend said, "Nothing in particular." Helen Keller was astounded: to walk through a woods in the Springtime and see "nothing in particular." She began to ask other people, and she discovered that there were persons all around her who had eyes to see but were more blind than she was with her sightless eyes. She was amazed to discover that few persons could really describe the face of a close friend. She discovered many husbands and wives who couldn't tell the color of one another's eyes, from memory. She said once, it would really be a blessing if everyone, early in adulthood, could be blind for a short period of time-because then they would learn to appreciate the gift of sight.
People at the Highway Departments in New England apparently realize what a problem this is. When you drive through the New England mountains, every now and then you will come to a breathtaking vista of beauty, complete with a highway department sign that says, "Scenic Area"-as if in recognition that people need to be informed, in writing, about the beauty that, literally, is surrounding them. This is an important observation for us, because we have this problem not only with our physical eyes but also with what we might call the eyes of Faith. The fact of the matter is that God is continually giving us signs of His presence. God is showing us in a hundred ways that He is present, that He loves us, that He wants us to move into union with Him, that this union with Him is the only thing that can give meaning to everything else in life. But we need to develop an alertness, a sensitivity to these signs as we move through our day's activities.
The Christian experience is built around Faith in God's abiding presence in Creation. It is built around accepting the love of God, in Faith, as a gift. It is built around accepting the fact that we are accepted by God, in Faith. But, the New Testament makes it clear that this Faith is expressed through obedience. We show our sincerity, we show the depth and the reality of our Faith through obedience. We can learn great lessons from the Biblical Stories of the men and women of God who were alert and sensitive to the signs of His presence and followed those signs, obediently. Our problem is that after seeing the signs we hesitate to follow. We give up the journey because it is clear that we are going to have to change, or to sacrifice something.
In all the expectancy of this season, in the lengthening of the days, in all the blossoming and the greening, the vacations to come, in the roaring seasides and on the still lakes, in the enrichment of old relationships and in the delights of new relationships, we can read these signs. And, in obedience to God's Will, we can follow them.
There are lovely people all around you crying out for a deeper meaning and social justice in their lives. And when you respond to them in a way that is sensitive to their needs, they will be seeing signs of God's presence in you! You will be the sign of the Blessed Trinity: sign of the gracious Father, in love with His creation; sign of the obedient Son, bringing new life into the Father's creation; sign of the Holy Spirit, the very breath of the Father's love, which Jesus has breathed into our very souls. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit-Amen!