Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Loving, Growing, Healing, Rejoicing in Rebirth

In the name of Jesus; amen.

“Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”

When I was in high school I had two friends Abigail and Katie. Whenever one of us had a birthday we would get all dressed up and go out to lunch at a fancy restaurant. On what must have been my 16th or 17th birthday we went to a restaurant in Center City Philly. I remember it being a great lunch and after eating we walked toward Broad Street. Now Broad Street in Philly is one of the longest streets in the Northeast and it goes from top to the bottom of the City.

There was a lot of construction where we were headed and a great amount of the side walk was torn up and marked off with yellow tape. We were less than 10 feet away from the corner when we noticed three people walking along Broad arm in arm. The person in the middle was using a cane and tapping it back and forth and they were going full steam ahead.

Suddenly we realized, all at the same time, that they were headed right toward a hole about six feet wide and six or seven feet deep. In horror we realized that we were too far away and that they were going too fast for us to be able to warn them in time.

It was like a scene from a cartoon. All three of them took a step into the hole, hovered, and dropped straight down. We rushed to them, but so had several other people, including some burly men, who were more capable of helping than three teenaged girls. As we walked by we saw one of people in the hole turn towards the man who had been carrying the cane and say, “That’s the last time we let you lead.”

The blind, leading the blind.

I suppose it shouldn’t be a funny story; none of them were seriously hurt, just very startled by discovering that the ground was no longer underneath them.

It happened to me last week, when I fell down those side steps into this room. I was certain that I had reached the bottom, only to discover that there was one more step that I hadn’t noticed and boom there I went right on my butt.

The Pharisees were upset with Jesus again. This time for telling the people that it didn’t matter if you ate unclean food or washed your hands. There were very specific laws about what made a person clean or unclean and lots of rituals that went with those laws. The Pharisees were guardians of those laws and rituals. It was their job to care for the ritual purity of God’s people and it must have seemed to them that Jesus was trying to make their work obsolete.

Now, it’s easy to cast the Pharisees as the bad guys in this gospel. Jesus calls them blind guides leading people into a pit, full steam ahead. But I want us to be careful not to cast blame on others where we might need to take responsibility.

In the last two weeks I have put some pretty serious recommendations in front of you all. Two weeks ago I said we should take it upon ourselves to feed all the hungry of the world. And then last week I suggested that we take a leap of faith and stand up to injustice around the world.

So, this week I’m going to make it easy on you. All I will ask is that you look. That’s it. I just want us to open our eyes and see where we are going.

Simple enough? And to make it even easier I want to remind you that we actually have something called a “Vision Statement” here at Salem. It was part of the paperwork that I received while I was interviewing to come here and I thought it was so good that I have actually been using it quite often.

Here it is, in five simple words and one preposition:

“Loving, Growing, Healing, Rejoicing in Rebirth.”

Jesus says that it isn’t what we put in ourselves that defiles us, but what comes out of us that defiles. So here it is: what do we want to come out of us?

We have a vision, we know what we want to see, and it’s good stuff, I put it on my business card I like it so much. But we need to be purposeful in what we do to actually see that vision.

Love, growth, health, joy, and rebirth will not come to us if we keep our eyes closed. We need to look and see those around us and begin to question what good we can do. Not for salvation, not to avoid pitfalls, but to do the work that God has entrusted to us.

So I have homework for you this week. I know it’s the summertime and school is out, but I’m going to ask that you take notice of life around you. Read the paper, surf the internet, watch the news, have coffee with a friend, talk to your neighbor, spend time with your children, ask questions, be curious about others, take time and focus on others outside of yourself. And do it all without judging, just see what you see.

There won’t be a quiz next Sunday I promise. Next week Peter tells Jesus that he believes that Jesus is the Messiah and all I will do is ask you to believe it too. All I want you to do is take a look, make it a discipline this week to see as much as your eyes can take in and then think about what you have seen keeping in mind the vision statement of this congregation.

Here it is again: Loving, Growing, Healing, Rejoicing in Rebirth. Five words and a preposition and I’ve even written it down for you to remember.

Let’s open our eyes and with God’s help we’ll see what then comes from our hearts.


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Becky Ardell Downs said...

I just read your sermon and really appreciated it-- good words, good message, great assignments. Are you going to do anything to follow up on your assignments to people?
Thanks again--

"and vivian followed."

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