Posts Tagged ‘vision’

Do You Have Eyes?

 “Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:18,21

In this story, the disciples complain because they failed to bring enough bread with them. Jesus says, “Do you still not perceive or understand?” Although they have eyes and ears, they can neither see nor hear the reality he models for them. This deeper seeing looks beyond what is visible in any situation to the God-given power and creative possibility inherent in any given moment. He reminds them of the feeding of the 5,000 and the amount of food left over after feeding so many with so little. He says, “Do you not yet understand?” In essence, he says we should not trouble ourselves with issues that are so easily and reliably taken care of by God. With time and experience around Jesus, we should know better than to worry over such things as what we are to eat and what we are to wear.

Jesus uses blindness as a way to describe ignorance. In spite of accompanying Jesus on his daily travels, in spite of hearing his teachings and witnessing the miracles he works, the disciples still do not understand. They cannot wrap their heads around the reality Jesus lives for them, which is the uniting of matter and spirit. Because we are physically blind to the spirit, we naturally assume spirit and matter are separate. They are not. The disciples think Jesus’ work is like a magic show, that there must be some sort of obscure trickery involved. It is too much to believe that he is manifesting the power and presence of God before their eyes. They believe God’s personal presence is only for those specially chosen by God. They cannot believe that degree of love would ever be lavished upon common folk as unworthy as they. They cannot accept the incomprehensible and too-good-to-be-true truth emanating from Jesus. They are blind to the manifestation of unconditional love in their midst; and so are we.

Obviously, our eyes are not the problem. Most of us can see just fine, physically. Our blindness is in our inability to comprehend the depth of what we experience. We grab too quickly for and hold too tightly to limited understandings of a truth that is ungraspable. In the process, we settle for partial truths and misunderstand our lives according to them. In our obsession to feel in control of truth, we hold onto those partial truths long after they have proven themselves inadequate. They are simply stepping-stones on an endless journey that we mistake for the destination. Even as adults, we too often retain narcissistic, immature understandings, believing everything is for and about us. While it is true that everything is about us, it is not about us as individuals, but about us as a collective, as the entirety of creation, as the Body of Christ.

We find ignorance on display throughout the Bible. Thankfully, God responds differently to ignorance than we typically respond. For example, even while Jesus endured the agony of the cross, he had compassion for his executioners: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). God responds to our ignorance with compassion, not condemnation, inviting us into a deeper understanding that we are a work in progress. Parents know this type of love from the dumb things their young children often do. We find our kids endearing, innocent, and precious, and we respond with love and patience. At some point, however, we can no longer use a childish lack of understanding as an excuse. We can learn to open our spiritual eyes and experience the spiritual world embedded within the physical. Everything that lives and moves and has being has a physical presence that is animated and permeated by Spirit. Furthermore, the Spirit that is in the rock, in the sunrise, and in my neighbor, is the same Spirit that is in me. We are quite literally One in that Spirit. We are not the same, but we are inseparably interconnected. We will know our relatedness to all that is when we have eyes that truly see.

This, then, is the vision to which Christ calls us. We love ourselves by loving others. Why? Because we cannot be well when those around us are suffering.  Jesus’ words remind us: “Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear? Do you not yet understand?” Like the disciples, we are a work in progress.

This is the 34th in the series of Life Notes entitled “What Did Jesus Say?”

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Life Notes—September 12, 2013 

  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

A decade ago we had an above ground swimming pool installed in our backyard.  I built a wooden deck around the pool and we had many years of summer fun with family and friends.  Youth group gatherings, family reunions, and other times of fellowship occurred in and around that pool.  However, our children grew and left for college.  In recent years there has been only one regular swimmer: me.  While I enjoyed the pool on hot days, it required regular allotments of time, energy, and money to maintain.  What was once a hub for fun and fellowship for many became an encumbrance on my life.  We decided to give the pool and deck away to another family to enjoy as their children grew.

Removing the pool and deck left a large open space in our yard.  I had grand visions of retaining walls, a fishpond, a waterfall, and a fire pit to fill the space.  My wife had a more practical vision of grass.  My vision, while potentially beautiful, would have required regular allotments of time and money to maintain.  My wife’s vision provided a simpler and less encumbering beauty.  For me, this experience illuminates the passage from Matthew, quoted above.  It is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  To be poor in spirit is not a highly valued characteristic today.  We equate being poor with lacking things of importance.  However, when we understand how some possessions come to possess us, being poor takes on a different character.  Does losing my pool make me poor?  It was a thing of value I no longer possess.  In truth, it was no longer blessing our family, and so it became a burden.  The net result of becoming poorer by giving away our pool was to become freer.  In my haste to fill the empty space in our yard, I nearly substituted one encumbrance for another.  At least in this case, simpler (or poorer) is better because it frees resources and energy for blessing others and myself in new ways.

I am amazed at the joyous, high-energy worship of some believers, particularly in third-world countries.  They praise with a freedom of spirit and emotion that seems out of proportion to their blessings. Yet, I wonder if their unfettered worship is the product of an unencumbered spirit.  Most of us are rich with stuff, not all of which actually blesses us.  Our possessions bind us in ways that leave that little energy for other purposes; like worship, thanksgiving and praise.  Perhaps our subdued worship is due to worshippers with heavily encumbered spirits.  Jesus says the poor in spirit will receive the kingdom of heaven.  There must be unseen riches in being poor.

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Strive to become poorer in spirit with us.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—August 29, 2013 

  “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” 

Proverbs 29:18 (King James 2000 Bible Translation)

Many organizations have a Vision Statement which answers the question, “What do we want to become?”  A good vision statement looks ahead and describes a desirable future.  It establishes an inspiring dream for people to rally around and work to achieve.  Vision statements guide the way forward, like a lamp on a dark path.  They help refocus efforts on what is important, especially when less-important issues distract us.  Many individuals develop a personal vision statement for the very same reasons.  A vision statement reminds us of who we are, whose we are, and what we hope to become.  In the woodlands of life, vision is about the forest so we do not get lost in the trees.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., established a dynamic vision for society with his “I Have a Dream” speech.  It reads in part:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’  I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream today.”

The dream of Dr. King was a vision of racial equality and social justice.  It was deeply inspiring at the time and remains so today, over fifty-years later.  It established a grand picture of the future, one we continue to work towards today.

In his essay, Foresight as the Central Ethic of Leadership, Daniel Kim writes, “…without vision, our people suffer death by a thousand paper cuts.”  He describes how those with no vision wander aimlessly to their graves, engaging in activities with no meaning.  He calls them our “walking dead.”  The writer of Proverbs tells us people perish without vision.  Unfortunately, the guiding vision for many is simply to get through the day.  We stumble through our weeks with an eye on the weekend.  Surely, we were not created in the image of God to succumb to such low expectations.

As Christians, we received a vision two thousand years ago from Jesus.  It is to love one another.  Like Dr. King’s Dream speech, the Bible lays out ambitious goals for which to strive.  Those ideals give meaning to our days.  As with all good visions, the Bible and the Dream speech lay an inspiring path before us to travel the rest of our days.  Those types of visions keep us focused on purposes larger than ourselves.

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Come dream with us.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator


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Life Notes—February 28, 2013 

“The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’”  Matthew 13:13

As my mother aged she developed a blind spot in her field of vision.  It wasn’t a particularly large spot, but if there was an object in that spot, she could not see it.  She learned to compensate for it, knowing it was there, by scanning her field of view more carefully and turning her head for a double-check.  It is amazing how something so obvious for some of us can be invisible to someone else.  And yet, science tells us the human eye can only actually see a small fraction of the light spectrum, so all of us are blind to more than we can possibly imagine—much of which is right before us!

Jesus commented frequently on our blindness.  He restored physical sight to many who were blind, but many of his comments, as above, had nothing to do with physical blindness.  Rather, Jesus was referring to a spiritual blindness, or blindness caused by focusing our ‘vision’ in the wrong direction.  Dan Simons and Chris Chabris did research that led to a YouTube hit called The Invisible Gorilla.  Google it, if you haven’t seen it.  Their research shows that we can be blinded to the obvious, when we are not looking for it or when our attention is focused elsewhere.

I believe the blindness Jesus refers to is a type of blindness that prevents us from seeing what was blatantly obvious to him.  There are a number of reasons for such blindness.  One is simply an inability to mentally comprehend what Jesus is saying.  For most of us, nuclear physics is such ‘hidden’ knowledge—we simply do not have the mental inclination to ‘see’ it, no matter how hard we look for it.  But I believe the kingdom of God Jesus tries to help us see is not that sort of inaccessible knowledge.  Rather, our blindness is caused by faulty seeking.  Some of us look outside on a cold winter day and see a desolate, lifeless, dreary and boring landscape.  Others look at the very same scene and see the stage being set for a breathtakingly beautiful spring and summer.  The difference is not in the reality of what is being seen, but in how one looks on the reality and what one is looking for.  When we believe God is at work in and on our world, we find hope for something awesome and beautiful, though unseen.  We can learn to focus our attention on the possible, seeing with the eyes of faith, and scanning our life-horizons for beauty that otherwise exists in our blind spots.

This Sunday is the second Sunday of Lent.  Tom is preaching downtown, where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch preaches at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. The sermon at both campuses is “Give Up the Enemies Within for Lent,” based on Luke 11:37-52.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Jesus can reveal the invisible gorilla before us.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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