Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The One Who Bears our Sorrows and Scars



Easter 3 + C + 2016               The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell
10h April                        St Barthomew's Church, Burroughs, GA

On a particular day, the students came walking into Dr. Smith=s seminary class. On the wall was a huge target and on a nearby table many darts.  Dr. Smith said they were going to do a practical exercise for the spiritual life.   Dr. Smith told them to draw a picture off someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, and he would allow them to throw darts at the person=s picture.  One woman drew a picture of another young woman who had stolen her boyfriend. Another one drew a picture of his little brother. Another person drew a picture of a former friend, putting a great deal of detain into the drawing, even drawing pimples on the face!  

The class lined up and began to throw the darts. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart.  As the artist of the picture with the pimples looked forward to his turn, he was suddenly filled with disappointment. The students were told to return to their seats because of time limits.   He felt great anger because of this. He had not gotten to throw his darts! He looked up as Dr. Smith began to remove the targets pictures from the wall.  Underneath each target was a picture of Jesus. The pictures of Jesus were mangled.  Holes and jagged marks covered his face and even his loving eyes were pierced.  Dr. Smith only opened his Bible and read from Matthew 25: Ain as much as you have done ti unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.@

And as Saul saw a great light on the road to Damascus, he heard a  voice saying ASaul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?@  And Saul replied, Awho are you, Lord?@  And he said, AI am Jesus whom you are persecuting....@

The second statement in the opening collect asks God this one thing: Aopen the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work;....@What does this mean, Aopen the eyes of our faith?@  I thought you had to be able to see in order to have faith to begin with !  I mean, isn't the object of Afaith@ something that is apparent to all?  Apparently not, at least according to the Bible. In the first reading the Apostle has his eyes opened to see not the one in whom he believed but the one whom he was trying to destroy !  How=s that for a faith experience!  It is indeed from this very incident that the phrase Aa Damascus road experience@ comes down to us in the vernacular of our day.   Jesus is known in the blinding on the way. More about this momentarily.The gospel reading has Jesus known again in a way we saw earlier this year in another incident.  Peter is once again not having a very successful experience fishing.  Indeed it is curious that he is back fishing for fish at all! Yet swimming in doubt, disillusionment and guilt, there the disciples sat. The light had gone out of them in their grief..But we just read in the Psalm: Weeping may spend the night, *but joy comes in the morning . (Ps 30)  They see a man on the beach. He instructs them to put the net down on the other side of the boat.  ( I notice that Peter didn't=t even argue this time.) And as they obeyed,   Jesus is made known to them in the catching of the fish. 

There is a lesson here for each of us today.  It is about Jesus alive and active in our lives each day, but it is about that Jesus hidden under the forms of those persons or circumstances in whom we do not expect him.    It is about finding Jesus in those whom we hate and we assume that God hates.  It is about seeing our own blindness to God=s eyes of faith.We read in our own Catechism: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?"  How quickly say: I will with God's help!  (BCP 1079, p. 305)It is about finding Jesus Christ even in the events that seem to blind us but lead us to greater sight than we had before. Everything God does is out of the abundance of His love. The apostle John wrote: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  I Jn 4:10  Peter later wrote: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  (I Peter 5:7)

Jesus is hidden from his disciples until he chooses to be revealed.  Where we see the works of JesusBhis healing handBhis mercyBhis unconditional love...there we will find him. But do we want to find him?  Do we want to experience Jesus Christ in our day to day journey?  And if not, why not?This ongoing discovery of Jesus in our neighbor,  Jesus in our spouse,  Jesus in our employer,  Jesus in ourselves is the purpose of the Christian journey.As I have related to many people over the years,: the only way we can show God that we love him is by the way we treat our neighbor.  We like to isolate the two.  We love God in the privacy of our pew, bedroom or in nature. But the real worship takes place after the pew.  The pew is only the preparation.  The worship is in the seeing of Jesus in least of these whom he has made. Again, what says the Baptismal Covenant?  AWill you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?@ This will change the lives of others. I would like to add this:  this is even true in our worship in church.  Too often someone will say "how was it" like a play or movie.  The question we should ask of ourselves is how did I do in worshipping Him?It has been said that next to the evidence for Jesus= resurrection, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus has convinced more skeptics of the truth of the Christian faith, than anything else. 

He was a person of no small significance.  That a man like him who had once vigorously persecuted the church, would himself be converted and then be persecuted himself is nothing short of amazing. But it didn=t stop there.  Saul, who was renamed APaul@, became the primary author of the Newer Testament record and that was primarily written from prison!  Rather than saying Awhy Jesus am I in prison@ he found Jesus in the prison and wrote God=s love letters to the world. God was in the confinement so that we might have the book we use to this day!

This is the way of faith.  It is often been said seeing is believing, however in the realm of God for we human beings, SEEING IS BELIEVING. In my college years a contemporary Christian song came out entitled: Through His Eyes of Love. The chorus was through His eyes of love, see yourself the way He does, you're perfect through His eyes of love.  Once we have learned to see ourselves in our weakness, faultiness, brokenness and our daily sin, then when we see what great mercy God has extended to us, we may begin to look at others with Jesus' eyes of love.

Jesus saw Paul who affirmed and presided over the killing of Christians and said: I have chosen you! John Newton, the dishonest ship captain, who traded in human flesh for a living would find Jesus and write: AI once was lost, but now I=m found; was blind but now I see.@ What are the eyes of faith?  They are the ones that see Jesus because they know how desperately they need him!  Been there?  I certainly have.

In our hymnal there is a hymn: Come Ye Sinners.  I'd like to recite some of the lyrics. Come ye sinners, poor and needy, Weak and wounded, sick and sore;  Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love, and pow'r and verse three: Come ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall; If you tarry till you're better, You will never come at all.
 

How we limit God's grace and love with our human reasoning.  Until we see ourselves as the least of one of these, we simply will not GET IT!

These are scriptures that illustrate grace: the heart of God. God's eyes are the eyes that look with compassion and pity on those who would hurt us the most who we find it the hardest to love..  Theses are the eyes of the heart and not of the scientific method. They are the eyes that know that he is there and ask for the grace be able to see him.  They are His eyes of love.

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