"Why Our Senses Blind Us"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - 7/6/1997

2 Corinthians 12:6-10; Mark 6:1-6

     Our Gospel lesson this morning gives us a classic example of how easily the very senses we trust implicitly can betray us. Rather than being able to see a loving person bringing something beautiful into their lives, many of the home town listeners of Jesus drew suspicious conclusions from what they were seeing and hearing.

     Listen again to their questions, "Where did he get all this? What wisdom is this that has been given to him? How does he perform miracles? Isn't he the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren't his sisters still living here?" The author of Mark knew exactly what these questions meant because he concluded with these words, "And so they rejected him." Isn't it interesting how their senses blinded them. We would be mistaken if we felt that such blindness has escaped us.

     Every day we need to wash out our eyes and ears with the understanding that God's presence is constant. Just remembering this one truth could transform all that we experience. Yet, one of the first things we do every morning is turn on the radio where we hear news like eight people being killed on I-95, how three teenagers were injured in a crash in Gaithersburg, and how five others were killed in California on Highway 1. We hear about the latest global disasters and horror stories in our neighborhoods believing that we have just been briefed about events in our world. Until something comes along to disturb that pattern, such a litany of news events will provide our frame of reference as we begin each new day.

     We have just celebrated Independence Day. Some years ago Lois and I would leave our home and walk down to the Mall to watch how our nation celebrates its birthday or how it memorializes those who have died for freedom on Memorial Day. Our senses were pulled in different directions as they are today, but something we heard in the music or in some dramatic readings always had a way of bringing tears to our eyes. All it takes is a little reminder, to bring us back to the realization of how truly blessed we are to be living in this country.

     It isn't that our news is inaccurate, the problem with it is that it never gives us the entire picture. How easily the news can make us think our country is filled with callous people, that no one cares anymore about anyone else and that the spirit of love is vanishing from our experience.

     Yesterday, my father-in-law took me for a ride in his classic 1956 Thunderbird. On one of the small country roads in Lancaster, the car stalled and wouldn't start. A stranger stopped and offered to take him home while I waited with the car. In the span of a half hour, a young woman stopped, an older woman stopped, two families stopped and finally a mechanic stopped. Six people who said, "Do you need some help? Is there anything I can do to help you?" That is the America most of us know. And we need to be reminded of that from time to time.

     When we allow ourselves to dwell on what is fed to us, is it any wonder why people can stumble over truth and never realize it is there? For the local people of Nazareth, it was inconceivable that one of their own had something of value to say about God. The issue wasn't that they did not listen; Mark tells us that they rejected him. The author did not say, "Jesus challenged them and made them think about their lives," but rather he said, "They rejected him." Why?

     Our lesson tells us why. The text says that Jesus was not able to perform any miracles there because the people did not have faith. The word for faith in this context means awareness. What are we going to see and what are we going to hear if our awareness is filled with only what is familiar?

     What happens to people if they are not making a space in their thinking for the possibility that every moment God is at work in their lives? The answer is that they won't experience God. When we do not hold onto that possibility, all we see are the things we have seen all our lives. At the very least, attending church helps to give us the remembrance that God is constantly attempting to offer us the means for achieving life in abundance. Let me give you an example.

     When we see something that upsets us, think of what our responses might be if we could remember that just possibly God is offering us the opportunity to increase our ability to forgive. Just possibly God is offering us the opportunity to increase our flexibility or to increase our ability to stretch our thinking, or to smooth out some of the sharp edges in our personality. If we do not process our experiences with this awareness, our response will be to reject them and respond with anger. Why? Our senses blind us.

     Some people never see many birds. They are not looking for them. Some see them and have no idea what kind they are. Yet, there are people who sit on their decks and watch the woodpeckers, the finches, the humming birds, and yes, even Bowie's crows. Even though the birds are there for all of us to see, only those who bring an awareness of their presence will really see them. Is this not the same with being aware of God's active presence in our lives? When that awareness is missing, few miracles can be experienced in our midst.

     Those who knew Jesus only as a native son of Nazareth, never really knew him to be anything else. Their senses would not allow them to see beyond the form in which truth had been packaged. Perhaps that is why Jesus invites all of us to come to his table. He never wanted us to forget God's activity in our lives. "Do this in remembrance of me," he said. If we could remember God's presence every moment we live, our senses would not so easily blind us.