"Blindness Is Like Death"
Meditation Delivered By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - March 7, 2010
Isaiah 55:1-9; Luke 13:1-9
Even if the Stewardship Committee told me to use those words as a sermon title, I would rather use a more creative way to wordsmith the same concept. Quite obviously, in today’s lesson Jesus was not into wordsmithing. He was rather matter-of-fact that if people did not change how they thought, they would die just as did the Galileans that were killed by Pontius Pilate or when a tower collapsed killing eighteen others in a separate incident.
Prior to Jesus’ ministry, there was an incident that the Gospel lesson may be referencing. Pilate had to improve the water supply coming into Jerusalem. It was an absolute must! He proposed to build a large aqueduct system financed by a portion of the Temple’s treasury.
When Galileans learned of this robbery of God’s money, they were enraged. Among the Jews, the Galileans were the most emotionally volatile. A large hostile mob of protesters came to Jerusalem. Pilate instructed his soldiers to mingle among them disguised with cloaks over their battle dress. The men were equipped with clubs rather than swords.
At a given signal, they were to reveal their identity and disburse the crowd. When the signal was given, however, the soldiers attacked the mob with a violence that far exceeded their orders. Many Galileans were killed. This event caused a deep rift between Pilate and Herod.
There was another incident referenced in our lesson -- the death of eighteen men upon whom a tower fell in Siloam. It has been suggested that Jews were working on one of the towers that structurally supported Pilate’s hated aqueduct. They were sinners because they were being paid with God’s money that Pilate had taken from the Temple’s treasury.
Jesus was using these two illustrations that were still fresh in the minds of his listeners to instruct them that the deaths of these people were not caused by their sins. Yet, Jesus went on to teach them that they would die just as the others had if they did not change how they thought.
How can we reconcile the concept of people being killed in these two illustrations with listeners becoming just as dead if they did not repent, i.e., to change how they think? The answer to this question is as clear today as it was during Jesus’ day.
We have to remember that Jesus’ one mission was to speak about the truth to humanity. (John 18:37) He continued to teach that there were two realities present in our human experience: The first is represented by all the crosscurrents and conflicts generated by the material world. The second is represented by the attitudes of spirit created by our inner world. He taught, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else we desire will be supplied to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Constantly, the web of our world catches us in the sticky tendrils of its allure.
I had a meeting in Germantown this past Monday. It was a magnificent, sunny day. While listening to WTOP, I learned that there was a five car pile-up just above Connecticut Avenue, slowing the Beltway traffic all the way to College Park. There were crashes in Northern Virginia that had traffic snarled. There was a more complicated accident on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that completely shut down the south-bound lane. Could these accidents have been prevented?
What world do many drivers live in – the one that inspires them to put others on the road at risk because of their aggressive driving patterns, or the one that helps them to remember the importance of practicing courtesy, patience and tolerance for the drivers who feel compelled to rush every time they get behind the steering wheel?
The other day I stopped at the Giant Food store for four articles. As I approached the express line cashier, in front of me was a woman who had 30 plus articles in her grocery cart. When she left, the cashier apologized and told me that the woman had said, “The other lines are just too long.”
A friend of mine has a saying at the bottom of every e-mail he sends. It says, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” We are often awed by Jesus’ calmness of spirit when confronted by the authorities or by the immaturities expressed by his own disciples.
When we are grounded in this world by a spirit that wants to communicate a peaceful quality of being, we find ourselves more in control of our thoughts and feelings. We will no longer be controlled and manipulated by traffic patterns, rude people, spouses who live in another universe or by circumstances that are outside the realm of our control. Jesus chose to observe the spiritual immaturities of people – not judge them harshly -- as he attempted to guide them through his words, attitudes and behavior to change how they think.
What Jesus was teaching his listeners with his metaphor of death was that if people do not evolve in spirit while they are here, they will return from whence they came having learned very little. Every day we are challenged to decide -- do we want a life of peace and happiness or do we prefer to have our minds and emotions in constant turmoil because of our responses to a world we will never succeed in controlling? Sometimes we act as though we have no choice. We respond in a manner that we feel perfectly justified to do.
The truth is -- the only world we can control is the one that produces our attitudes and predisposition. We can either strengthen our spiritual musculature through the conflicts we encounter or cave into them by responding with attitudes that poison our lives and the lives of those around us.
This Lenten season, we need to reflect on which world we want to dominate our lives. Jesus showed us how we can live in both worlds productively when we learn to reframe every experience of our material world so that it becomes our own private, personal trainer that will teach us how to live in Jesus’ world, the world we enter when we follow him.
Loving and merciful God, we are always humbled at the thought that you are always with us. Even though our faith has matured, our experiences always remind us of the distance we have yet to grow. The pain from our unresolved conflicts teaches us of the beauty of letting go. Our lack of patience offers guidance toward achieving your gift of peacefulness. When we dwell on the faults of others, we realize how blind we are to knowing who they are. Our need to be right teaches us how deaf we have become to other points of view. Lead us to understand that our weaknesses can become teachable moments that reveal our undeveloped skills of spirit. As we learn this lesson, our failures become like rungs on a ladder. The more we learn, the more our infinite destiny unfolds around us. Inspire us to remember that we are students here who will always be loved by you just as we are. Amen.
O God, there is so much about life that we have come to celebrate this morning. We look eagerly for the winds of inspiration which give flight to our spirits, and for the stream of divine energy that will give more warmth, sparkle and enthusiasm to our spirits and personalities.
As we reflect on this past week, we can remember times when we quieted the moments of our displeasure and replaced them with patience. We can remember a moment when we listened to someone in pain, when we gave before being asked and when we replaced worry with trust that you are quite capable of managing the details of life for each of us.
We thank you for faith that enables us to take risks that allow us to broaden our horizons and that calls us away from places where we know we should not be. Help us to remember that in spite of how challenging life appears sometimes, we are never without choices of how best to interpret each uncertainty. Work with us, O God, so that the creature of promise that dwells within us might continue its infinite evolution.
As each of us feels loved and nurtured by you and by each other, help us never to tire of being the greatest sales force on the face of the earth for what a person becomes when a life has been imprinted by the teachings of Jesus. Bless us today as we continue our journey through Lent. We pray about these things through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .