Open my Eyes, Lord
February 18, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from February 17, 2016

Mid-week Lenten Series - "Open My Life, Lord"

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior who is Jesus the Christ.

When I was on internship in Alabama I was able to go to the Southeastern Synod’s Assembly in Chattanooga that year. It was about 2.5 hours from where we were living at the time and it began on a Sunday afternoon. After worship that day, I said my goodbyes to Erin and drove through the mountains to get to Tennessee. I didn’t stop and made really good time. Needless to say – I was starving when I got there. I stopped at a Jimmy John’s restaurant and began devouring my sandwich as I looked out at the park just beyond the restaurant’s windows.

That park was full of people – full. But, I noticed that there was something ‘off’ with those gathered there. They weren’t lounging or relaxing. Instead, they were a bit ‘dirty’ if you want to call it that and there were a lot of shopping carts filled with items in them. It dawned on me that they were homeless. They gathered and lived there. And here I was eating my sandwich and staring right at them. I remember saying a brief prayer for them, but thinking to myself ‘I’m really busy, I wish there was something I could do, but there really are too many of them and it would be unfair for me to only help one or so…’ So, I prayed, finished my sandwich, and headed to the assembly hall.

I never saw them again. I never noticed them again.

It wasn’t because I was in the assembly hall the whole time. In fact, I was probably more active around that city than anyone else since I was the ‘bishop’s minion’ during that time. Running errands, fetching coffee, having conversations with him as he walked to the restroom so others wouldn’t disturb and stop him as he was on a strict time schedule, running in the morning and during break times around the city, going out with friends and colleagues at night during free time. Yet, I never noticed those in the park again.

It wasn’t because they weren’t there anymore. They still were. It wasn’t because they had ‘cleaned up’ and didn’t stand out as before. They still did.

No – for me – they faded into the background of the city because I was too busy to notice or care enough. I was having fun at the assembly and I was blinded by my own selfishness to notice those in need around me. Again, I’m not sure there was anything that I could do – but we did have over 400 people gathered there that week – faithful and faith-filled – individuals. I’m sure there was something we could do – anything to help them in their time of need.

But, no. I was blinded. We were without sight.

I thought about that experience as I read these scripture readings and thought about our theme for this even – Lord, Open My Eyes.

I thought and I wondered what we have difficulty seeing within our community. Difficulty seeing because we don’t care to look? Are we too proud to notice? Are we too naïve to think about? Are we, too busy to take the time? We come up with so many excuses as to why we can’t open our eyes to see the needs of those around us. We find ways to keep ourselves from noticing and taking action.

And then – when there are those opportunities where our eyes cannot help, but notice the need, the hurt, the crying around us – it hurts us. It hurts us because we become angry that someone is shifting our worldview in a way that challenges how we normally see the world. It hurts us to know that there are those in the world – in our country – in our community – who are in such need and we’ve fallen from God’s call to help them in their time of need…

And then, we hear this story from Acts about Paul and we are challenged further. For Paul saw plenty of people. He saw those who were ‘bad,’ who were ‘wrong,’ who were ‘better off dead’ than living. Paul was zealous in his persecution of those who were different from him. I hear this story and cannot help but, notice that there are many within our world who hold the same ‘fanatical’ views that Paul once did as he persecuted those who followed Christ. How our own country and history are full of those zealous to ‘deal’ with those who were different than the majority.

We have all fallen into that same way of life that Paul once did. Thankfully – from what I know – no one has gone to the lengths that Saul did before his conversion. I don’t know of anyone standing by as people in the community were stoned to death recently here in Newberry.

So, we come this evening and we ask the Lord to open our lives. In this beginning we ask the Lord to help open our eyes. To open our eyes to see the world as Christ sees. To see the hurt and the need. To see the opportunity to be in service to those around us. To see that those before us are fellow sisters and brothers. To see that all of creation is a blessing and a beautiful creature of God; plants, animals, our neighbors.

Our perspective changes. Our worldview shifts when we begin to see the world through the eyes of Christ. And that shift of perspective is scary. It opens us up to new ways of approaching life and neighbor. It opens us up to be in deeper relationship with those around us – real relationship. A relationship of hospitality and love. A relationship of true and full community.

A worldview that says no to the loud voices around us that asks/demands/expects us to view others as dangerous, as unworthy, as wrong, as not whole. We re-turn to the one who sees us for who we are; beautiful creations. We re-turn to the one who calls for us to see as the Lord sees; to care for all those we see because God ‘sees’ them too; just as God sees each and every one of us.

We come this evening, acknowledging that we all have not been able to see – to see the hurt and need; to see the beauty of the Lord in the faces and lives of those around us. We come this evening asking, “Open my eyes, O Lord… open my eyes…” Amen…

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