Sermon for April 26, 2020 -- "Seeing Our Blindspots"

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Pastor Bill Dow

 

 

 

GOSPEL READING Luke 24:13-35

 

On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him.

 

He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.

 

The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”

 

He said to them, “What things?”

 

They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”

 

Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.

 

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”

 

They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.

 

 

“Seeing Our Blind Spots”

 

My day usually begins by making a pot of coffee and while the coffee maker is chugging along, I do a Sudoku puzzle, that’s the puzzle where you have nine horizontal rows and nine vertical rows arranged in a grid that contains nine cubes with nine squares each. In a finished puzzle, the numbers 1 – 9 are contained in each vertical and horizontal row and each of the nine cubes only once. No math skills are required. It’s a matter of logic.

The easy puzzles have many of the numbers already there and it becomes a matter of just filling in the blanks. The harder puzzles have fewer numbers to start and those numbers are arranged in ways that suggest many options with only one solution. 

A beginner usually uses a pencil. When I first started I also bought extra soft erasure sticks that wouldn’t tear the newsprint. Today, I’m one of those snobs that do the puzzles in ink. When I crash, it’s messy. 

The puzzles are ranked according their difficulty. A one to three star puzzle should be completed before the coffee maker has finished making the pot. Four and five star puzzles take longer. There are puzzles that I have worked for days. I sometimes get frustrated and change back to a pencil. I know where the soft stick erasure is, too. 

When you see one of my puzzles that includes pencil entries, I’ve made an intuitive move, which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve made a guess. Under my breath I say that well used phrase, “Well, I’d rather be lucky, than good.”

Sudoku has taught me that I have blind spots. There are times when the answer is right in front of me, but I can’t see it, because I’m used to seeing the numbers in a certain way. The master puzzle makers know my blind spots and I can hear them chortling away as I struggle to see the puzzle from a different perspective.

As Cleopas and the unnamed disciple discuss the events of the past few days, they are joined by Jesus but kept from seeing who he is. We’re not sure why, but it brings to mind the images we see today of people walking while looking at their phones, engaged in something, but disengaged with their surroundings. Maybe Luke is suggesting we pay closer attention to our surroundings and less to the things we think we know. 

Jesus invites himself into the conversation and when he asks about what things have taken place in Jerusalem he’s treated by the disciples as someone who must be dim. Luke might also be suggesting that we should be careful about evaluating those around us. Our blind spots have a way of inflating the understanding of our importance and intelligence. 

That message is reinforced when Jesus says, “You foolish people!” 

This past week included a new wave of protests by those demanding an end to stay at home orders issued by state governors. It’s as though doctors, scientists, nurses, and statisticians have suddenly gone dim. What has happened? You foolish people!

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus reiterates what he has taught, what God has revealed through the prophets, and that suffering is part of the journey that leads to glory.

That was a tough message then, just as it is now. Someone else’s suffering is easier to reconcile. Personal suffering is another matter.

Christ is revealed through the blessing and breaking of bread.

There is a viral photo of a nurse wearing a mask with her arms folded in front of her, silently counter protesting a group in Arizona who is demanding that home restrictions be lifted, and businesses opened. There is a man standing directly in front of her waving an American flag. The picture suggests that he’s attempting to get her to flinch, and she’s NOT budging. 

This picture encapsulates the current condition of political divide in our nation. The nurse stated that she was not prepared for the anger. She was not prepared for the insults or the accusations that she was an actor or a political shill. It seems we no longer trust each other.

 

Christ is revealed through the blessing and breaking of bread.

Jesus rekindles the flame of the gospel and even though the safe hours of travel are long past, the disciples get up and return to Jerusalem to witness to what they have seen and experienced.

Christ is revealed through the blessing and breaking of bread.

On Maundy Thursday, Ruby and I received Holy Communion via Zoom. I found it to be very meaningful and much needed. A month ago (can it only be a month ago?) I though zoom was the sound of a low flying airplane. 

We are on a journey. No one is sure where we are going. It’s a matter of faith…and trust.

I’m thankful for a powerful tool like Zoom and it wouldn’t surprise me if more products show up on the market that give us even more opportunities to be together when we are apart.

The day will come when we will meet again, face-to-face, in the space designated for worship. We will sing together and lift praise to the Lord. Perhaps the flame of the gospel will be rekindled in a new way. But even now, this experience has shown us new ways to engage the ministry initiated by small group of followers, including two that encountered Jesus in a mysterious, yet wonderful way.

Christ is revealed in the blessing and breaking of bread.

The Church has a new tool to gather people and share the stories of suffering transformed into glory. There are those unable to enter a place of worship for reasons of grief, harsh judgment, anger, and resentment. Maybe such a tool might open a door, just a crack. A smart church will continue to offer online services even when it is no longer required; maybe a worship service like this, maybe a conversation for those who are grieving, or maybe an opportunity to pray together in ways that are designed to restore trust.

I’m convinced that God will provide a teenager to any church that seeks to engage the community with digital media. Feed them those chocolate chip cookies made with love and you’ll be uploading video content in no time.

There’s one more blind spot we need to address…binary thinking. This or that. One or the other. All or nothing. Saved or damned. Heaven or hell. 

We are Western thinkers. We can’t help it. Most of us grew up with the game of Monopoly. Some of us even liked playing. I always wanted to be the banker and have the racing car marker. 

When church and state came together in the 4th Century the Church came into the authority of capital punishment. Orthodoxy, or correct thinking in the eyes of the Church, became an issue. Heretics were executed. The seeds of mistrust run deep.

The first schism was between East and West. Eastern thinking reflects the Greek language – contextual and interpretive. Western thinking reflects Latin, a language more suited to precision and legality.

Just knowing that we are western thinkers, more suited to precision and legality is a first step in dealing with our blind spots. Who could image that there would be others who think differently? For the record, Jesus was not a Western thinker.

He is made known to us through the blessing and breaking of bread.

Thanks be to God!

 

 
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