The Light we see with; the shepherd who truly sees into our hearts:
Seeing is obviously a theme throughout our readings. In the famous story of Samuel visiting Jesse to anoint one of his sons as the new king, Samuel and Jesse can only the see the physical stature and features of the eldest son as determining the obvious man for the job. But they do not see the heart( the character and will ) of the youngest and smallest son, David, who is not even considered a candidate. But God sees David’s heart and chooses him. In the Gospel reading a man born blind receives his sight from Jesus and all of the so called seeing people are blind to who Jesus really is. In the Ephesians reading there is a lengthy discussion of the importance of being in the light, staying away from darkness and recognizing that the light , the light of Christ which we are to live in, makes everything visible.
Most obviously a theme of the 23rd Psalm but also in the other readings , is the theme of shepherd. David is described as being away from home out working as a shepherd when Samuel visits his home. The imagery of Shepherd was used as a metaphor to describe a kings relationship with their subjects and of course David and Jesus would become kings. Jesus is our good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep and restores our souls and leads us in right paths.
The story of Samuel is one of stumbling yet nevertheless obedience to God’s will and direction. Samuel was still mourning the fact that Saul was not going to be king anymore and not really caring what God’s next plan was. But God shakes him up and says get on with it I need you to anoint another king. Then Samuel becomes nervous because to anoint another king while the current one was still alive was treason. But God gives him a cover, just say you are offering sacrifices with Jesse and his family. Then Samuel has to assure the neighbors he is coming peaceably and not as a revolutionary. So a good sermon might explore how we are called to a life of obedience and the challenges that creates.
The fact that God looks at the heart not the outside appearances is a strong message of this story. We sure do need to hear this. We are so often such a shallow society, only looking at looks, and listening to quick sound bites. A good sermon could explore what it means to look deeper, to look into the hearts of people and how we as a church could offer this kind of love and compassion. We also could consider that God uses more than just the powerful people and institutions to mediate His grace. I sometimes hear people say that we are the little churches that could. In the eyes of the world and of the larger church we probably look more like the boy shepherd out in the field. It is wonderful to think that God looks at our heart and so we should expect to be used by Him as we have a big heart filled with tremendous character and love.
I always found it funny that after the story goes on at length to make the point that God does not look at the outward appearances , we read about how good looking David was. Maybe it is about priorities, as Bruce Birch writes, “ Appearance alone is no substitute for matters of the heart, but if we tend faithfully to matters of the heart, the grace of God within will often show an attractive face to the world.” The New Interpreters Bible Volume 2 , pg 1100
There is so much to say about the 23 Psalm. I am sure we are praying it this week because we are thinking of King David who was the shepherd king who saw the Lord as is his real shepherd. Also there is a reference to the valley of darkness and our gospel and epistle readings both deal with the theme of light and darkness. Let me just pick up on Robert Fisher’s thoughts when he says that the lord is portrayed as both a shepherd who guides us and a wonderful generous host. Fisher also comments on how the shepherd accompanies us. He is with us , it is a ministry of presence. God is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death. Therefore we do not fear.
In Ephesians we see that God in Christ has changed us from darkness to light and so we are to live as children of light. As Ephesians suggests this means to be pleasing to the Lord and to avoid darkness. A good sermon could flesh out what this means in our daily lives. I find it a very inspiring calling and the world sure does need a lot of light.
You can probably tell that I am running out of steam. What a shame because our Gospel reading is such a great story. It is a story of our Lord’s power to heal, which is a sign of His identity and of what God in Christ is accomplishing as the Word made flesh. It offers a powerful statement about making direct causal relationships between physical and I think by extension other pin we experience and sin. It is a great story playing with the imagery of physical sight to invite us to consider a deeper seeing, a new way of seeing God and our relationship with God. A new way of seeing and appreciating our life in light of the light of Christ. The almost comedic and yet sad conversation between the man born blind and the authorities highlights how blind to the light of Christ we can be and as with the epistle calls us to be in the light of Christ. There are so many layers of interpretation and subthemes one could explore it almost is overwhelming.
AT St. John’s we watched the movie Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce. In the movie we see an elderly John Newton , author of the great hymn Amazing Grace. He is physically blind, but he has undergone a spiritual transformation thanks to the mercy of God. He has brought the darkness of his work as a slave trader into the light of Christ and quotes the man born blind in the ironic spirit of the passage, I once was blind but now I see” I think this scene in the movie does a marvelous job in illustrating the truths of our Gospel reading.
I attended the funeral of Elizabeth Capon , a truly wonderful disciple of Jesus. If you looked into her heart you would find Christ like character and will. Yet like the young King David her face and eyes were beautiful too. I think the light in her heart shined through her face. Esther had never met her but when she saw picture of Elizabeth on the bulletin cover from her funeral Esther said to me she must have been a special person. Just from the picture Esther could tell and I am sure it is because Elizabeth’s eyes let in and shined out the light of Christ.
Interested as always in any thoughts you might have on the readings.
Tags: 23 psalm bruce birch society grace mediate samuel sacrifices blind darkness light christ