26 Mar 2017
“‘Do not look on his appearance …for the Lord does not see as mortals see. They look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Sam. 16:7) In the name …
I don’t know how much clearer it could be in the Bible that God does not look upon outward appearances, that God does not restrict Himself to what we mere mortals can see with our eyes. On Wednesday, a friend’s daughter gave me a key chain with a Bible on it. I asked him to thank her for it, and I was about to put it into my pocket. Then he told me to open it up. I had assumed that it was just the shell of a Bible, but when I opened it up, it was the entire Bible. Every page. Every passage. Or at least that’s what I assume because the print is so tiny that it is illegible without a magnifying glass and I don’t have a magnifying glass. I know it’s the whole Bible though because I can make out the title Genesis on the first page and I can make out Revelation toward the end. Even though I can’t read the text of the Bible, even though I can’t see it, the eternal and continuing Word of God is there. My not being able to see it does not change that fact.
On the opposite end of the size spectrum, in my office I have a large poster of Albert Einstein. He’s always looking over at me as I sit at the computer, kind of challenging me to think differently and bigger, to not be satisfied with the expected answers. In great big letters that can been seen like the “I” on an eye-chart, are printed this quote of his: “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” Amen. This was and is a man who defines the word genius. His disheveled appearance has become what we expect of the genius scientist. And yet he had to flee from his home country because all they saw in this extraordinary man was that he was Jewish. They rejected his science as “Jewish science.” Because they could only judge by appearance they lost one of the world’s greatest minds, and maybe even lost the war because his theories helped to unlock the power of the atom.
As the church prepares us for the unseen mystery of the cross, she takes us back this morning to the story of David. Samuel was the last of ancient Israel’s judges. These were men and women who were temporary leaders of the Jewish people. There was no dynasty, no trappings of great wealth and power. The judges were the as-needed leaders of Israel and they ruled because the people accepted that they were called by God and that they spoke for God. This all came to end after Samuel. The people wanted a king instead, and neither God nor Samuel were happy about this, but Israel got its king anyway.
So God tells Samuel to go to the home of Jesse in Bethlehem because one of Jesse’s sons is to be anointed by Samuel as Israel’s king. Jesse sends his eldest son out to Samuel. Samuel immediately thinks this is the one. He was tall and rugged. He looked like a king. God says firmly to his prophet that he is not to judge by appearance. Then Jesse parades six more of his sons before Samuel, but nothing. Samuel is confused and asks if there are any others. Then, in a kind of Cinderella-like story, the youngest, forgotten son, the one who is out working while the others are paraded before Samuel, he is called into the house. Immediately, God orders Samuel to anoint him. The least likely son of some ordinary family in some non-descript village was the one in whom God saw what no one else could.
Then we get to hear the rather long, but extraordinary story of Jesus healing the man born blind. The disciples repeat a commonly held belief that tragedy strikes those who have secretly sinned. It’s the only way they could understand the injustices that surrounded them. It’s the only way they could cope with the age-old conundrum of why the good must suffer; they must be suffering because of some unnoticed sin. And they ask Jesus about this, and Jesus rejects the whole argument. Tragedy, disease, accident are not signs of moral failure in the least. They have nothing to do with sin at all.
After the man was healed, the old-school still insisted that he was a sinner. Rather than see the miracle, the Pharisees would only repeat the same old, stale argument: “‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’” (John 9:34) When the man healed of blindness finally sees Jesus, he calls Him “Lord” and says, “I believe.” Where others could only see the appearance of a handicap and could only conclude that he was being punished by God, Jesus looked past all of that, the disease and the tradition, and Jesus saw a person ready to believe. The ones who appeared so righteous and were respected as religious leaders, they were the ones called sinners and blind by Jesus. The one who appeared so sinful was the one in whom Jesus saw the seeds of faith.
We’re here today as part of our worship of a God who entered the world in the strange, unexpected ordinariness of being one of us. And we’re here during Lent because we’re trying to better process and experience the mystery that in that man crucified as a rebel who threatened both the religious and political order of His day, and who will do the same today and every future tomorrow if we really follow His example and teaching, in that man is the unseen reality of our crucified God and of our hope for salvation.
The only way we can see this truth of Jesus’ reality is by looking past appearances and to the heart of His person. If God has told us and then told us again and again about this need to look past appearances, and if this is the only way to appreciate who Jesus is and to take hold of His salvation, then we have to take this truth and live it in our daily lives too. We have to stop looking only at appearances and we have to strive to see the person. The more we practice this kind of seeing, the more we start trying to see like God sees, then to that degree we have the hope of living together peaceably and respectfully; and the more we try to do this, I think, the more Jesus can see that there are actual accomplishments that come from His death on the cross. In His name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo