Surely we’re not blind, are we?

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

Reading: John 9:1-41, 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear so that together, we might be inspired to speak and live your Word in the world starting today.  Amen.

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It’s the question you ask yourself when, after working hours on a term paper (or the bulletin), print it out, and find a typo on page 3, the third paragraph, second sentence.  It’s the question screamed at referees when they miss or make a bad call.  It’s the question we ask irritatingly of our spouses when they can’t seem to find the ketchup—which is right in front of your face—in the refrigerator.

Are you blind?

It turns out that answering that question truthfully is harder than one might naturally assume.  And, I’ll prove it.  I’d like to give you a test.

How’d you do? Are you blind?

Yes!

We may not call it “blindness.”  But, we all fail to recognize things.  All too often, we fail to see.

Perhaps you have had the following experience: you are searching for an open seat in a crowded movie theater. After scanning for several minutes, you eventually spot one and sit down. The next day, your friends ask why you ignored them at the theater. They were waving at you, and you looked right at them but did not see them. Just as we sometimes overlook our friends in a crowded room, we occasionally fail to notice changes to the appearance of those around us. We have all had the embarrassing experience of failing to notice when a friend or colleague shaves off a beard, gets a haircut, or starts wearing contact lenses.[1]

Perhaps, you’ve experienced not being able to find your mouse cursor on the computer screen.  Perhaps, it’s the crack in the ceiling or the smudge on the wall that’s been there forever so you no longer notice it even though it’s getting bigger!

Blindness is more than the lack of sight; it is also the inability to perceive or understand, a lack of awareness.[2]  Regardless of how well our eyes work, we all suffer from what social scientists call inattentional and change blindness.

Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice something that is fully obvious—right there in front of you, when your attention is engaged on something or someone else.

Change blindness is a failure to notice a difference between what’s there right now and what was there a moment ago.[3]

The reality is we’re all blind.  When it comes down to it, we are all far less observant than we think we are.  We all fail to recognize all that’s going on around us.

For instance, another test: did you notice that I took my socks and shoes off?  Did you notice I changed my stole (purple to red)?

We’re all blind.  Regardless of how well our sight might be, we all—all too often—fail to see what’s truly going on around us.  We’re so caught up on a specific detail that we can’t “see the forest for the tree.”  Our attention is so focused on a specific thing that we often miss the most important things and fail to see what’s happening all around us.

Like Samuel, who wanted to choose Israel’s next king based upon the son who best looked the part.  Or, like the Pharisees and neighbors who had constantly walked past the blind beggar, who failed to recognize even the blind beggar’s name and couldn’t believe that he could now see.  We too are all too often blind to what God wants or to what God is doing.  We are blind.

God wants us to see.

[Christ] came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”[4]

Christ came to heal us of our inattentional blindness— our inability to see the mighty hand of God working right in front of us.  Christ came to heal us of our change blindness that we might see the difference God is making in our personal lives and in the lives of those around us.  God wants us to see.  Christ came that we might see.

Christ came that we might see, know, and experience the love of God: that we would no longer live blind to the ways in which God has blessed and cared for us and all the world.  Christ came that we might have eyes to see past the brokenness of our own lives to see the wholeness that comes with a life lived in love with God and neighbor.  Christ came that we might see: that we might no longer be blind to the things that matter most; that we might learn to live as people who have eyes to see the coming of God’s Kingdom and might walk and work toward it.  God does not want us to go through this world blind.  God wants us to see.

The healing of the man born blind is a great example of the way in which God wants us to learn to see.  I think it’s important to know that the man doesn’t speak a single word in this story until after the healing.  The man does not acknowledge his blindness.  The man does not profess any type of faith.  The man says nothing.  All the man does is open himself to the improbable possibility that this man, Jesus, can do something extraordinary with this ordinary mud.  The man opens himself to the possibility that washing himself in a pool he’d been to often could heal him.  The man opens himself to the improbable possibility of God.  And, that’s how he came to see: that’s how we’ll come to see.

We can’t be like Samuel or the Pharisees or the blind man’s neighbors.  We can’t have inattentional or change blindness.  We must open ourselves to the improbable possibility of God.  We must open ourselves to be surprised by God’s grace.  We must open ourselves to the possibility that God can restore us to wholeness no matter how broken we might be, that in our weakness Christ makes us strong, and through our death God lifts us to new life.

The Pharisees, who thought they could see everything clearly, asked, “Surely we’re not blind, are we?”  They were too prideful to understand that they couldn’t see.  They were unwilling to open themselves to the improbable possibility that God would come to a poor blind beggar in their neighborhood.  They were unwilling to open themselves to the improbable possibility that God would come to them.  They’re arrogance in thinking they could see, made them blind to the coming of God’s Kingdom in Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh, who was standing right in front of them.  They were unwilling to open themselves to the improbable possibility of God in their midst.

“Surely we’re not blind, are we?”  Yes!  Now, let us open ourselves to the improbable possibility of God.

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Let’s pray.

God of Light and Sight,

We think we can see.  And, while some times we can, all too often we’re blinded by our own arrogance in believing that we can see.  When you, O God, open to us new possibilities, we dig in our heals and say, it’s never been done that way.

Help us, O God, to open ourselves to the improbable possibilities of your eternal love for all.  Help us, O God, to be willing to follow where you lead.  Open our eyes that we might see.  Open our ears that we might hear.  And, having seen and heard, give us the courage to do what you’ve shown and told us to do.

Help us, O God, to be light in a dark world.  Give us the strength and courage we need to be like Christ so that all might come to know of your great love.  Help us, O God, to follow your way in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Help us to live as he lived, even as we pray the prayer he taught us to pray…

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

 

 

[1] “Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events,” Daniel J Simons & Christopher F Chabris in Perception, 1999, vol. 28 (p1059-1074) <http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~cfc/Simons1999.pdf> Accessed March 28, 2014.

[2] BLINDNESS. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/BLINDNESS> Accessed: March 29, 2014.

[3] Daniel Simons in “Inside NOVA: Change Blindness,” YouTube video, 4:07, March 3, 2011, posted by “NOVA PBS” <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkrrVozZR2c> Accessed on March 28, 2014.

[4] John 9:39, The Message.

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