THE RIGHT REVEREND RUSSELL KENDRICK
While working as a chaplain at Georgetown Hospital I regularly called on an elderly African American woman who was dying. She was OK about the dying part; she was not OK about the part of being moved around the hospital like a piece of furniture. Apparently, about every four days she was moved to a new room. One day I walked into her room to find her unusually distressed. She kept repeating over and over, ”Where is the cross…where is the cross” and as she said it, she kept pointing into the air in front of her. Her lament was deep. It finally dawned on me that in every room of the hospital, which was Roman Catholic, there was a small crucifix on the wall across from the foot of the bed. But for some unknown reason, in this room the cross had been removed. “Where is the cross?” she kept asking me. Here is the most remarkable thing. This woman was blind.
To this day I don’t know what to make of it. I guess we could pick it apart with questions. We might even figure it out. Then again, maybe all that we say we believe about God is real and sometimes we meet people who can see more than what we see with our eyes alone.
Just look again at today’s Gospel. It is a remarkable story of healing, and I do not want to take away from that miracle. But I want to focus a few words on a very peculiar aspect of this story. That is, as the man’s sight is healed and his eyes are opened, the people around him are blind to what God is doing in their midst
What I mean is here is this miracle for everyone to see. Not just the opening of his eyes, but here is the gift of grace and love bestowed to a man who probably had been told all his life he was cursed. And yet, did you catch that amidst it all, the thing missing amidst the questions and suspicion is that not one person ever praises God. Everyone is so focused on figuring it out, they cannot or will not entertain the possibility that God is somehow involved.
They are so sure of everything about God, like God did not work on Sabbath, or that anyone born blind had to be a sinner. And above all that no one could teach them anything they didn’t already know. They are so certain about God, so set in their fixed world, so blinded by their religion, that they are unable or unwilling to see God’s power happening right before their eyes.
What of us? I will be honest. I am having a hard time seeing anything more than what I see with my eyes.
I am flooded with images of sickness.…empty streets ...closed business……lines of people waiting to get help… the poor and hungry and homeless being ignored and turned away from help.
I want to see more, but I’m feeling a bit blinded by my fear, my helplessness, my emotions. I want God to touch my eyes and perform a miracle that will wash away all that doubt. My soul is full of questions: where is God? Why would God let this happen? Is there any good news? Lord give us a miracle.
I hope it's OK to confess this. I hope I’m not alone.
I said this out loud to a friend and my friend reminded me of the heart of our faith. “God is with us.” And you know what? My eyes were opened. Even more my heart was opened. God is with us. Not a bad mantra. God is with us. God is not beyond us, over us, God is with us. God is not the cause of all of this. We believe in a God who became one of us to show us that at the heart of God is love. And love will never coerce, force or predetermine itself. God is with us. My friend helped refocus where I am looking. My friend helped me to refocus on the eyes of grace.
So I don’t have a quick fix or solution. I do think that as it was for the man in the Gospel gaining your sight sometimes takes time. So let’s be gentle with ourselves in our own doubt. As it was for the man in this story, maybe it take time for our eyes to adjust, not to mention our hearts It takes time for us to see goodness in the midst of so much bad. Possibly it will take some time for our eyes to understand the full meaning of all that is going on.
And while we wait, I will give you one place to look for God. Look for the cross. Think back to that time.
As far as I can tell very few people who were able at the moment of the crucifixion to see anything more than a terrible tragedy and suffering. “Where is your God now? Come down from the cross!” And yet our faith is forged out of that tragedy because it reveals to us the depth of God’s love for us. It is the love that will not let go. So look for the cross for it is there is where you will find God.
Look for the cross. Look for the intersection of love and suffering and look for that intersection in the flesh and blood of our life. Watch for the fruits of the spirit like joy, compassion and kindness. Pay attention to the miracles of generosity, and the gifts and sacrifice emerging as people share what they have sometimes at the risk of their own lives. Look for love. And there you will find God.
Might it even be possible that now in this moment of darkness that we might even begin to see a flicking light of revelation. That we might see ourselves as God sees us, one human family---the children of God. “For God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus.”
So may your heart be open to see more clearly with the eyes of grace, to keep watch for where love and suffering intersect. And to not just watch for it. But to work for it. And help a preacher out. If you have a story of where your eyes and heart were opened to the presence of God in the last few days. Let me know. I mean that. Go to our website where you will find a box to click “Tell the Bishop a story of when you caught a glimpse of God’s presence in the last few days.”
I leave you with a brief video of a few images to help focus your eyes on the amazing grace of God. Amen.