For 4-18-21 pre-and post sermon on “Seeing is Believing” by Bethany Carpenter

“They were terrified and afraid.  They thought they were seeing a ghost.”  (Luke 24.37)

 

The cartoon is about gramma and grampa in Pickles…

Gramma is working at something in the kitchen…

Grampa is beside her, saying, “Yuck!”  She says, “What’s wrong?”

He says “I made this meatloaf sandwich with mustard and catsup and it tastes just Awful!”  

She says, “Where’d you get the meatloaf?”  He says, “In the fridge”   She says, “There was no meatloaf in the fridge; that’s pumpkin bread.”

 

We see what we want to see; we make up what we want to see; if what we see isn’t what we can define in our minds, we dumb it down, we see what we want to see: we use our eyes too much…

 

This scripture is about Jesus, Resurrected, coming into a room and talking to the folks and eating food they give him, and telling them he is an embodied person, tho’ dead and resurrected, and that they/we have work to do… to bear witness to His death and resurrection, by preaching “repentance into release of sins”… (Luke 24.47)

 

We listen to our eyes more than any other sense; tho’ smell is good at reminding us of things, without our knowledge and consent… and I have trouble with my mouth; it tells me I’m hungry, when my stomach knows I’m not… and I feed my mouth, not my stomach.

 

And if we see things we don’t understand we discredit our senses.   We transfer what we see to what we want to see, or need to see, or hope to see.  Like looking at pumpkin bread and seeing meatloaf.  But there are ways to live into what is truly there, even if we don’t See it right away.

 

Like the two going to Emmaus… they didn’t recognize Jesus until they talked him into coming home with them; it was late, there were still miles to go before he slept, they had food… and they recognized him “in the breaking of the bread”… (Luke 24.35)

 

Like Mary Magdalene at the tomb (in John), when she is so freaked out by his body not being there, that she talks to two shiny angels like it’s nothing and then when she sees a human man, with dirt under his fingernails, she asks him politely where he’s taken Jesus’ body, and he says to her, “Mary” and in hearing her name from his mouth, she Sees him.  You may know the internet FB list of  little kids’  definitions of the word “love” and one I will always remember is: “Your name is safe in their mouth.”  

 

There’s another angle I want to bring in, as it was in Two of the studies this week; and it is about Apocalypse… Barbara Brown Taylor wrote “perhaps every generation gets to practice apocalypse” and then in Disciple 4 we are studying the book of Revelation, which is All About Apocalypse.  Some of us might consider that we are in the midst of Apocalypse, or at least that now is this generation’s turn at it.

 

And I think the Disciples had been through an Apocalypse.  Jesus had been brutally murdered by the state – by the authorities; and the disciples’ world and their hopes and their dreams and their plans had been apocalypsed… like being blown apart by a land mine (I watched Da 5 Bloods yesterday)…  Like having a 40 ft wave from a broken damn upstream tear your house off its foundations and swirl it down the riverbed.  Like after a fire, or a hurricane, or a wind storm, or a flood, or a war, or an earthquake… 

 

But the part I want to talk about, in the case of this scripture and in the future of our world, our generation, right now… is the AFTER the apocalypse.  When we’re still shaky; when we haven’t got our “sea legs” yet, when we don’t really know the extent of the damage or the change that Has happened… That’s where the disciples are; that’s where we are…

 

What changes are being made that we won’t actually see for a while?  Because, in our case, the apocalypse is still rumbling around: Covid is still in other places in the world, in other communities in our own country.  Will the makers of the vaccine be able to make enough for all the people in the world?  Will we learn to share our knowledge and our vaccines?  When will we be able to hug again?  

 

The social justice/racial justice work is still ongoing, too: when will we get to the place where all God’s children are created equal, and when all will have justice and access to the goods of the world?  Who will get away with what, who will be given the benefit of the doubt, whose voices will get to be heard?  

 

That one’s ongoing, as is the climate dilemma; what can we really do?  How can we take care of the world we live in, and honor the miracle of God’s world by what we do every day, so that our great- grandkids will inherit a livable planet?  What can we do to help make sure the planet survives?

 

The disciples were kind of in that same liminal / changing / unstable world… they were in apocalypse.

 

And He came in and said “Peace to you.”  Not just cessation of violence, but knowledge of purpose and completeness and centeredness, and harmony and wholeness, within… “the peace that passes understanding”  And they had joy, and confusion, and some terror… and they learned more, and stayed connected and began to use their other faculties beside just sight; they learned to really See.

 

They got to the other side of the apocalypse

 

I think it will help us when we learn how to see…or at least to count some of our other senses as important and useful…  Puppies and kittens, who are blind for a while after birth, they learn to smell, and to hear, and to taste and to feel, before they get their eyesight…  We need to use our other senses, too.  To hear what people are really saying; to smell what smells Mean: work, poverty, sickness, health, love, joy, prosperity, enough; to taste new textures and spices with pleasure; to feel warmth, safety.

 

Like Martin Luther King Jr. saying “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” 

 

Judging by our eyesight is quick, but not very thorough, nor is it just.  It leads to deciding to fear people because of their difference from us…  Judging just with eyesight causes us to fear the dark, and to make snap judgements that do not include all the aspects of a person or situation that may be true.

 

Judging people by the content of their character takes time, space, patience.  To learn another’s  character is not easy, not quick.  Learning to discern someone’s character takes getting to know them.  Listening.  Eating with.  Touching.  Smelling the beauty there; the work there; the health there.

 

Especially in the Apocalypse around Social Justice, taking the time to learn about someone’s heart and soul; their character, is something we all need to learn to take the time to do.  

 

So I have a couple of suggestions, from the life of Jesus.  1. Keep love in your mouth.  So that when you call someone’s name, they will recognize the Jesus in you.  So that they will know that not only their name, but their life is safe in your mouth.  No lying.  No gossip.  Truth in love, even to power.

 

  1. Take people into your home for a meal, or a rest.  Those folks from Emmaus did that; they invited Christ into their home, and That’s when they recognized him.  I have invited people into my home, and they have shown Jesus to me, often in the “breaking of the bread.”  Like Bladimir.  Remember his cooking for the Vespers party?  We can see Christ in other people, when we let them in.

 

  1. I believe Jesus knew that each person who came to him was his sibling, his family, his kin.  We are all kin, after all.  To KIN someone means to understand and/or love them.  One must love someone to understand them; one must understand someone to love them.   And when we do that for one another, we are KIN: Family.  That helps us take the time to really get to know folks.  And it helps us realize we are all in the Family of God.  All of us.  The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Beautiful, the Poor, the Smart, the Rich, the Mean, the Sad, the Happy, the Children, the Old Folks… we are all in this family, together.  

 

So when 20 children die in a bus crash in Niger, those are our children.  When Black men are killed in the streets of our country, those are our brothers, our uncles, our fathers, our sons.  We are all KIN, all  Kin with Christ Jesus.  Let us practice looking at people to see beyond the color, or age, or wealth, or education level, to see the Child of God in them, to see our sibling in them; to see KIN.  To see their character; their Spirit, their kinship with us.  So we are not “us” versus “them,” but all “we.”

 

Saw another good movie last week… a couple, actually… Black and White with Kevin Costner, and Moxie, about justice for marginalized kids…  In Black and White there is a scene where Kevin’s character Elliot, talks about what we first see of others, and how that’s ok, but it’s the second thought, the third thought that gets us in trouble.  If we can look at the person as a person and find out their character, then that’s ok.  It does take practice.  

 

I believe that in this time of apocalypse, we are like the disciples, who had trouble Seeing but after a while, after they hung out with Jesus resurrected for a while (“40 days,” Acts 1.3), and after the earthquaked ground got quieter and life went on and they and the world adjusted, they had power in their witnessing.  In Acts 1.8 Jesus says: “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  They would start from where they worshipped (Jerusalem) to where they lived (Judea), to places they feared (Samaria), to the ends of the earth, living with the power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

See, when they learned to See (character, and love, forgiveness, and justice), they became Christ.  They healed people.  They spoke of God’s love and power and mercy and justice.  They welcomed and abode with one another.  They shared meals and were known in the breaking of the bread and they spoke names, greeting one another with holy kisses, and saying God’s words with love in their mouths.  And they changed the world that had been changed by the Apocalypse of Christ, “God with us, Emmanuel.”

 

We’ve been through, and are still in many ways going through, our generations’ apocalypse.  And we will get to the other side of it.  Covid will end for a while anyway; we will work out the dilemma of racial, sexual and social justice, perhaps little by little, but we will get to the other side of that, too, and we will learn to live on and with the earth itself.  We will get to the other side, as God is with us, in us; we are the Body of Christ, after all!  

 

So, let us receive the Peace that Christ offers; let us not be afraid.  Let us learn to judge one another’s character, and let us mold our own characters to become like Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, and speak the truth in love, and touch with only healing in our hands, and see into the heart and soul of one another.  Let us do this from where we worship (Bardsdale UMC) to where we live (Ventura County), to the places where folks are “different,” (other faith communities, other ethnic communities, other political communities, differently educated or monied communities), even to the ends of the earth (Asia, Africa, South and Central America, the Middle East, Europe).  Let us begin where we are, where  Christ has met us.  By calling our names, by healing our wounds, by feeding us and being made known in “the breaking of the bread,” by loving who we are, no matter what.  Agape. 

 

Let us be like the disciples, who became Christ for the world and so changed the world.  We are already in the midst of change, of an Apocalypse.  Let us Choose to be the Body of Christ for the healing of the world, so the world can be transformed, Honest To God, into the KIN-dom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven.  May we See Your World Come Soon, Lord Jesus.     

 

Thanks Be To God, Amen.

Blessings, Bethany

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