May 29, 2022
Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:13-21
I was looking at the text this past week in preparation for my sermon today and it struck me how it spoke to the matter we’ve been considering for a couple of weeks. This is one of the great stories out of the ministry of Jesus that so directly involves feeding the people Jesus loved.
The thing that grabbed my attention was a simple little word that Matthew put into his account of the feeding of the 5000. It is this: When Jesus SAW the crowd, he had compassion!
The question that had been nagging at me since last Sunday was: How do you get compassion for other people to grow inside you if it has evaporated for one reason or another? The answer was right there. The problem is faulty eyesight!
I believe that it is a part of our God-given nature to LOVE when we allow ourselves to REALLY SEE another person. It is a part of the nature of God that is a part of us at birth. It came with the image of God in a spiritually healthy human being.
Our eyesight, which was meant to be a conduit for love, gets gradually distorted and cloudy. You know what that’s like. If you let it, you slowly begin to see the faults and flaws in another. Pretty soon, you see more of the faults than the goodness until one day you can see only flaws because you have allowed your eyes to focus on them so that you see nothing else.
Now, at the extreme, that kind of neglect of our ability to see can develop into deep prejudices and hatred. It can spread to whole groups of people so that we despise entire cultures or races. It can become an obsession.
But for most of us, the problem remains smaller, but still very real and hurtful though we may not notice it for a while.
Perhaps it is not much more than a matter of unintentional neglect. We just become accustomed to NOT SEEING people. Too busy. Too preoccupied. Work, chore list, cell phone, news, or recreation just fills our screen so that we no longer see the needs around us. They just disappear for us. They are not gone, just out of our sight because we gradually train ourselves to NOT SEE.
Perhaps it feels more like familiarity. We see someone so often and so regularly, that we never really see them at all! They have just become a part of the furniture or the scenery. We may notice, but not really see!
Sometimes a slight or offense hurts our feelings and we choose to not see – perhaps out of self-protection, or maybe out of spite. And we see, but only what we want to see and the offense gets bigger and bigger.
I suppose there are a thousand such scenarios that explain why our eyesight gradually goes bad. But the important thing this morning is that this didn’t seem to happen with Jesus.
Here in this text, Jesus had just heard bad news about the beheading of his friend John the Baptist. He was grieving and went away to a quiet place to heal. But the people, with needs of their own, followed him and WHEN HE SAW THE CROWDS, he was filled with compassion.
It happened like that over and over again, Jesus saw a woman by the well one day and his heart reached out to her. He saw a tax collector in the tree and was drawn to him. He saw a rich young ruler and paused to speak some truth to him. He saw lepers, grieving parents, sick and wounded people, foreigners and outcasts.
How do we change our ways, our routines, so that we can begin to SEE again? How does compassion grow? If I am correct, compassion WILL GROW if only we let ourselves SEE! I mean, really see what is around us to see.
I believe that to learn to see means we must learn to be fully present wherever we are. Present to the moment. Eyes open ready to see what is in front of us. And that means taking time to slow down and be wholly there in the moment.
Slowing down will allow yourself to notice – really notice – the people who cross your path! You don’t need to seek anyone out. Just pay attention to your encounters as if they are more than random and accidental. Actually see them. Maybe in some way let them know they are seen – smile, comment, do a little favor.
Give someone that you are on the “outs” with, the time of day and see what happens. Dare to be intentionally courteous to someone you would normally walk right by. Surprise someone you don’t know with a little gift.
Here at St. John’s we have clearly stated in our Vision responses that we want to reach out to the children and adults around us. We have responded with plans for a Block Party and an Ice Cream Social. I think that is so good!
I wonder what we would learn if we just took time to stroll around in our neighborhood with an open heart. What might we see that we haven’t seen before? Who might we encounter that we haven’t noticed before? What might happen to our hearts if we intentionally made it a point to SEE? John Lennon wrote: “Give Peace a Chance.” It is so connected to the idea of “Give Love a Chance.” What might happen if you did? Do you suppose that such an opening would be the crack through which the Holy Spirit would begin to change our world – our community – our congregation – ourselves?