Sermon by Pr. John David Bryant, Joy Lutheran Church, Palm Bay (June 17, 2018)
We have sayings about “seeing.” See if you can complete this phrase, “Seeing is _____ believing.” And, now this one, “What you see is what you _____ get. Don’t we rely on our eyes to tell us what’s real, right, and true? Isn’t this our approach to “people, places, and things,” to life, life matters, to God? We relying on sour eyes because it’s accessible, easy, clear-cut, handy. But, doesn’t it bring us a major problem? Doesn’t our seeing-is-believing-what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude presume life’s entirety to be visible in single, surface-level glance? And, doesn’t this reduce us into so many metaphoric water beetles, skimming life’s surface, blissfully or not so blissfully unaware of what’s beneath?
In all candor, don’t we find what we’re looking for, ‘cause what we want to see, what we’ve been led, trained, told, and pre-programmed to see? But, because we look at a thing, does it necessarily mean that we see the same thing in the same way? Were we to stand outside, view a car wreck on the corner o’ Eldron and Jupiter, wouldn’t we watch the same wreck, but have as many story versions as witnesses there to see it?
Consider the sermon slide. See the image from Harper’s Weekly, circa 1892. See a duck? See a rabbit? See both? And, if you see the rabbit only or the duck only, will you trust that your friends gathered here look at the same thing, but see it differently than you? Will you embrace the truth offered in this optical illusion: same picture, differing views?
Is it true of our life of faith together, of understanding God’s Word, and of gathering as God’s Church? Is it less how we look at a thing, more how looking at the same thing, isn’t necessarily seeing the same thing? Same picture, differing views. What if God’s Word teaches us more about how we see, less about what we see? “We walk by faith, not by sight,” says St. Paul. Today’s semi-continuous readings show Samuel faithfully trusting his sight, looking to Eliab as late King Saul’s successor, the Lord’s prime choice.
“Samuel looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord‘s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” And, there we have it— our human surface-level sight is so outward appearance focused, isn’t it? In contrast, God’s sight, focusses inwardly on our hearts. Sure, there’s value in looking at outward appearances, echoed in expressions like, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and look before you leap, but there’s also value in not reducing and narrowing our life and God’s world to the limiting confines of what we think we see. Each outward
appearance offers a submerged, inner view if we see beyond where we look.
Doesn’t our seeing-is-believing-what-you-see-is-what-you-get way of living steal our sight, narrow us into being a limited, small-dreaming band; depriving us of seeing the reality of God’s power, presence, and workings in our midst; blinding us to God offering grace-filled opportunities for hope, healing, dreaming, forgiveness, and deep, lasting change, fooling us into thinking, “it is what it is.” Convinced that, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” burgled, satisfied with limited perspective, we view our life and God’s world self-convinced that since we know how to look, we’ve nothing left to see. And, if this matter offers us anything, it offers this truth—that we though may know how to look, God calls us to see; God calls us to see differently, too see past where we look, to realize that, “…in Christ there is a new creation, everything old has passed away, everything has become new.” Absolutely everything has become new, nothing is left wanting.
And, since God (ever and always) invites us to see as God sees, Jesus’ uses parables to let us see God’s kingdom, chances for us to see differently, too see that all has become new. Parables provide vision, challenging our seeing-is-believing-what-you-see-is-what-you-get view, calling us to risk trusting that God’s kingdom offers a grander view than, “it is what it is;” for this is God’s seedy kingdom, deeply planted, popping up all over creation as it works like scattered seed. Day-in-day-out, we think we see nothing, and self-convinced, believe that nothing’s happening out there as we “…sleep and rise night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, we don’t know how,” until God seedy kingdom, having taken root in us, sprouts, grows, breaks through surface-level as unseen possibility, has become present reality. All along, ours has been riskily trusting that God’s seedy Kingdom has taken root—that a bumper crop awaits! Once we were blind to it, but now we see.
And, speaking of seeing, we’d be remiss were we not to admit that at times God’s seedy kingdom appears mustard-seed-small, totally too small as we look on outward appearances of terrorism, school shootings, and a damnable aging process daily tearing at our dignity. The appearance of these, and so many other such things, admittedly isn’t looking good, but don’t we have another saying, that looks are _____ deceiving? What if these are all optical illusions, rendered powerless for God’s kingdom has taken root as all has become new?
Jesus likens God’s kingdom to a weed, ‘cause once weeds take root, weeds take over, so does God’s kingdom. God’s seedy kingdom is privet hedge, air potatoes, wisteria, kudzu, and Brazilian pepper, all rolled into one; spray at it, tug at it, chop at it, dig at it, ultimately cuss at it if you must, ‘cause when it’s there, it’s there, and it never leaves. We call this tenacity—GRACE!
In Jesus’ day, mustard, darnel, called bastard wheat, was considered a weed. Jesus likens God’s kingdom to a weed, ‘cause once weeds take root, weeds take over, so does God’s kingdom. God’s seedy kingdom is privet hedge, air potatoes, wisteria, kudzu, and Brazilian pepper, all rolled into one; spray at it, tug at it, chop at it, dig at it, ultimately cuss at it if you must, ‘cause when it’s there, it’s there, and it never leaves. We call this tenacity—GRACE! Within God’s seedy kingdom, God’s tenacious grace never leaves. In every “person, place, and thing,” every life, every life
matter, God’s grace never leaves, for God’s seedy kingdom is everywhere. Everywhere God is, so everywhere God’s kingdom is. No place is left wanting, no one left out. See beyond where you look, past what’s there. Give a second or third or thirtieth or fiftieth glance. See. See as God sees, for inside God’s seedy kingdom, that bumper crop awaits, offering love, hope, mercy and JOY.
And to see it, we must do more than look. We must SEE! See the reality of God’s passionate promise coming in at heart-level, empowering God’s universe as changed hearts yield changed lives. To borrow from a beer commercial, stay seedy my friends. Stay “kingdom seedy” as you SEE!
*this sermon is indebted to notes taken on “the perceptual box” given in the Rev. Dr. Tony Everett’s various pastoral care classes offered at LTSS from 2008-2010.
All scripture references are taken from the New Revised Standard Version pericopes provided via Sundays and Seasons.
graphic source: https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~jfkihlstrom/JastrowDuck.htm