I watched a little snippet of the Paralympics last night, which mostly goes to show you how much I have bought into the worldwide obsession with Curling that grips the populace every four years when the Winter Olympics roll around. While Paralympic Curling may lack some of the zip and thrill of regular Curling (wait for laugh) since there is no sweeping to speak of there is no yelling either, no cheering from the teammates, the players are largely alone in their shots, watching how their skill alone will move the stone down the ice to its intended target.
I also caught up a little bit on my watching of the show Justified. I like that show mostly because the dialog is very well written and I am a fan of well-written dialog. Since there were a higher than average number of funerals in the past few months I have allowed my DVR to fill up and thought that yesterday was a pretty good day to catch up on it, clear out a bit of the backlog, come up to speed so that the water-cooler conversations might be a little more animated.
I saw my daughter learning patience as she hosted a friend who is younger than herself at our house. She learned that once the age gap is more than a few years it requires actual maturity on the part of the older child to have a successful and happy time together, it just isn’t as natural as it used to be. I was nice to see Caitlyn coping and continuing to work fruitfully at being in a good and healthy community.
I went to a political fund raiser for a friend of the congregation and the Carnahan family who is running for the State Assembly and while I was there I got invited to a corned beef and cabbage thing this afternoon at the Sebastopol Grange where I was told there would be plenty of Danny Boy being sung.
I also watched some soccer. Debbie was nice enough when we bought the new package of satellite television to get the package that included to most soccer and the least home shopping. I watched Manchester City defeat Hull City and then watched easily the match of the day, where Chelsea, leading the Premier league tables lost to Aston Villa, a team with a storied history fallen a little it from its former glory. It was a thrilling game, well played by all.
A lot of things passed before my eyes yesterday. A lot of time passed, a lot of life was lived, people were greeted and then went on their way, words were spoken, embraces shared.
The thing is, in this modern world where everyone shares everything that they are doing in their lives, granted it has calmed down a LOT since the first days of Facebook and Twitter, (do you remember friends tweeting at each meal they ate, as if anyone cared?) but in this modern world we tend to spend more time looking at details like that, little fragments of the travelogue that is our workaday existence and we spend a lot of time poring over them, writing diaries of them.
They tell you to lose weight you should write down everything you consume in a day so that you will actually see what it is that you are doing and once you make yourself aware of it you can make more positive choices.
They say the same thing about depression, once you track your moods for a period of time you can find the things that adversely affect you and make changes to your life that will make changes to your mood.
In the workplace you analyze your time to make sure that your billable hours are maximized so that the boss can see that you are working hard and that your time is being used productively, I have an app on my phone that does that work for me. I also use it in my time off to see how it is that I spend my free time, forensically looking at my life to determine what it is I seem to care about.
And we’ve all heard the admonition to examine our checkbook to see what it is we really believe, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Apparently the mortgage company has a big chunk of my heart.
We spend a lot of time looking at things, the things that pass before our eyes and we are encouraged more and more these days to catalog them and to codify them and to analyze them and to make maps of our lives based upon them, learning who we are by watching what we do.
That was what Nicodemus was all about in this morning’s Gospel. He knew that Jesus was a Holy Man and so he went to Him, expecting to see Him do some Holy Man stuff and say some Holy man words and behave in a completely Holy Man fashion because that was what Holy Men did.
It is also the notion that Paul is trying to correct in the reading from Romans this morning, the misunderstanding that you can catalog the things that a person of faith, a disciple does and know that person, know their faith, their commitment, their values and themselves. All you have to do is know what they have done and you will know them.
Abraham is a great example of this. It would be easy to say that Abraham decided to believe and was therefore rewarded with God’s favor. It is the story we tell over and over again. Abraham followed the voice of the Lord and was therefore a great man of faith. Abraham believed the messengers of the lord even when Sarah did not and he was a great man of the faith. Abraham followed where God led him and is therefore a great man of the faith.
We carry this little travelogue of Abraham’s life and point to the things that Abraham did and say, “See! He believed and so he did this, or that. That proves he was a man of faith.”
Apparently they did the same thing in Paul’s day.
Heck nowadays we put it into song and sing it as if it were true, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” That’s fine if you are singing about showing forth the grace given to you, but as often as not we turn even that simple lyric inward and treat it as if it said “We will know we are Christians by our out love.” As if counting the times we showed love and proving to ourselves that we are deserving of God’s love in return.
Paul rightly notes that this is not grace, this is wages and as such is not faith; it is economics.
That is walking through life using only your sight, cataloging and recording the things you see and the things you do as if they were the measure of you; as if your worth, your value could be counted in days spent working or dollars stacked in vaults somewhere.
That is trusting in your own strength to see you through; that is marking the days as if you knew how many of them you got; that is living by sight and not by faith.
Because when you don’t just stop short at opening your eyes but allow your eyes to be opened, allow God to make the divine presence known in your day to day existence you will gain a new sight, a renewing of your senses as Paul would say in another of his letters, when you allow for God’s sight to preempt your planned viewing for the day, the wonders you will see are many, the possibilities you will grasp are endless, the true measure of your worth in the world will become startlingly clear.
And you will walk in the grace of God for a while, letting the faith that is really, and I mean this honestly, faith is merely the acknowledgement of what you already know deeply to be true, letting that faith be your eyes and ears and taste and letting it guide your feet and your hands and your tongue you will see what Abraham saw when he had faith reckoned to him.
You will see the will and the hand of God at work in your life and in the lives of all of those around you. You will see the whole of humanity, not just your friends or the people who look like you or vote like you or sing like you but al of humanity as your brothers and sisters, as your extended family, you will see the face of God shining in the humanity of your neighbor, flawed and broken though it be.
You will no longer count the things you do or the things you say of the things you see as who you are or what you are worth.
You will lay claim to the worth that God has given to you in love and in grace, and it will be reckoned to you as faith.
Your life will be all the richer for it.
This is a good time to give it a whirl; Lent, not Sunday morning. On Sunday morning you are expecting too much, wanting too much. The Holy Man idea looms large on Sunday and will probably get in the way.
But during Lent, try adding in a little wonder and dropping a little economics. Do not count the value of your days by what you have accomplished but instead look into what God is accomplishing all around you, be it keeping Bumblebees in flight or keeping the seasons turning in their cycle.
See if you can slow down the journaling enough to notice how well the world as it was given to us accommodates us, is suited to us, embraces us and then, and this will be hard because it goes against everything we have been told is important, then try and see how you are a part of God’s will, not in the grand scheme, not in salvation for the whole world, but try and imagine your neighbor going through the exact same exercise, seeing God’s hand at work and then try and find your own place in their picture.
Because you have a place in their picture according to God at least. We each have a place in the tapestry of other people’s lives and unless we can stop counting the stuff we do all the time and counting it as righteousness, unless we can stop journaling the love we have shown or the deeds we have done and counting them as what earns us God’s love, then we will never ever be honest enough with ourselves to see ourselves through others’ eyes, which is about as close to seeing ourselves through God’s eyes are we are allowed.
Yesterday I saw men and women who did not conquer their disabilities and play a game they were passionate about. Let’s be honest here, they were all still wheelchair-bound on the curling ice. They did not deny the disability; they simply didn’t let it keep them from being alive.
Disability inhibits, grace empowers.
Yesterday I saw my daughter take a few more steps down the path to adulthood, to womanhood and I knew that she was getting so much more mature, so much more her own person that soon the day would come when the size of my place in her life would keep getting smaller as she lay claim to more of her life on her own and it made me cry a little.
Yesterday I went and talked to a bunch of people who seek to serve their community and their fellow man by public service. Each of them had hopes for what they could accomplish and visions about those whom they felt called to accomplish these things, and they felt a great number of other callings, large and small and they were doing their best to live them out, to play a positive role in the narratives of other people.
Three events, all just things that passed before my eyes, all just things I was involved in yesterday.
Through my normal vision they were the things of inspirational posters that they sell in motivational catalogs. Inspired by the paralympians, proud of my daughter, full of myself at how many public officials I have the phone number for.
Through the renewed senses of faith, a calling to be better, a calling to be dad, a calling to be humble, They were a come-on from the great carnival barker in the sky to play a part, to see my place in the vision of others and to play it in His name and not my own.
They will know we are Christians by our love. We will know we are disciples by His love and it will set us free and make us see.