Blinded But Hopeful

Good Morning Church,

One day, six blind men decided to go to the zoo. They hired a guide to tell them about all the exotic animals they couldn't see. When they came to the elephants, the zoo keeper wanted them to have more than a verbal description, so he allowed them each to feel the elephant. Since the elephant was large, and since the zoo keeper had limited time, he let each man touch one part of the giant mammal. The first blind man reached out and his hand grabbed the elephant's tail. "Aha," he exclaimed, "the elephant is like a big rope." The next man felt a massive elephant leg. He looked strange, no rope was that big. "No, the elephant is like a large log or tree." He was sure of this.

The third blind man walked forward and ran straight into the elephant's side, whereupon he pronounced that, "The elephant is really a big wall." Next, another of the blind men reached out and took hold of one of the elephant's ears. It must have tickled, because the elephant wiggled the large ear, causing the fourth man to exclaim, "Oh, see this, the elephant is like a big fan."

The fifth blind man decided that the first four were all slightly daft and they couldn't be describing the same creature, so he carefully walked up and put out his hand, the elephant raised his trunk to the man who felt it and grinned in wonder. "My friends, it is obvious the elephant is like a huge snake."

The final man was totally confused, he walked forward and reached out, hoping to find the truth, and encountered a tusk. He paused and brightened, "I understand, the true nature of the elephant is this, he is a sword."

The zoo keeper and guide smiled at one another, knowing that none had seen the big, picture.

As we engage with this psalm we see that the writer was struggling with having a clear understanding of Gods love. The writer was busy looking the other direction and was not paying attention to how God was working in their life. How often in life have we missed what God was showing us, what God may have been providing, because we were too busy looking the other direction? How often have we been blinded by the words of others to the point where we can no longer see what God is calling us to do?

Like our story about the zoo keepers and the six blind men, there is only so much that we can see on our own. We need the community that can help us to see things in a different light. We need one another, to walk this journey of life, in order that we may see Christ in the world. How often in human history has even Christianity been corrupted because there is only one voice? Throughout Christian history we have these beautiful moments of revival and love that spread the Holy Spirit all throughout the world, but we also have moments where the church has fallen short. I believe that we are seeing one of these moments arising in the church today. Now please don’t misunderstand me, the church has many wonderful and beautiful components and not all congregations are twisted and lost, but we also know that there is corruption within the universal church and in the hearts of many that claim Jesus.

Last week I spoke on the green about the trinity. I spoke about the beauty of how God operates in these three distinct ways, in all power and grace. To know there is a loving God who is at work in this world, brings comfort to so many around the world. Yet, it should also challenge Christians to desire more of the very church that we call home. Sometimes when we read stories about prominent Christian voices that have done truly horrific things, it breaks our hearts. We know that no one is perfect, but in those moments of brokenness in humanity, we wonder where God is? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I want to cry out because I can’t always see God in our world. The pain that humanity inflicts on itself, both inside and outside the church is what I think this Psalmist is feeling in our passage today. I particularly appreciate how Eugene Peterson envisioned this in The Message.

“What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody’s tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches. I’ve been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? A long run of bad luck, that’s what— a slap in the face
every time I walk out the door.”
Psalm 73: 11-14 The Message

You can feel the hurt, the anger, the loss that the Psalmist is feeling as they strive to see God in the world. Peterson continues by portraying the writer as having a splitting headache until they enter the sanctuary of God. It’s almost as if the writer was one of the blind men trying to understand the elephant, but getting frustrated because they did not comprehend the whole picture. Sometimes that is what life can feel like for us, right? We cry out to God because we don’t see the justice and righteousness that clearly should be present in our world. Christ told his disciples to honor the poor, the widowed, the refugee, but the world didn’t and continues to not.

Humanity has lost sight of the beauty and grace of God. We are not seeing the full picture, but only capturing a glimpse. This can drain us of joy, health and wellbeing. Our communities become strained and broken. We are seeing that all around us in our nation today. We are seeing unrest and hurt being caused by individuals from all perspectives. We are watching loved ones become sick with this horrible virus, losing their battles and leaving us. We hear words that are cutting deeper and deeper into all of our hearts, breaking us down from the inside out. There is uncertainty for those who are out of work and in need of food to feed their families. Yet, when you turn on the news, we do not see God. The question becomes, what do we do with that?

To be completely honest, I do not know. I am not sure how we mend the brokenness in our communities, beyond simply choosing to be Christ for each other. I believe the church is in a unique position where we can offer something even greater than we have ever thought possible. I believe that people are seeking peace and love, something that the church can be there to offer. We can not fix all the problems of everyone’s life, but we can offer a helping hand and outstretched arms.

We also need to have a revival of our own hearts. We have been stuck in this pandemic now for 7-8 months. We did not get to say proper goodbyes to our pastors who have moved on or the churches that we have left. We have not had the opportunity for proper hellos and greetings. The church is kind of in limbo and that makes it hard to see God too. I know for myself I am super grateful and honored by your gracious welcome of Steph and myself, but also recognize that we have not had the real chance to connect and this pains my heart.

In the coming months, my goal is to help this church find our community again. This has been on my heart, because I know how important the community is going to be in the next year as we go through more challenging times socially and denominationally. This church has a radiant beauty that has been shining brightly in this community for a long time now and this moment is an opportunity for that to shine even brighter than before. In doing so, we will find God in each other, and see God in the world around us. We will be blessed by each other and will be a blessing to others in our community. I want us to be a shining light on a hill that will never burn out.

As we bring this time of worship to a close today, I want to offer this thought for the week that I believe can speak to what this church can be as we come out of this time of social isolation. “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Whenever we are able to come out of this time with COVID-19, God will be there to help us be the church that is needed today. God will inspire us and give us the strength to take those faithful steps back out into the world. By living in faith, even when we can not see or understand God fully, we will see our world transformed by Jesus. Amen.