20 Nov
Sunday.  Sunday.  Sunday.
Church at 9am.  I started with a joke today.  It felt right.
[Dear Noah,
We swear you said the ark wasn’t leaving until 1.
The unicorns]
Har.  Har.  Har.
Then I challenged the congregation to share the peace without touching each other.  They weren’t allowed to shake hands.  They thought it was cute but it was probably the novelty of it.  I don’t think they’ll think it’s cute next week.
Then hello sermon number two.  I had to preach this evening at an ecumenical [read: Lutherans and Catholics] Thanksgiving service.  To heck if I was able to write it while still thinking about my Sunday morning service.  It’s not how I work, folks.
Sermon writing intermission: Mabel and I walked out to the dumpster to throw something out.  I opened the lid of the dumpster and a terrified cat jumped out.  Mabel chased it and treed it.
Print sermon.  Smell something foul.  Find Mabel had gone number two on the hardwood floor of a spare bedroom.  That’s a first.  [And hopefully a last.]
Paige and I had a date to meet at 4pm at one of jD’s church.  It’s church dinner season in Minnesota, donchaknow, and Aurora Lutheran was hosting an oyster stew and chili supper.  We had kept it a secret that we would be attending and surprised the bowtied pastor at the door.  He convinced me I wanted to pay two extra dollars to try the oyster stew.  I tried.  And soon traded the bowl in for chili instead.
From there [and after requesting that our server tell Lauren in the kitchen that we were highly unsatisfied with our food to get her attention – the perfect ploy] I drove to Blooming to prepare for this Thanksgiving service and the preaching of the sermon I was really unsure about.  Lo and behold, it proved true again that any sermon I think is terrible is the one I receive the most positive feedback.  [Unless of course everyone was just super nice to the new girl.  That is also possible.  Pity compliments are always a possibility.]
Long Sunday, folks.  Long Sunday.  A long Sunday to be followed by three long days of busy, busy work in order to prepare to take off for Wisconsin on Thursday for a couple days.  Here we go.
[You can be the judge yourself.  Below is the sermon I thought was mediocre but highly complimented by others.  Pity praise?  You decide or can jump on the boat of pity.]  [It’s a joke, folks,  I’m not really that down on myself or think that everything said to me is a lie through other’s teeth.]
What do you see?  It’s like that popular children’s book Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? The book goes through different animals of different colors, teaching children about animals and colors and patterns.  Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?  I see a red bird looking at me.  Red bird, red bird, what do you see?  I see a blue horse looking at me.  And the pattern continues.  Maybe I should ask you –  people of God, people of God, what do you see?  We likely haven’t seen any blue horses lately so our answers would be much different than the book.  And I would add a second question on the next page – What do you do when you see?
It kind of goes without saying that what we see makes all the difference.  What we see shapes our outlook and our behavior.  If we see snow on the ground outside, we put on our boots.  If we see someone crying, we comfort them.  If we see the stoplight turn yellow ahead of us, we use the brakes on our car.  And if we saw a blue horse like the one in the children’s story, we might be speechless.
What we see makes all the difference.  People who wear glasses know this.  People who have been subject to unfortunate eyesight loss know this.  I wear contacts during the day and so, come night, I take them out and put on my glasses.  I go to bed, putting my glasses on my beside table.  Always in the same place.  One morning, I woke up, grabbed my glasses, put them on, and went about my morning.  I turned on the light in my bedroom and turned on my computer.  Something wasn’t quite right.  Was the light not working properly?  It seemed awfully dark in my bedroom.  And my computer screen was hard to read.  I blinked over and over, leaned in closer to the desk and realized my eyesight was terrible.  Why couldn’t I see?  What we see makes all the difference and at this point, I couldn’t see like I should be able to and my behavior reflected that.  I became a bit crazy, a bit fearful, wondering what could be going on.  I took off my glasses thinking, maybe, just maybe, they were really dirty and needed to be cleaned.  In my morning fog, my still half-awake state of mind, I pulled off … my non-prescription sunglasses.  They weren’t the right glasses at all.  What we see makes all the difference.
In verse 14 of our gospel reading, Jesus sees the lepers who call out to him.  And when he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’  In these times, if a leper was healed, it was a priest who had to certify that the person was clean once again before they could become a part of the community once more.  And as the lepers went as Jesus said to them, they were made clean.  Jesus saw a need and acted to meet it. 
Likewise, then one of the lepers sawthat he was healed and turned back.  Because he saw that he was healed, he praised God and thanked Jesus.  What the leper saw affected his behavior.  When the leper saw that he was healed, he didn’t just celebrate his good fortune on his own or with the other nine, but turned around with gratefulness. 

In both [of these] cases, seeing means more than just physical sight – it means on the one hand perceiving the opportunity to be merciful toward another, and on the other hand the recognition that God’s mercy has touched one’s life.

It’s not only what you see but it is what you do when you see. 

When Jesus saw people in need, when he saw people on the outside, he acted.  Jesus restored them to fullness.  With the healing Jesus pronounced upon the ten, those ten lepers would no longer need to live outside of the community.  Those ten lepers would no longer need to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” if someone were to approach them.  Christ invites them into a wholeness of life once more, into a lifemuch unlike the one they were forced to live before.  And the one who returned recognized the mercy of God that had touched him and made him clean; for that, he was grateful.

Seeing can make all the difference. What do you see?  Make sure you are not wearing your sunglasses instead of your prescription lenses and take account of what’s around you.  It’s not even always about what we see – it’s what we feel, touch, and smell.  Are you aware of what goes on around you?
Take account of the people around and the needs that are present in our lives and the lives of our neighbors.  Jesus saw the need of the lepers – people cast outside because of a disease.  What needs do you see?  What do you perceive about the world around you?  Around us?
Let’s take our community of Blooming Prairie as context.  Some people might guess that the needs in our community are small.  Blooming is a small and proud community; the kind where people know people and directions are given by landmarks instead of street addresses.  Yet, there are still needs present in this community and in communities around us.  It’s true that sometimes people in need simply do not catch our attention. A coworker we label as crabby may be struggling with a difficult family situation, and we might learn that if only we ask. Who notices an international student far from home and family, or the person separated from family during the holidays? Other times, we simply pass by people whose lives are a day-to-day struggle to survive. There are people who need care, families who need help, and people who may simply need to feel that they are loved.
Remembering also the tenth leper who returned to give thanks once he saw he was healed, let’s touch on his reaction to what he saw.  There’s this second part of seeing and acting present in the text.  What do you see for which you can give thanks?  How do we live grateful lives in response to how we see God is working in and through us?  In this season of thanksgiving, we focus on the gratitude piece.  I asked the confirmation students at Red Oak Grove to put together a wall of thankfulness.  Everything from friends to pets to family to music to chores showed up on their lists.  I would wonder what you see each and every day – this season and throughout the year – for which gratitude is a wonderful and proper response. 
Remember the big question is this – what do you see and what do you do when you see?  If you go home with one thing stuck in your head, think about what you see and how you act.  Do you see the need for food shelf availability and purchase extra food items at the grocery store?  Do you see a lonely neighbor in need of conversation and so you knock on her door?  Do you see the blessings of parents, children, and friends in your own life, and make them aware of the gratitude you have for their love?  Do you see God healing someone you love and thank God in prayer and praise? 
As we read this text and as we are a part of this thanksgiving, soon to be advent, and upcoming Christmas season, perhaps what goes forward with us is that faith is a way of seeing.  Believing in Christ calls us to open our eyes and employ all our senses to the world around us.  Which of our neighbors need assistance?  How can we help?  What are our blessings for which to be grateful?  A rabbi says it this way – “Religion is not primarily a set of beliefs, a collection of prayers or a series of rituals. Religion is first and foremost a way of seeing. It can’t change the facts about the world we live in, but it can change the way we see those facts, and that in itself can often make a difference.”
If we believe that faith is a way of seeing, what we see should lead us to act.  Reaching out, helping others, and making a joyful noise in response to God’s mercy and grace.  Thanking and praising God along the journey.   What do you see and what will you do when you see? People of God, people of God, what do you see?  Amen.

One Response to “Sunday.”

  1. cassination November 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    ooooh- well, that sermon was pretty peachy 🙂 and you picked up a lot of similar things that I have been reflecting on about seeing… I think you helped me come up with my intro too. [don't worry- I won't use it verbatim… but if I do, i'll attribute the wisdom to you!]

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