Recovering Sight

Jan 27, 2019 by

Sermon by Bob Tees

 

Luke 4:14-21
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

 

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Inspired by Marvin the Monkey… Captain Marvelous…  thinking of superheroes and secret identities…

 

One of my favourite moments in a movie is “the reveal”.

This happens when suddenly some new knowledge comes, information so powerful it changes how things are seen and what plot possibilities might emerge.

Sometimes this is not good news.   The nice guy turns out to be the villain.

Other times the revelation is good news, a twist that shines light and brings hope.

One classic instance of the “reveal” is the revelation of the superhero’s secret identity.  Behind the glasses, Diana Prince is Wonder Woman, Clark Kent is Superman.  The nerdy high school student Peter Parker is Spiderman.   The moviegoer has been in on the secret all the while, but the people closest to the hero have no clue.  When the disclosure comes, by mistake or by choice, a wave of realization sweeps across the screen.  The story changes.   You get a chill up your spine.

The story of Jesus has many twists.  He lives as an ordinary person in every way, but there are many moments when his secret identity is revealed.  When he is baptized a voice from heaven says, “this is my Son, the beloved; listen to him.”  The Spirit is present in the form of a dove.  In the story of the transfiguration Jesus is bathed in light and again a heavenly voice blesses him.  These moments of wonder are stunningly vivid.   But this does not mean Jesus is Superman, a bullet proof alien walking among us.   His power is not like that.  He is an ordinary man.   In some profound and mysterious way, Jesus bears divinity within him – mingling with his humanity – expressed in humble love, courageous truth, and healing power.

The gospel story today brings another glimmer of Jesus’ true self.  In the synagogue he reads a text about God’s restorative action to heal the world, then says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  It was common in synagogue readings to comment on the text.  It was not common to say, “this is coming true right now, in me.”    A revealing moment.

I wanted to learn more about this gospel text.  I thought I would google it.   Instead I called Ray Hobbs.   Ray is the bible google of MacNeill.  Seriously, you should call him if you have a question.  He shared many insights and then loaned me a book by John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus.   John Pilch observes that the Isaiah promise of hope is structured in five lines of verse in a poetic structure.

 

The Spirit of the Lord guides and empowers Jesus to

A             bring good news to the poor

B             proclaim release to the captives

C             give recovery of sight to the blind

B             let the oppressed go free

A             proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

 

As in English class, the poetic structure is important, in this case ABCBA.

 

The first line, “bring good news to the poor” and the last line “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” are linked together:  Jesus will restore meaning to people’s lives by healing them.

The second line “proclaim release to the captives” and the fourth line, “let the oppressed go free” also belong together: Jesus will free people from bondage.

The third line, in the centre of the passage, is the focal point:  recovery of sight to the blind.   The restoration of the blind is a recurring theme in the gospel, sometimes with stories of recovered physical sight, but also with a message of spiritual enlightenment.   Jesus opens eyes, minds and hearts to the real.  Jesus will restore our vision to see what is good and true and beautiful, and call us to actions in harmony with goodness, truth and beauty.

When I thought about “restoration of sight” I thought of the great American poet, Mary Oliver.  She died just a week and half ago at age 83.   She is a visionary whose writing helps us to see the world in new ways.

 

The World I Live In 

Mary Oliver

I have refused to live

locked in the orderly house of

     reason and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in

is wider than that.  And anyway,

     what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or

twice I have seen.  I’ll just

     tell you this:

only if there are angels in your head will you

     ever, possibly, see one.

 

Maybe the angels in our heads will help us see the Jesus story in a new way.

Imagine Jesus entering the synagogue and reading the words of Isaiah.

Now imagine that instead of the synagogue, it is you that Jesus enters.  You are the building he comes into. Jesus enters your consciousness and brings messages of healing, meaning, liberation, and restored sight.

The messages reverberate in the chambers of your heart.

In a hopeful twist, it is your secret identity that is revealed – you are a beloved child of God.

Jesus sees beyond the externals of your identity and unveils the gifts and beauty of your true self.

You are loved with an eternal love.

Your unique life has infinite value.

Your failures are places for forgiveness and reconciliation to come and gently begin a new work.

Your sorrows are places where love sings laments and lullabies to calm and console.

The indwelling presence of Christ weakens the grip of oppression and captivity, however they might have taken hold within you.

 

And so,

Let our hearts be open to the good news of healing and meaning.

Let our hearts be made free from captivity, that we may help others towards freedom.

And may our eyes be opened to what is good, true and beautiful.

 

In the words of poet Malcolm Guite:

Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,

Come to us now, disguised as everything.

Amen.

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