It's felt like hard work this week, putting these final thoughts together - but here they are at last:
1 Samuel 16:1-13 , John 9:1-41
Seeing is a complex business.
I’ve worn glasses since I was 7 and remember being very puzzled by our lovely family optician, Mr Low, saying to my mum “she’s very short-sighted, but she uses her eyes well”.
Seeing is not just dependent on how well our eyes function, but also involves what we make of the images our eyes detect.
So I wonder what we each see in today’s Bible readings. There's so much in there about seeing & not seeing & how we can 'see' what God sees.
The reading from the book of Samuel tells us the story of David being 'selected' by God, through Samuel’s anointing. Looking at the seven sons of Jesse, Samuel is sure that one of these fine specimens is the chosen king to replace Saul.
But the Lord tells Samuel – ‘the Lord does not see as mortals see: they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart'.
None of the seven is chosen, and Samuel asks if there’s another son – little number eight, little David is out looking after the sheep. Of course when he appears it is David who is selected.
But then did you spot the description that David was 'ruddy, and had beautiful eyes & was handsome'. God may have chosen him for his heart, but the teller of the story also wants us to know about his outward appearance, and to know that he was good-looking.
The Lord does not see as mortals see. We are obsessed with appearance and status and outward beauty – but God sees us as we are. God chooses us for our heart, not our face. God loves us for who we are. Can we see what God wants us to see? Can we learn to see others as God sees us – as people who are utterly lovable, however we may appear? It’s a real challenge, it involves an act of will as it goes against our natural instinct. Yet how often, when we’ve taken the time to get to know someone, do we find that someone whom we didn’t find attractive at first meeting is actually, deep down, not as they appeared.
Meanwhile John’s gospel tells us the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Here is someone who at the start of the story cannot see at all, and yet learns to see in more than one way. He is healed – to see the world around him, and he also perceives who Jesus is, who has given him his sight.
John wants us to know how amazing this story is – Jesus doesn’t just restore sight in someone who has lost it – he gives sight as a completely new gift, to someone who has never seen before.
Jesus is then criticised by the Pharisees for healing the man on the Sabbath, and as they question the man born blind (twice!) and his parents they are torn between seeing Jesus as a sinner, because he did this work on the Sabbath, and seeing Jesus as someone sent from God because otherwise how could he do this work of healing at all.
It is the healed man, in the second interview, who says ‘Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing’.
So this story becomes more than just a story of a healing but becomes a story dealing with the question of who is 'seeing' and who is not seeing Jesus for who he really is.
The man who was blind can now see – and sees that only the one from God can do what Jesus does.
Can we see what God wants us to see, here?
Can we see how Jesus brings God’s love into the world – healing, making whole, bringing light in the darkness and breaking free of the rules which tie people in knots.
The eyes of the Pharisees may work, but they are struggling to see Jesus as he is. They see trouble, they see a rule-breaker, they see disruption to the status quo.
What do we see? And what would it mean for us to see Jesus as the Son of God?
John says, of Jesus, in his prologue to the gospel:
“He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”
Can we see as the blind man sees? Can we believe in Jesus as the one from God, as he does?
And so can we accept that we are the beloved and precious children of God. Because when we believe in Jesus as the one sent from God with a message of salvation for the world, the consequence is that we begin to see ourselves and others in a whole new way.
Here is Jesus – come to heal & love.
We know that as we continue to travel through Lent we will be faced with the stories of how the criticism of Jesus and the conflict around Jesus’ identity come to their final climax with his death on the cross.
Some eyes will never see who Jesus is – but others will be opened by the marvel of the resurrection.
Today is Mothering Sunday.
I realise that the celebration of mothering and motherhood can bring us mixed feelings, because our earthly mothers and some experiences of being a mother can never be perfect. But these readings encourage us to see motherhood and parenthood in a new way.
If we see who Jesus is, and what that can mean to us, and if we see how God sees his children, perhaps we can dare to believe that God sees each of us as a precious, adored, child: that God looks on us with the eyes of an adoring mother. We are children of God.
That's how God sees us & that's why God comes to die for us.
Now do you see?
Thanks be to God for the gift of sight.