- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Sandra D. John at Washington Plaza Baptist Church in Reston.
Today, we read of a man who lived in darkness. When he encountered Jesus, he was given clear vision [Mark 8: 22-26].
From a physical vision standpoint, I can relate to this man. When I was 7, my eyesight was so bad that I ran into a hay-mowing sickle. I put on my first glasses and was astonished to see blades of grass and leaves on trees.
But this Gospel story is about spiritual sight. We begin by asking ourselves, "Where in my life do I need to see more clearly?" You may need clear vision on a decision about your family, job, finances, health or spare time.
We can also ask, "Where does this congregation need a clearer vision, and where does society need it?" We live in a world where there are so many ways of seeing life, but we have to live together without destroying each other. Perspective is part of this clear vision, and that includes patterns of life and the past, present and future. O God, open our eyes.
The Gospel writer Mark uses a bare style in his story. Some people bring a blind man to Jesus to be healed. Jesus touches the man's eyes, saying, "Do you see anything?" The man says it's still pretty foggy. He says that people "look like trees." Do you know that foggy experience? Open our eyes, O God. So Jesus touches the man a second time. The man says, "Now, it's not hazy anymore."
There's an ancient prayer that says, "Lift us up, O God, that we may see further. Cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly. Draw us closer to Thyself that we may know ourselves to be nearer to You." Clarity of our spiritual vision begins by being touched by Jesus. And I don't mean touched just once, but many times. Why is it more than once? We would all like instantaneous answers. Jesus' second touches encourage us, since things can take awhile and our healing isn't all at once.
The whole Gospel of Mark is about the followers of Jesus seeing more clearly who Jesus is and understanding His mission. Mark organizes the story by having Jesus at first healing and feeding people and doing miracles. Then Jesus asks His followers, "Who am I?" and turns to Peter with, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter says: "You are the one chosen by God." In effect, Mark has Jesus saying, "Don't you get it? Don't you see that I have power? I have just fed and healed people. I am the Maker of all things."
Like the disciples, you also are perplexed by life. You have pending decisions, but the rug is pulled out from under you. Everything may seem topsy-turvy. You may feel like you are in a fog. This is a time to hear God say, "I'm here. See Me. Rely on Me. Count on Me." Jesus was telling them that He had the power to make all things clear. "Let me touch you," Jesus says.
A fine point in this story is what Jesus told the man to do after he gained his sight. "Don't go back inside the building," Jesus said. The commentaries suggest that the man is being urged to put behind familiar things and take a risk. He is told not to go back to his old ways. That raises questions for all of us. When we gain our clear vision, we must decide what to hold onto from the past and what to let go of. A clear vision can helps us to celebrate and build on some things. It urges us to let go of others. What to risk something new about?
I see in this story a challenging question. And that is, "Am I willing to see?" The clarity of vision is a very risky business because it allows us to see new sights. It may be easier to stay in the dark or a hazy state of vision. I see Jesus standing dimly before me asking, "Do you really want to see clearly?"
I struggle with why it takes me so long to really see sometimes. To see clearly is to accept the fullness God intends for each of us, and for the world.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Nestor Iwasiw at the Ukranian Catholic National Shrine in the District

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