Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bethany Bullet - February 15, 2011

*click on link:
Ollie & Harriet - Appearances
(If unable to open above link, copy/paste this to your web browser: http://vimeo.com/19916024)

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to wear glasses. Everyone in my family wore glasses. Both of my parents, my older sister, and even my younger brother - they all wore glasses. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I was the oddball. I used to try to make my vision blurry in hopes that one day I could wear glasses. Perhaps it worked or perhaps time caught up with me, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I started wearing glasses.

Vision is an important thing. It helps us make sense of the world. Some take it for granted and some have learned to go through life without it. At times our vision gets us into trouble.

It starts innocently enough. A mirror in the bathroom that is meant to assist us can begin to hinder. The time spent in front of the mirror can lengthen. Primping and preening, we start fretting over our appearance. How do we look? What will others see? And more damaging; what will others think?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we go home and smash all our mirrors as we cry out with writer of the book of Ecclesiastes “Vanity of Vanities!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 KJV) But I think that our society has become preoccupied with appearances. We want to make a good impression on others. We change our behavior to impress. Spend a little time in Junior High and you can’t help but see the effects.

The mirror of society reflects in our eyes and casts a vision. Our perceptions on how others view us begin to dictate our actions. You heard Ollie at the beginning of worship, wanting to impress, doing things out of character, and to what end? So that people will think highly of him. Sound familiar?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes his audience, and us to task for keeping up appearances. “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1) Harsh words from a righteous judge. Now the acts that Jesus is talking about are indeed righteous, they are things that should be done, are good and right, but at times there is something sinister lying just underneath the surface of our actions.
  • What was the motivation for doing the righteous acts?
  • What are our ulterior motives?
  • We are good at lurking in the grey areas aren’t we?

We can always rationalize our actions, couch them in positive language and feigned sincerity. But strip away the veil and we have to admit that most of the time we live for an audience of one. We desire to be seen in a positive light. We will do anything to protect our reputation. Even if we don’t like to live in the limelight we desperately desire to be thought of highly. We enjoy…in fact, we relish a positive appearance, and we would melt with embarrassment if anybody found out the truth.

The Greeks had a character that we know all too well.
Narcissus flowed with eternal beauty. Those who saw his face fell instantly in love. With the beauty of a lily and yet the thorns of a rose all love was unrequited every heart ripped apart. Narcissus rejected them all. Justice was brought upon him. For once he felt the pain of a broken heart. The river was his downfall it held the reflection of his face. So full of beauty Narcissus could not turn away. He fell deeply in love with his reflection. And this is where he remains to this very day, lost within himself.

Narcissus not only puts himself at the center of the universe but more importantly expects the rest of the universe to follow suit. There is a bit of Narcissus in all of us. We are all a bit lost within ourselves.

  • What has taken your gaze?
  • What are you staring at that has your attention? Where are your eyes fixed?
  • What thoughts and actions have your attention enraptured?
  • Is your vision clear or in need of adjustment?

Perhaps it is the work persona. The person you try to be when you punch the clock. Are you engaged in behavior at work that is not true to who you are? What do people see when they look at you?

Maybe it is who you appear to be on Friday night, the appearance of a person who gives in to the pleasures of the world.

Or is it the person you try to be when you come to God’s house. You know the expectations of God, you have heard the words of Jesus and you make a feeble attempt to appear that you have it all together. You put on your Sunday best; you shake hands with a smile, but inside you are dying.

Or perhaps you think you have it all together. You are a pretty good person and God knows it. You show up every week, sit in the same pew, and talk to the same people, but nothing ever changes. You are satisfied with the status quo and delighted that everyone here has it all together, that there aren’t any of those troublemakers in this place.

But Jesus knows the truth. He knows that we are filled with anger, lust, jealousy, bitterness, and unclean thoughts. He knows that we are content in our sin and bold in our judging of others. No matter how good we think we are the truth is that we are all spiritually blind and we hope nobody finds out that we can’t see. We keep up appearances in the hope that everything is going to be OK. But it’s not OK. We have a serious problem. Jesus spoke to those in his day who had this same issue, “Woe to you…You blind guides! You, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean…Woe to you… You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:24-28) Narcissus the Pharisee is alive and well in God’s house.

You see, the goal is not to be seen, but to see. Without help, we are all wondering aimlessly without direction, groping around in the dark.

Jesus desires not that we been seen by others but that we see Him. We have a Savior who comes to us to give us sight and to correct our vision. It was John the Baptist’s disciples who were wondering about Jesus and when they asked Jesus if he was the Messiah he replied, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5)

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

  • What has taken your gaze?
  • Where are your eyes fixed?

Jesus has taken your gaze to the cross and he fixes your eyes on what He has done.

So we can confess with Psalmist, “My eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge.” (Psalm 141:8)

We find hope in the words of Paul, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

And we can with confidence cry out with the writer of Hebrews, “We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

For Jesus has given us sight. His appearance on earth was for a purpose, to bring us into the light. We no longer gaze at the things of this world, we are no longer captivated and enraptured with our own appearance, but we gaze at the appearance of a Savior who corrects our vision, who gives us his sight, who sees us as a dearly loved child of God and brings us peace.

What has taken your gaze? Jesus has!
-Pastor Seth Moorman


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