Monday, June 6, 2016

Learning to see

I preached at our church on Sunday. When our pastor asked me to take that Sunday she also said I could preach on whatever I wanted. We usually follow the church lectionary readings. I skipped that reading and went for Mark 8: 22-26. I had been thinking about that for a while probably on and off since I retired from my job as a pastor. I had done that for a long time, too. It was not an easy transition. "Retirement is not in the language of a Christian" wrote James Houston in A Vision for an Aging Church. I think he meant retirement in the sense of the time of life when you devote yourself to leisure activities. Retirement means a transition from paid work to finding other ways to live out God's call in your life. It is captured in the old fashioned term, vocation. R. Paul Stevens says, vocation gives the whole of our lives meaning in the sweet summons of God (Aging Matters, p35). After retirement is the time to discover your late life calling. It's there. Elizabeth O'Connor says, we ask to know the will of God without guessing that his will is written into our very beings. It's there in your calling, your way of life. The calling does not change but the expression of it will. It is discovering what to do with your life now. Karl Barth said, "In every moment we meet the call of God anew, and so in every moment it is as if we are just starting out."

Mark 8: 22-26 speaks to me about this. I call it learning to see. Our lives are a long process of learning to see. Eugene Peterson called it a long obedience in the same direction. The gospels are always playing with the idea of blindness. Jesus heals the physically blind and the spiritually blind. Sometimes the ones who can see are the most blind. I am still learning what my blind spots are.

I don't know why Jesus used a mix of spit and mud to heal this blind man in Mark 8 and I don't know why it only worked halfway the first time. I think I know why Jesus took his hand and led him out of the village though. Our villages blind us. The ways we were raised, what we were taught, how others showed us what to see. Blind spots can cause us to see things in the Scripture that are not really there. They can cause us to see what we are looking for or to find what supports our thinking.

I mentioned on Sunday that growing up in my village during the civil rights movement I never saw a connection between the marches led by Dr. King and our Sunday services. I never saw any women in the role of a public spiritual leader, as a pastor or deacon. I never saw a gay person in church or heard that issue addressed. I heard God's love was unconditional but I experienced a love that came with lots of conditions.

Part of my calling (our calling) is learning to see more clearly. Segundo Galilea says, "All spirituality springs from this fundamental fact of a God who loved us first....If Christian spirituality is, before all else, an initiative by and a gift from God who loved us and seeks us, spirituality is then our recognition and response, with all that entails. This path of spirituality is a process, concrete but never finished, by which we identify ourselves with God's plan for creation....the Kingdom of God and it's justice, spirituality is identification with the will of God for bringing this Kingdom to us and others." (quoted in R. Paul Stevens, Aging Matters, p66.)

That is a vision for retirement.

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