Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
February 19, 2017
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about our individual preconceived notions and beliefs.
Katie can probably relate to this story. I remember when I was taking driver’s ed. It was the driving part of the course. My friend and I were paired up to drive together. She was nervous because she hadn’t really driven much even though she was almost a year older than I and could have had her learners permit long ago. We did our hours in the white ford escort with our instructor. She would be the driver at times, I would be in the back seat. The drivers ed car we were in had the emergency foot brake on the passengers side (where our instructor sat) and two review mirrors so he could also keep an eye on the road. I felt safe and had a blast driving that white car with the cheese wedge on top exclaiming, “student driver”.
Once we had both passed the class I later learned that my friend had no idea what her blind spot was. She told me, “yeah I just turned my head around because that seemed to make the instructor happy. I had no idea what I was looking for.” I was terrified and so glad I did not know this information before.
Blind spots. There are several types of blind spots. There are ones when we drive, we all also have physiological blind spot, as the picture on your bulletin illustrates. It is the only place where you eye truly cannot let light in and thus cannot see.
However this morning I am speaking of metaphorical blind spots: our preconceived notions and beliefs.
In our scripture today, we learn of John the Baptist’s blind spot. Yes we are talking about that very John who leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary came to them pregnant with Jesus. The John who was the one sent to prepare the way for the Lord. The John who is now in prison and will soon be beheaded by Herod’s daughter Herodias.
While in prison John sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah or should they wait for another? This question is more than a little perplexing. This is John the Baptist, the one who met Jesus and baptized him in the Jordan River. The one whom John stated ““I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Why then is he now questioning Jesus?
John, the same John who knew and recognized Jesus is now questioning if Jesus is “the one who is to come”? John is expecting a Messiah who is going to “proclaim release to the captives and ... let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18). John is being held captive, as he sits in his jail cell, locked away he begins to wonder: if this Jesus guy really is the Messiah then what is taking him so long to set thy people free?
John has his ideas and expectations of what Jesus should do and how Jesus should act. Yet Jesus replies to John’s disciples to tell John what they have “seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” (Luke 7:22) Just in this one sentence words referring to sight are used three times.
John thought he knew the Messiah, knew Jesus and he thought he knew how Jesus would act. However his “blind spot”, his expectations, preconceived notions and his beliefs got in the way.
I must admit, many times my assumptions about other individuals has gotten in the way. I remember one gentleman I met during my Clinical Pastoral Education (a chaplaincy internship) at Beverly Hospital. I remember walking up to the patient's room and the door was more than half open. When I entered the room the sun was shining brightly through the large window facing the door.
Through the window you could see the other side of the building, since it was built in a cub shape allowing for an open court yard down below. When I came in the patient was seated in the high back hospital room chair wearing one of those typical blue hospital “johnny’s”. That day's newspaper lay disheveled on the unmade white linens of the bed from having been just placed down by the patient as I entered.
I remember how fragile the guy looked even though he was cleanly shaven with very short black and grey hair. His receding hair line highlighted his wide blue eyes. He sat connected to an IV line, I could not tell where the IV line was connected but it was somewhere other than the usual placement on a patient's hand or forearm.
Behind his thin body on the window sill was a black bag about a foot long, sort of the shape of a shoe bag. This case was actually his portable line. Behind his chair stood the hospital intravenous bag rack with one bag and line hanging. Further down the window sill on the right was a green reusable grocery bag which appeared to be full of his belongings.
When I entered the room I introduced myself saying something like “I am Tina, one of the Chaplains here at Beverly Hospital. I am just making my rounds this afternoon and wanted to say hello.” He returned my greeting and I asked “How are you today?” To which he responded “Well, I am fine. I am going home today.” Immediately I responded “Oh good” but just then I thought. “Shoot...I am not supposed to say that!” The fella went on to say how he was a little afraid of not knowing what to do when he got home with his new portable IV machine.
We had learned in CPE that not everyone is ready or excited to leave the hospital. Sometimes hospitals are the only place they can get three square meals, or insure their medication is delivered correctly or have attention and visitors, or maybe they are going home because there is nothing else that can be done for their symptoms. I had an innate blind spot, where I initially thought everyone must be glad to go home from the hospital, because I certainly would be.
We all have blind spots, we all have our own personal flaws and preconceived notions. We see what we want to see…our expectations blind us from seeing the Truth. The Truth being Jesus. Whether we see and acknowledge our flaws and preconceived beliefs or not. Whether we trust Jesus or question him, like John, he is here and believes in you. Just as he believed in John.
When John questioned Jesus, Jesus replied and stated firmly that yes, John is a prophet and he is the one about whom it was written that said this is the one about whom it is written: ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (v. 27-28).
Jesus believed in John and Jesus believes in us. Jesus loves and believes in us so much that he knows we can work on our own blind spots, on our own flaws. We can regain sight. But it takes work my friends, and faith. O boy does it take work. It is an ongoing process to catch yourself when you fall. To realize when your flaws, your preconceived notions get in the way of seeing and seeking the Truth.
Learning that not everyone is excited to go home from the hospital, or really that everyone’s experience is different than mine was eye opening. But that was just one of the many things I learned during CPE. The thing that has stuck with me the most was what my supervisor kept reiterating, “be curious”. Be curious about the person and situation, ask questions. We think we might know someone else’s answers, but the truth is we don’t. It is when we believe to know or understand someone else’s experience that our blind spots creep in. So be curious my friends and ask questions.
And when you catch yourself believing you know or judging another individual pause. Pause and think what else could be going on and then ask for forgiveness. We must work hard to gain sight.
My teenage friend who took driver’s ed with me figured out her blind spot and was a good driver. But like in a car, the obstruction can creep up in our blind spots so we must be diligent and check ourselves. Be diligent and be aware of our preconceived notions.
The scriptures speak of Jesus restoring sight to the blind; those blind individuals are you and me, with our preconceived notions. We all have blind spots and we all have Jesus. With his help we can work through our biases and preconceived beliefs and dismantle them.
Today and always may you be curious and learn the Truth.