Sunday, April 3, 2011
Good and right and true
Sometimes miracles happen in an instant. Other times, I only look back years later and realize how blind I used to be. In preparing for the move, I’ve been scanning shoeboxes full of old letters, so I can recycle the paper without losing the words themselves. As I re-read the letters people wrote me, re-imagine what I must have written between those letters, and live again the memories of my time with these people, I see how much I’ve grown and matured. I was blind about a good many things, mostly about the ways I protected myself and got what I wanted at the expense of others. In my own little way, was I all that different from these oil execs? I’ve never had the power to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses I don’t deserve. But I have sometimes been reckless with other people’s hearts.
Today this epistle from Ephesians is paired with chapter 9 from John’s Gospel, the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. That’s worth a read, too … and maybe a re-read, because there’s so much packed into it.
It’s all about moving from darkness to light, from blindness to sight. In the end, who is called blind? The Pharisees. Rather than allowing Jesus to deepen their understanding of God, they get hung up on technicalities and stuck in circular logic: How could a man of God heal someone on the Sabbath? A good man wouldn’t do any work on the Sabbath, so Jesus must not be a good man. A sinful man couldn’t heal someone’s blindness. Therefore, either this isn’t the same man as the one who was born blind (despite his insistence that he was), or he’s been faking blindness his entire life. QED. Never mind the much more straightforward, Ockham’s-razor-applied argument: Jesus actually did heal the man, and doing good things for people who need it is much more important than any number of well-meaning ritual observances. God forbid that we have to rearrange our priorities!
Another way I know I’ve been blind is that I have usually tried to play it safe. I’m not naturally an adventurous person. So when it comes to packing up my life and my family and moving to Virginia this summer to attend seminary, naturally, I’m scared. But I’m also convinced it’s the right thing to do. This adventure will be a way of stepping from the darkness of safety and security into the risky light of God’s grace, so that amazing things can happen … things I never could have made happen on my own.
John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” as a penitent former slave-trader. What sort of hymn might a penitent oil executive write? What revelations on grace are still out there for you or me to discover and tell the world about? May we all continue to head toward the light that reveals even our deepest fears, knowing that whatever is good and right and true is that which saves us.