John 13:1-17, 31b-35
What can be seen
I have a speck in my left eye. Really. It got there sometime last Friday. I noticed it as we were entering one of the museums in Germany. It disturbed me; it interferes with my vision; and I am beginning to think it is causing constant motion-sickness. Or, it might just be that I am just obsessing about it to the point that my stomach and heart are in knots.
The speck was verified by another person. They told, “Yeah, you have a blood clot. It is right there, I can see it.” They told me. “Even if you can’t.”
It is called Posterior Vitreous Detachment. And it has had a profound impact on me, as I navigate my way through this Holy Week.
We are bringing the season of Lent to an end. Lent is the season when we try extra hard to see the specks in our eyes. Not the ones caused by Posterior Vitreous Detachment, but the metaphorical ones. Jesus said in one of his sermons that we often see the speck in someone’s eye. In someone else’s eye. We notice those specks, he said, while ignoring or overlooking the log in our own eye.
I thought about this. When I wasn’t sure if I had a speck or not. And I did find it comforting when the doctor pointed out to me that I do actually have one. Knowing about it makes it possible for me to do something about it. If I ignored it or failed to notice it, there is possibility it could get worse and bring total blindness.
Jesus preached how readily we see the speck in the eye of another. Jesus said that we often don’t acknowledge the log in our own eye. His words seem to be an invitation to notice the log – his instructions might include asking for help in seeing the log – or the speck.
It has been thirty-seven days since Ash Wednesday. Maybe you remember the list of suggestions for where one might look for specks. It is in the ELW, page 253. If you want to look it over. That confession has been carefully crafted to help us see specks we might otherwise overlook, or we might think unimportant.
I can remember as a child thinking, “So long as I avoid the big three – don’t murder anyone, don’t steal anything, don’t commit adultery – I will be fine.” What a shock to then begin to read and memorize Luther’s Catechism on the 10 commandments. Or what of the Ash Wednesday liturgy’s insistence that I also be aware of my “neglect of human need…. Indifference to injustice…. Uncharitable thoughts toward neighbor… waste and pollution of God’s creation.?
There are many, many specks in my eye. Some might even be categorized as logs.
As this Lenten season comes to an end and I prepare for the Great Three Days, I am grateful to the liturgies of the Church and the members of its congregations who have helped me to see the specks I would otherwise overlook or ignore. Without their aid, I may have continued in patterns of behavior which are destructive; without their intervention, I might have failed to turn my life in the direction spoken of by God.
The big transgressions are easier to see. Those of which we are more likely to be guilty are the ones which need to be brought to our attention.
I heard a woman on the radio today. The interviewer gave her every opportunity blast those who were not joining her in aiding victims of addition. She didn’t go there. She said, “People don’t mean to be cruel, they are just indifferent.” “Indifference,” can be a cruel response.
Indifference can be the speck on its way to becoming a log.
The Maundy Thursday Gospel lesson is sweet and seemingly gentle. Jesus gives us a command, a new commandment, and it is really a very simple thing. He commands us “Love one another.” What a great thing! What a wonderfully simple statement of what it means to be Jesus’ follower. And surely, loving one another is something that we would all willingly do. Right?
But he goes on to say that we need to love, “as he has loved us.” And this is where those specks start to accumulate in our eyes. I will love you as much as humanly possible, but does Jesus really mean that I need to love as deeply as he loved?
Jesus died for those whom he loves. We squirm out of tithing or find every excuse for not spending one day a month helping the families in Family Promise.
Here is where the whole speck in my eye thing comes back. I intentionally asked the doctor if there was a speck in my eye and if it was anything I needed to be worried about. Have we done the same thing – spiritually? Have we intentionally asked a fellow Christian, our pastor, a spiritual mentor to look closely and see if there any specks in our spiritual eye?
Sometimes we preachers take it on ourselves to tell you when we see specks. Sometimes we preachers relish the one-way dialogue to warn you about the specks and how they are obstructing your vision. Sometimes we do….. but mostly we see, and we hope that someday there will come the invitation to speak of the sins, the transgressions, the omissions, and the distorted vision which results in an unwillingness to have someone honestly tell us if we have a blood clot floating around in there.
Jesus means it when he tells us to love one another. And Jesus did mean to say that we are to love as deeply as he has loved us. And loving that deeply does mean setting aside our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people.
This speck in my eye is worrying me. And I do think it is creating vertigo. I want it gone.
But here is another thing the doctor in Germany told me. He said it may never go away. He said that over time my brain will simply stop registering that it is there. This already happens in every eye in this place. We have the blood vessels that run over the back of our eye, but we never notice them. Our brains fill in the gaps of information where nothing is registered by the retina.
God forbid that I allow my brain to allow me to forget the speck in my eye which blinds me to the call to follow Jesus and to love all of you with the love which he has expressed to me.