When faith is a new vision
By Nathan Decker
Sometimes you have to look through to see the real meaning. My office is filled with things about which no one else would understand or care: a Valentine Card from 1988, red streamer tape and a big bulky cross. None of these mean as much to other people as they do to me, because you can’t see what I see. There is spiritual connection, sentimentality, and a vision deeper than eyesight within these physical items. Like stained-glass windows or rosary beads, for me they transport me into places where I have experienced God and continue to do so by their constant reminder.
We focus too much on what is in front of us, and not enough on who is beyond us. 2020 seems to be the year of going from crisis to crises. Australian wildfires disappeared in the face of COVID-19. Protests and riots left us as soon as the election heated up. Life likes to treat us as if we are a punching bag. A line of boxers stands in front of us. Each one coming up and tearing into us. When the last one finishes, we simply look at the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that and the one after that. Buddha called this the wheel of pain, a reincarnation of misery after misery. An enlightened vision was needed to escape it, to reach Nirvana. We have to look past the line of boxers to see the one who invites us to step out of the line, to have a new vision.
Faith requires us to have a new vision. In Mark 8, I’m sure the disciples were perplexed. Jesus heals the same blind man twice. I’m sure the blind man was perplexed. Is this really what seeing is? People look like trees walking around? I’m sure Peter was a bit perplexed. He had just called Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Annointed one. And now, Jesus was calling him Satan, a stumbling block, a blind man.
The disciples could see Jesus. He spoke with words of authority, challenged the power players, healed illness, reconciled relationships and raised the dead. The disciples could see Jesus, but they didn’t see Jesus. They didn’t see the divine love poured out into the cup, the broken body in the bread and when he told them he was going to die. They got lost when he told them about resurrection, couldn’t see past the cross to the crown. They couldn’t see past the sacrifice to the reward; they needed new vision. “I see people, but they look like trees walking around.”
We focus too much on what is in front of us, and not enough on who is beyond us. The red streamer reminds me that God is a God of new beginnings. What you can’t see is that this was the streamer that was cut to open the daycare at HSUMC. God was calling us to new beginnings.
The big bulky cross reminds me that God is a God of resurrection and renewal. What you can’t see in this cross is that the wood was taken from the floor of Concord UMC. After 100 years of prayers, worship, communion spills and kids running around — the old pine floors needed replaced. When the floor was taken up, one of the members made crosses. God is calling us to see value in repurposing, recycling, and renewing.
A valentine from 1988 reminds me that God loves everyone. What you can’t see is that this was one of my classmates in 5th grade named Dusty Whitten. Dusty had a mental handicap. In some schools that would have made him an outcast and the target of a lot of bullying. But we were a small class of less than 50. We all looked out for him. No one was allowed to pick on him in our presence. We did this because Dusty taught us something.
Acceptance. He didn’t care who you were, what your grades were, or how good you could shoot hoops. He accepted you and loved you as a human being. Dusty loved basketball, telling fart jokes and all the other great things that boys do in middle school. In 7th grade we had Dusty’s mom for a teacher. She and he were killed when a drunk driver collided with them. Most folks just see this as a valentine from a boy in 1988. I see a reminder that God loves everyone because that’s how Dusty was.
Faith requires us to have new vision, to repent. Faith is a worldview. It changes how I see the world, how I see you. Our Christian faith calls us to see the world through Jesus eyes. Are we seeing Jesus clearly? Or are we seeing him like the blind man did, like Peter did. You are the Christ, but I want to control what that means. We have to repent. Faith is seeing Jesus for who he really is, and not just who we want him to be. This requires us to receive new sight. This requires us to have a resurrected worldview. This is when faith is a new vision.
NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.