By Dr. Jeffrey K. London
“A pile of rocks ceases to be a pile a rocks when someone has a cathedral in mind.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery, as quoted by Donna Schaper in “These Days,” September-October, 1999, Volume 30 – No. 5, Tuesday, September 21.)
When you look in the mirror what do you see?
What do you see when you look around this sanctuary at all of these people? Go on look at them! Have you ever really looked at the faces of those sit in front of you or behind you or on the far left side or the far right side?
What do you see when you look out at the world through the newspapers you read and the television you watch?
Do you see a world filled with piles and piles of rocks or do you see cathedrals?
When Jesus first laid eyes on his would-be disciples he didn’t see a pile of rocks, he saw the beginnings of a cathedral, a church. Jesus looked at the likes of Andrew, Simon, Philip, and Nathaniel and saw great potential, great God-given potential. He didn’t see rocks, he saw diamonds in the rough. Jesus didn’t see a bunch of uneducated, salty, low-income fishermen, he didn’t focus on the “what appeared to be,” he saw the “what could be.”
Jesus’ vision stands in stark contrast to our typically dim eyesight (alludes to 1 Samuel 3:1-2. Visions were not widespread because the eyesight of the people, like Eli’s, had grown dim. The visions were still there, the word was still viable, the perception of the people was at fault. A similar situation appears to exist today). I mean, aren’t we far more inclined to see the negative within people? Aren’t we far more likely to criticize than highlight the good? Hasn’t knocking down people sort of become America’s favorite pastime?
A SUBSCRIBER SAYS: “I use your service because I struggle to put my academically-inclined style forward in an understandable way. Your material seems to balance responsible exegesis and a user-friendly approach.”
I catch myself doing this whenever I go to the social, political, and economic center of Tulsa. I am of course speaking of Albertsons. There I move my cart up and down the aisle as I size up the other folks who pass me by. I find I do this without even thinking about it. I look at someone and I pass judgement. I’ve discovered I base my judgements on such highly important things like outward appearance, number of screaming children, and of course, the all important – what’s in the shopping cart! I can’t help it, I look to see what other’s think are the necessities of life. I realize it’s probably an invasion of privacy, but I used to think you could tell a lot about a person by what’s in their shopping cart. That is until I realized that I am mostly critical of what others have put in their cart. “I wouldn’t purchase brussel sprouts if you paid me,” I think to myself as I pass by an older woman. “How can he eat all that junk,” I murmur as I pass by a the guy with a cart full of soda, chips, Twinkies and Old Milwaukee.
Now I don’t think I’m the only one who does this. I think that if we’re honest, we can all admit to not really seeing the people who pass us by on a daily basis because we’re too busy sizing them up and looking at “what’s in their cart.” We pass judgement on others based on appearance, skin color, clothing, age, etc. We make snap judgements based on some of the most insignificant aspects of life. And most of the time these snap judgements are crass, critical, and negative.
The truth be told, the way we view those around us, and the world at large, says more about our own self-image than anything else. It’s no big secret to say that if I’m angry and frustrated all the time and tend to treat others harshly, I probably don’t think too much of myself.
Negativism and judgmentalism have a hold on us today like never before. Our eyes have become dim to the God-given goodness others possess, to the God-given goodness we ourselves possess, all because we refuse to see the cathedral for the rocks.
Well, having said that, now is probably a good time for some Good News. The first bit of Good News we can walk away with today has to do not with how we see, but with how we are seen. When Jesus calls Simon to be a disciple, he gives him a new name in the process. “You are to be called ‘Cephas/Rocky’!'” … and the music begins. Jesus didn’t see a fisherman, he saw a Rock, he saw a cornerstone, he saw great potential. And when Jesus calls Nathaniel to be a disciple, he proclaims him “an Israelite free from deceit, free from guile.” Jesus saw within Nathaniel not a s a perfect Israelite, but as a person of great integrity and honesty that formed the basis of great potential.
Over and over again, Jesus sees within people what the world does not see. He sees the good, he sees the potential, and he calls it out. In some ways, we could say that the whole of Jesus’ ministry is the calling forth of the God-given potential that lies within.
I believe the same is true for us today. When God looks at us he doesn’t see a pile of rocks, he sees a cathedral. I believe God sees the good within us first. I believe God sees the potential for greatness that lies within us individually and as a congregation. I believe that God sacrificed his only Son to proclaim to us our immeasurable value. Our value is not something that can be gained or measured by our economic earning power, or by the clothes we wear, or by physical appearance, or by SAT scores. To say, as Paul does, that we were bought with a price is to say that our value comes from outside ourselves, it comes from God (1 Cor. 6:20). The fact that we are now priceless in the eyes of God is not because we have made it so, or even because Mom told us so, but because God has made it so through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ.
When you look in the mirror do you see someone worth dying for?
When you look around this sanctuary
or out into the world
do you see people worth dying for?
Well, that’s how God sees us.
Our true value is immeasurable.
Our true potential unfathomable.
It’s not about simple optimism
or freedom from all critical judgements,
it’s about holy eyesight,
it’s about a whole new way of life.
To live with holy eyesight
is to have the eyes of Christ.
It is to first see ourselves as priceless creations
endowed with goodness
and called to a holy vocation;
and then to see our neighbors in the same way.
God’s invitation in Christ
is to see ourselves and our neighbors as God does:
first, as valuable and priceless,
not as rocks,
but as cathedrals in process.