Doug Norris – October 28, 2018
First let me take a moment to rattle on a bit about the socio-political situation of the Jesus movement in relation to Late Second Temple Judaism – because I know you all woke up this morning wondering about this… You’ve been thinking, how did he reconcile universal and unconditional love to the stringent demands of a priestly vocation? Right? So a minute or two on that. Then I need your opinion on something personal.
Jesus lived in a religious culture of flawlessness, and he rejected it. Even though later on the Church tried to turn him into the flawless one, the sinless one, the perfect one, he understood that his place was among the grimy ones, the broken ones, the impure ones, the wounded ones. That’s the character of what’s going on in the story from the gospel this morning. They push the blind man to the side because he is an embarrassment, and he says, actually, he’s the one I’m here for, bring him here…
To be in the elite as a Jew in his day required a flawlessness, a purity. The high priest could have no blemishes, no scars, no signs of disease. Offerings brought to the Temple for sacrifice – goats, doves, had to be pure and spotless. Believing that only this was pleasing to God. By extension this kind of purity moved on down the social ladder, so illness or misfortune were seen as signs of not living properly, unworthiness. You would not bring the poor, or the outcast to your house or your table, they were unworthy. You would embarrass yourself.
So – the prevailing conviction was that the flawless were really loved by God, and to this Jesus said – no, here’s how it works, it is the poor, the weak, the wounded, the lost ones who are beloved, I believe he would have quoted Pink… Pretty pretty please Don’t you ever ever think that you’re less than perfect… and this caused him no end of trouble.
Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.
So tell me – do these robes make me look fat? I’ve been thinking of adding some shoulder pads… Maybe a tuck here at the waist… As a child, teen – very ‘large’ boy. There is a running joke in my family about the orange Speedo bathing suit my parents bought me when I was 10 or so. If ever there was a body shape that should not be put into a Speedo…. but there I was.
Being advised of our flaws. My reaction as a child and a teen was a constant pre-occupation with whether I looked acceptable. Would I be welcomed, or rejected? Anticipating shame.
And in response? I’d like to say that as a child I became deeply aware of the suffering of others, and was a source of comfort, but that’s middle aged dreaming. What I understood was that my flaws gave others a source of power over me, and so I learned that the flaws of others could give me a power. So I joined in the low-grade bullying and exclusion of the other kids who looked different or walked funny or did not meet some imaginary standard of normal. As if any of us were normal.
Our flaws and failures can drive us to live fearfully, and entirely misunderstand what is really going on in us – entirely misunderstand how beautiful, how holy an full of light is each person.
In 2007 Dove, a global beauty products brand launched a startling campaign. They realized that many women, in fact, they said, most women, believed themselves to be much less beautiful than they were. The first of the series was a video – a young girl – maybe 10-12 seconds of just her face, simple, unadorned, freckles, and then for 20 seconds a high speed blur of the relentless onslaught of the images of beauty and perfection she would see in the media – your skin! your eyes ! your hair! your shape! your weight! Look what you need to be! Then, at the end – ‘Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry gets to her…’
This campaign struck a nerve and has been a leader in cracking open the body-image and self esteem questions that can do so much damage especially to children and youth.
Here’s what I get, out of all this. Pink writing this song and Jesus loving the blind man and the disasssembly of a culture of flawlessness…
There are two perfections. One goes like this : ‘exactly as you are at this moment, with your zits and fears and your blindness, age lines and your failures, you have arrived at who you are at this moment and you are worthy of love, you are beloved of God.’ This is the first perfection.
AND, imagine who you will be! To grow toward, whether you are 12 or 95, to grow toward the continually increasing beauty that is possible in you,
Jesus healed blindness, and to extend this, it means that to be among his people is to work at seeing differently. To see ourselves and our neighbour for the deep holy light that is in us, and to have the imagination to see who we are going to be.
Take, O take me as I am, summon out what I shall be…
Imagine how beautiful we’re about to be. As we learn and grow and serve. Can you see it ? Let’s not waste a minute of it.