Benediction Online

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Monkey Business

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Mark 10:46-52

As many of you know, Jill and I recently bought a new car, a sea-foam-green Prius. I had never noticed before how many Prius’s are sea-foam-green. Now everywhere I go there’s at least one, often two of them. I’m thinking about a bumper sticker to help me identify ours from a distance – it seems only a question of time before I absent-mindedly attempt to drive off in someone else’s sea-foam-green Prius.

I know you’ve all had similar experiences. Things which we hadn’t really noticed before suddenly stand out. They are there in our environment all the time but we screen them out. Until something happens and we start noticing them. There’s far too much going on for us to be able to take in everything all the time, so we constantly screen out a lot of information.

Back in 1999, a research study revealed that when people are asked to focus on a video of two teams passing basketballs, about half the viewers fail to see someone in a gorilla suit walk in and out of the scene thumping their chest. This experiment became so well-known that the researchers tried again – this time most people saw the gorilla because they were expecting to see it but they missed two other things that happened in plain sight. Which led the researchers to conclude, “When you’re looking for a gorilla you often miss other unexpected events.” They called it the monkey business illusion.

There’s a lot going on around us all the time that we just don’t see.

Bartimaeus knew he was blind. But often we don’t. We imagine that we see everything that’s going on and are in full possession of the facts. But that’s just not the case.

“When you’re looking for a gorilla you often miss other unexpected events.” In our lives there are a lot of unexpected things happening and some of them have the Holy Spirit’s fingerprint all over them, but do we see? Do we notice? I imagine that most of us have had sudden “Aha” moments when we realize that God is at work in our lives. But much of the time we simply don’t notice. We’re not attuned to the ways of God.

Every vestry meeting we start by sharing “signs of God’s grace” in our lives. When we started doing it we tended to think of people who were ill but getting better. As the years have gone by we’ve branched out into a whole range of different things. But it’s still a little difficult. We’re still having to train ourselves to see and remember and share God’s touch in the small, subtle things.

Because that’s often the way God works. Today in our first lesson we heard the end of the story of Job. Having spent months in terrible discomfort having lost everything, Job has an amazing and awe-inspiring meeting with God. But that wasn’t enough for the author, who needed to add that everything turned out OK for Job. In fact more than OK – he ended up with even more cattle than he started and more children who were beautiful and prosperous and he died a happy old man.

We know it doesn’t work like that. God loves the people in Syria just as much as he loves us. God loves the people who suffered and died in the Nazi concentration camps just as much as she loves you and me. So seeing God’s grace in our lives is not necessarily seeing that everything is working out beautifully. God’s grace is present with us and is working in us even when our outer lives are not working out the way we wanted. Even when we’re out of work and hurting for money; even when we’re in pain with little sign of relief; even when our bodies are letting us down day after day, God’s grace is present.

Opening our eyes to God’s grace is not simple optimism – it’s not just seeing the glass half-full. But it is seeing with the eyes of hope. Bartimaeus had hope when he heard that Jesus was coming. We can always have hope that whatever is happening for and around us will eventually pass, and it is not the only reality. We have enrolled in the reign of God and it is the reign of God which is the reality unfolding in our lives. At the same time as we live in the limitations of this time/space environment, we are simultaneously living in the unlimited reign of God.

We are the daughters and sons of God. That does not translate into wealth, riches, handsome sons and beautiful daughters in this world. Those things are minor in comparison with the knowledge of God and a relationship with her. The book of Job is the story of how he refuses to give up hope even though disaster after disaster befalls him. And eventually God meets with him. This is not a Disney-style meeting with beautiful music and pretty angels. This is a scary meeting with the Creator of the Universe who reminds Job that as Creator, he is completely free.

Our God is not a neat Martha Stewart style household god – he is the God who created the world with all its beauty and also its earthquakes and storms. This is the God with whom we dare to join in co-creative relationship.

“When you’re looking for a gorilla you often miss other unexpected events.” When we expect God to work in one way we often miss the ways she does work. Sometimes it only takes a subtle shift in perception to enable us to see things in quite a different light. At other times God has to hit us on the head with a two by four in order for us to start seeing more clearly.

The reign of God, Jesus said, is neither here nor there but is within us. The reign of God is not some future event but is here and now, present with us on the inner. Our challenge is to allow our eyes to be opened so that we see it. Our challenge is to see the reign of God and to actualize it on the outer. Our challenge is to allow our consciousness to expand so that we can see more than meets the eye – so that we can see God’s grace at work – so that we can see the reign of God here and now.

When Bartimaeus received the gift of sight he followed Jesus. When the gift of inner sight is given to us – even if it’s just a glimmer – it is given so that we too may follow Jesus. It is not glamorous – not something that makes us special – not something to boast about – but something to be treasured and cherished. As a community we can inspire each other to greater sight by sharing those God moments that happen to us - the unexpected things which happen on the spiritual path – the times when in the ordinary events of life a gorilla crosses the road.
But let’s be careful not to limit God to the person in the gorilla suit. “When you’re looking for a gorilla you often miss other unexpected events.” Let us ask that our eyes may be open to see God working in unexpected events every moment of every day. 


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