The Third Sunday in Lent

You can’t be what you can’t see.

I get it. To help inspire, to lift aspirations it is important to have role models. It is important for people to see someone ‘like them’ in all the possibilities of life. And that’s the issue – what is possible? Racism, gender stereotypes, class and many other perspectives seek to limit people – or rather particular groups of people – while usually maintaining power and privilege for other groups of people. Part of the discussions and accolades surrounding the films Wonder Woman and Black Panther are that the characters and worlds inspire people and challenge stereotypes. And it is good for individuals and for the planet if everyone can aspire to their dreams and potential in an environment of mutual support and promoting good for everyone. (I think that is how we bring up our children.)

However there is an aspect of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ that doesn’t work in my world of faith. You see – well, actually you don’t – and neither do I … we don’t see the spiritual realm. I can’t see Jesus unless he turns up. So that means for me not seeing Jesus. I can’t see my Christianity, my faith. When I look in the mirror I know what lurks beneath the surface. You might think there is enough evidence to prove on the balance of probabilities that I’m a Christian – but I know differently. Each Sunday the Christian Church says in its creeds, ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church …’. We don’t say ‘I see Christians’. Rather it is an article of faith that there is a Christian Church on Earth and there are Christians here. And I say I am one but as for seeing it … where do I look?! My good deeds? I think they might be cancelled out by my bad ones. How deep do I look? What about mixed motives? What about the good I want to do that I don’t do? What do I do with the bad I don’t want to do that I keep doing? How can I be a Christian – a disciple of Jesus – if I can’t see one (or Jesus)?

By listening! Christian faith comes from hearing God’s Word – hearing Law and Gospel – hearing who I am and what I am from God’s perspective (sinner) and what God has done about it (Jesus). What I see tells me things. God’s Word also tells me things. Whom do I believe?

When Jesus attacked the religious leaders of his day his main criticism was their blindness – they saw themselves in certain ways but not as God did – their hypocrisy (which is a knowing and deliberate incongruence between what one says and what one does because what is visible is more important). The world mocks and the Church is shocked when ‘public’ Christians sin – especially publicly. Of course such sins are selfish and destructive – and have consequences – but that sin exists shouldn’t be the shock.

Every Christian Divine Service exists solely for the purpose of a merciful God gathering to himself sinners (whom he calls his children) so that he might again and again forgive them through words, water, bread and wine. Restored through God’s Word – we don’t see this! – though we do see water, bread and wine, and an apostolically authorised person – we hear more words and God guides us in our living. Thus I leave God’s house seeking to be – to do, to live – what I believe.

You can’t be what you can’t see. I think that’s a good encouragement or challenge in the world for all sorts of things.

You can be what you can’t see. I think that is a truth about discipleship – following Jesus – and trusting his words to us – especially his forgiveness – which inspires us to love and serve those around us – and to see life and whatever happens as not being able to separate us from this Jesus’ love!                                                      GS