“Blind Spots” – Sermon for August 2, 2015

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Nathan rebukes David, carving in the nave of Basilique de la Madeleine (Vézelay, France), c. 1130

Nathan rebukes David, carving in the nave of Basilique de la Madeleine (Vézelay, France), c. 1130

“Blind Spots”

A Sermon on 2nd Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B; preached August 2, 2015, by the Rev. Matthew Emery, Senior Minister

 

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”[1] So said Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, in his 1963 autobiography. Now in Jung’s case, he happened to be talking about when the ‘other’ is different from ourselves. But isn’t it just as true when they are too much like us? In fact, many have observed that it can often be the person who is most like ourselves that can get the furthest under our skins… even if we don’t always want to admit it.

I’m sure you’ve seen it: the one child in a family who, among his siblings, butts heads the most with his mother because, in fact, he’s the one most like his mother in temperament. Or there’s that person whose personality you find so annoying that you just can’t stand being around them, in part because you fear—perhaps subconsciously—that you yourself come across that way, too. Or then there’s the time—I’m sure I’ve seen this scene in countless sitcom episodes—the time when someone exasperatedly complains, “can you believe that she just waltzed right in here and did thus-and-such?!”… while everyone else at the table simply stares back, with a raised eyebrow and that tell-tale “do-you-hear-what-you’re-saying” look… because, in fact, the complainer had herself just waltzed right in there and did such-and-such hardly moments before.

Now, King David was not the star character in a sitcom. But as his indignation flared against the man in Nathan’s story, we can hear his “can you believe…” self-righteousness, as though it had come right out of a television script. But this was no show. He was playing the leading role in a real-life drama, one that had turned morally-questionable for himself, and downright tragic for a man named Uriah. Some of you were here last Sunday as we heard the tale more fully, the story of when David got into an affair with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, and eventually had Uriah killed in order to cover it up.

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” Or, rather, more literally, “the thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Even though his actions were heinous, and even though quite frankly David should have known better—it was, after all, no fewer than 5 of the great “10 Commandments” that David managed to break in one fell swoop—somehow David does not seem to have picked up on the problematic status of his situation.

Sure, he made sure to arrange a cover-up to avoid controversy within the community—although, admittedly what cover-up itself entailed (namely, murder) was as bad, or perhaps even worse, than the initial transgression itself. But the fact that his actions had been unjust, and even evil, and that he’d damaged his relationship with God… all that seems to have been lost on the aging and complacent king. He had developed a blind spot to his own situation, a blind spot to his own sin.

I wonder, though, whether perhaps David had, in fact, developed a blind spot to his own blessing, as well… I mean, could that be where this all starts? Taking for granted what he already had: the royal residence, the multiple wives, the command of the nation… the covenant and promise of God, electing him and his household to a special place in God’s plan. With all David already had, somehow he fell into the temptation of needing more. Could it be, then, that David’s ‘sin’ actually goes deeper and further back beyond the temptation and the tryst? Could David’s ultimate sin have been a short-circuiting of David’s “attitude of gratitude”, the nurturing of a gigantic blind spot to all he’d been blessed with?

But you see, here’s the thing about ‘blind spots’… you can, in fact, see right into them with a simple turn. Think about your own eyes… Perhaps you know that there’s actually a small blind spot in each of our eyes, a place in our field of vision that corresponds to where the optic nerve comes in to the back of our eyeball. Our brains try to fill it in based on the surroundings, but that doesn’t work perfectly—if there’s a lone object that lies right where the blind spot would be, your eye does not see it. But you see, that blind spot, it’s only a small area, and a simple turn, a small change in direction, a short little move, and—tada—you can see what had been hidden.

The same thing, of course, happens with the blind spots around our cars as we drive… it’s not that we’re completely incapable of seeing what’s there; we simply have to turn a bit, look over and back and to the side. If you stay so focused simply on the sole direction in which you think you’re headed—perhaps that was what befell David, a laser-like focus on what he thought he needed to achieve and acquire… if you stay so focused on that one spot, you’ll never see what lurks in the blind spots, ready to run us off the road. But a turn, a twist, a glance, and—voila—a fuller vision, with both the dangers and the delights, comes into view.

There’s also helps out there for our blind spots, things we have available to us to help us always see better into them, or even get rid of them altogether. In our cars, you can get those little convex blind spot mirrors to stick on your regular side mirrors—I’ve installed these on every car I’ve owned—and with the extra angle and wider perspective they provide, the blind spots are overcome. With our own eyes, the blind spots are part of the reason we have two eyes: with an extra view, an additional perspective from a slightly different angle, that optic nerve blind spot goes away entirely, because one eye can give sight to where the other is missing, and vice versa.

The good news, my friends, is that God is in the business of blind spot reduction in our lives, too. Sometimes, the extra view comes when a prophet comes along like Nathan, one who can speak truth to power and reveal to us where we have transgressed—and in so doing also remind us how we were already blessed. Indeed, as Christians, we believe than an extra view did come along when God walked among us as Jesus, the Jesus whose cross pronounces judgment against the violence and brokenness we’re caught in, but also the Jesus whose cross pronounces God’s great love for us and embrace of our world.

And sometimes the extra view comes in nothing more complicated than a gathering of people around a table, and the breaking of a simple bread—a people full of all the brokenness of the world and all the blessing of God, a breaking of the bread that reminds us of a night of betrayal and—as two disciples learned on that first Easter day, and as we learn anew every time we gather here—a breaking of bread that reminds us that Christ is alive and among us and promises to gather us in an even-greater feast in the fullness of God’s kingdom.

Come to this table, my friends, and be blind no more to your brokenness and your need for what is offered here… but come also and be blind no more to your blessedness, and to the victory of life over death, and to the seal of God’s great and joyful love for you and for us all.

 

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God, now and forever. Amen.

 


 

[1] Carl G. Jung (with Aniela Jaffé), Memories, Dreams, Reflections, trans. Richard & Clara Winston (New York: Pantheon Books, 1963).

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