The other night Sean asked me if I had ever notice that when you look really close in a mirror you can see the whole room. “Thank you Capt. Obvious,” is what I wanted to say, but then I realized there’s something really smart about his observation. Most of us are oblivious to the life around us. We tend to only see what we want to see, or believe what we want to believe. Because of this so many things are hiding in plain sight and we’d totally miss it.
Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” illustrates this brilliantly. The authorities are looking for a stolen letter in the apartment of the supposed thief. They tear through everything, going as far as taking apart his furniture believing it’s been hidden in there. But the police never looked “in plain sight” - in the middle of his desk where a normal letter would likely be.
Perhaps we can’t see what God looks like because we’re not looking in the most obvious of places.
This begs the question, “Why isn’t God more obvious?” If God was revealed through many wondrous signs and miracles throughout the Bible, why doesn’t God act that way today? When atheist Bertrand Russell was asked what he would say if after death he discovered God was real. Russell replied that he would say: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.” Really? It seems easier to blame God than to accept the notion that perhaps God is real and all around us.
So has God made us blind? Or are we merely looking for God in all the wrong places?
Bookending two more famous passages in Mark, today’s readings seems nothing more than a transition from one miracle story to another. They are almost so small and insignificant, that we could be tempted to overlook the deep meaning within them. I’ve read these passages many times over, and never saw the big theme within it: People recognized Jesus everywhere he went. Why is that? Did they Google him? Was he trending on Instagram? Through our 21st Century lens, this might not be too far off the mark.
You see, up until this point in Mark’s gospel, Jesus had been on an image building campaign. He was doing pretty well with name recognition, and building up a respectable following. He is gaining some notoriety for his miracles, exorcisms, and teachings. And he was even raising a few eyebrows! He was like a rock-star Rabbi.
Word about him was spreading fast. Wherever he went, his reputation preceded him. He and his disciples couldn’t even sneak off for a little rest without someone tweeting his location. People would chase him down, doing whatever it took to be close to him. Imagine how filled our churches could be if the world was only able to see Jesus in our midst today!
So how did people recognize Jesus without Google or 24 hour news? I would argue it was by his words and deeds. Whether or not you believe in his divinity, the way he spoke and acted defined his human character. People are drawn to leaders who practice what they preach. And this group flocked to Jesus like sheep without a shepherd. Moreover, Jesus was more than just a good leader, he was also a mirror of God – reflecting God’s love and grace to anyone and everyone.
Now, I’m not a big fan of mirrors. In fact, I believe the mirrors in our house are haunted. Every time I look in one, there’s this crazy old man standing in front of it blocking my reflection.
Jesus reflected God’s will and it showed. No matter where he went, he had compassion for those around him – healing the sick, feeding the hungry with what little food he had. He served others first. Jesus didn’t sit around wondering how to do something – he just did it.
By practicing what he preached, Jesus could confidently say, “Whenever you see me, you see my Father” (John 14:9). In other words, Jesus is saying everything I do is a reflection of God’s love that is in me. If you want to see God, just look at what Jesus does...and do it.
We have a church member who likes to say hello and smile at strangers. Just the other day she told a woman who was having a very difficult time that God loved her. And then left it at that. Darlene has taught us that ministry doesn’t have to be difficult or a massive undertaking – it just has to come from the heart.
Wherever your talents lie or your comfort zone is, there is someone who is in need of the good news of God’s grace and love. As Christ followers, we’re called to be the visible presence of that love. The Bible tells us that by our faith we have not only been redeemed but have also been baptized with the Holy Spirit of God – the same spirit that empowered Jesus now empowers you and me!
Jesus said, “if you believe, you’ll do the same works I have done...” Then he added, “you’ll do even greater works better than me” (John 14:12). Imagine doing what Jesus did, only better. Wouldn’t that be a great way to be recognized by others? Or to be seen by God?
Nicky Gumble said, “Faith is a muscle that grows by stretching. One way to increase your faith is by doing something God asks you to do.”
We've got work to do. God knows people are still hurting and walking away from what we know in our hearts to be true. We are still killing one another; shutting people out of our lives; retreating into our unhealthy addictions. Yet, even in the darkest of places, or in the most hopeless situations, God is there…right there in plain sight…in the hearts of you and me.
Whenever we see compassion towards another human being or animal or this great creation… we see God. Whenever we see someone standing up to injustice, especially for the weak and the most vulnerable...we see God righting wrongs. Whenever a hand is offered to help another, whenever a smile is shared or a blessing paid forward... God is present. Despite what Bertrand Russell thinks or says, God has been here all along…in both good and bad times.
God is not hiding. We are. God is not silent. We are. God is not refusing to help someone, or causing bad things happen for some greater purpose. That’s what we are doing. We can’t pass the blame on to God without God holding a mirror up to our face.
Jesus entrusted us to complete his mission. It’s up to us to show the world what God looks like, and to put God’s love in their hearts. It’s up to us to tell and re-tell the gospel of Jesus Christ, and live out this good news in all that we do. And as a church, it’s up to us to create community where God may be encountered in the faces of each one of us.
By our faith we become God’s children. But by words and deeds, we become God’s voice, God’s hands and feet going into the broken places of the world to bring healing, help, and comfort. This is how others will come to recognize us as sons and daughters of the God who comes to us, who heals us and feeds us, and loves us no matter where we are and refuses to leave us there.
We are the Good News, just as Jesus was and still is.
So as you go out into the world with an open heart and open eyes, remember if you long to see God, it may not be in the dramatic or the victorious, the miraculous or the stupendous. Instead, it may just be in the ordinary or in the mundane, in the kindest word or simplest deed we can muster. Whenever we show love and grace, we know God is always present and visible…right here…in our hearts and in plain sight.
Let us pray: Lord God, thank you for allowing us to see you in the most unexpected ways. Increase our faith so that we might believe not just in you, but in the power you have given us to do your will. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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