Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Black is brown if the right person says so?

Lectionary Passages for March 30, 2014. 1 Samuel 16:1-3, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

I disguised myself and rode a distinctive black horse onto the field where the children (12-13 year olds) were playing. I dropped a note and galloped off. It was part of a "Where's Waldo" mystery theme at the children's camp my husband and I were directing back in 1997. I was sure they would figure out who "Waldo" was, but at the supper time discussion in the lodge building, it wasn't at all clear. Finally, one of the kids who was a ringleader stood up and said; "it couldn't have been Donita. Waldo was riding a brown horse and we all know Donita's horse is black." That settled it. The campers believed her and I remained anonymous!

Seeing and perceiving are different things.The kids all saw the black horse, but their perception of the event, in retrospect, was erroneous. People were easily convinced to believe what they wanted to hear, because it gave them an easy answer and they could maintain the mystery for another day.

In the story of David's anointing, we read; "the Lord does not see as mortals see, they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." Knowing how badly people can misjudge appearances, these are comforting words! This should inspire humility and carefulness on our part when we have to make judgement calls about people or events. There is always a good chance that our perceptions are incorrect.

It is ironic,after this 'the Lord sees the heart" bit, that in verse 12 the description of David emphasizes his good looks! If the Lord sees the heart, why bother with this over the top description of David's eyes, complexion, and appeal? Is the writer unable to let go of the need for the future king to be physically statuesque? I wonder, if David had been average looking, or on the scrawny side, would he have been accepted by the people?  There have been numerous studies that show good looking people tend to get preferential treatment in business and social life. God is able to see beneath the surface but we struggle with that. We also have trouble accurately evaluating what we see.

There's a good example in the John 9 story of the man born blind. The Pharisees, with the evidence right in front of them, can't agree. They can't even agree on the man's identity, let alone what has happened to him. Some of them believe in the miracle and Jesus, others just keep on arguing, desperately looking for some way to maintain their own perceptions of the way things are.

It seems crazy. We trust our eyes, but then find out that we are easily convinced that black is brown if the right people say it is. We know that appearances can be deceiving, yet we can't let go of our prejudice towards certain forms of beauty. We can see evidence, and yet argue it away if we don't want to believe it.

This week many people will take part in the Truth and Reconciliation gathering in Edmonton. We will hear stories, be presented with evidence, and we will yearn for healing and a way forward into new ways of being Canadian, neighbours to each other. Will we be able to see past appearances and prejudice? Can we see the hearts and keep ourselves humble enough to be receptive to truth and change?

In John 9:41, Jesus addresses the Pharisees who remain resistant to the truth. "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'we see', your sin remains."  I pray that this weekend people will have hearts open to see, and once that we have seen, that we will collectively be open to learning what changes might bring healing to First Nations, to those of us who have been blind, and to our country as a whole.

No comments:

Post a Comment