Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:39-41). Another look at Tillich’s ‘The New Being’. This message he titles ‘Seeing And Hearing’.

The discourse begins with a statement of the fact that both Biblical Testaments, and most religious literature speaks consistently of seeing: ‘come and see’; ‘we have seen’; ‘everyone who sees the son’. “It is not true that religious faith is belief in things without evidence. The word ‘evidence’ means ‘seeing thoroughly’. And we are asked to see.” Isaiah is noted as being the greatest of all prophets “after he had seen God in the Temple”. Jesus’ blessing upon ‘the pure in heart’ identifies the “ultimate fulfillment, the end of all moving and striving… the eternal vision of God.”

Noting the long struggle that the historical Church had with ‘seeing and hearing’, the homily now recognizes that ‘hearing’ won the battle during the Reformation when the Church became centered around the ‘preacher’s desk’— “Hearing replaced seeing, obedience replaced vision.”

Most significant for me is this statement— “Seeing is the most astonishing of our natural powers. It receives the light, the first of all that is created, and as the light does it conquers darkness and chaos.” Making these points: seeing creates; seeing unites and seeing goes beyond itself.

The late great homiletics professor, Dr. Isaac R. Clark in his course ‘Delivery of Sermons’ developed this process for critiquing sermon delivery. Tasked with three scheduled sermon deliveries, you stood at the ‘preacher’s desk’ facing the class as critics. In addition to facing a two-way mirrored back wall which, although you couldn’t see him, you knew that Dr. Clark was on the other side. Shortly into your first round sermon he would burst through the door waving a red flag—“Shut up, fool!” He had a peculiar way of ‘seeing beyond what he was hearing’. When Clark alumni gather we don’t know of anyone who made it through the first round of sermon delivery.

The discourse continues by pointing to innumerable temples and churches throughout the world’s history that contain ‘things’ and ‘images’ —idols which hold us fast to themselves and do not lead us beyond. We enter in self-surrender but leave empty and in despair.

“Perhaps we want to deprive ourselves of our eyes like CEdipus, of our eyes which first did not see what they ought to see and now cannot stand to see what they must see.” I see men who look like trees …

follow me on Twitter: @therevsquilts
by email: mustardseedfaith@outlook.com