Yesterday, Gigi, Kelly, and I were at the Diocesan Convention.
As part of the convention, our Bishop, The Right Rev. Harvey Holy was speaking about perspective. He was talking about how our perception on the world has a major effect on how we see the world. He showed the picture, asking if it was a vase or two faces. He showed a glass, asking if it was half-full or half-empty. He talked about how in most of these situations, how we saw the picture had little to do with what was there and everything to do with our perceptions.
The glass is both half-full AND half-empty. The picture is both a vase AND two faces. They are both! But where we get into trouble is when we start insisting on one and only one perception. If we see the glass as only half-empty, and insist on only that perception, then we have a problem with someone who perceives that glass as half-full. And the same with the vase and the faces: as long as we insist that only one view is correct, there will be problems with those who perceive otherwise.
This got me thinking about a class in sensation and perception that I took many years ago and also about the gospel reading for today. From the class, we talked about how our perceptions can totally effect what we see and what we don’t see. Depending upon our perceptions, we may actually be blind to some very obvious thing. From the gospel, I started to think about being blind and how our perceptions can cause us to be blind to some things that may be totally obvious to someone else.
In the gospel reading, we have the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. Bartimaeus’ one wish is to be able to see again. I guess this is an understandable request. But actually, it is not one that most of us would understand. Thankfully, most of us have never been blind; so we cannot know what it would be like to be without sight or what it would be like to desire to have that sight returned. But for most of us, if not all of us, we do know what it is like to be blinded by our perceptions. And it is in being blinded by our perceptions that we can learn much from Blind Bartimaeus.
As I said, perceptions can blind us just as much as having no sight at all. When we believe that our way of perceiving is the only way, we can become blinded to what Christ may have in store for us. When we believe that what we have always been or what we have always done is the only way it could ever be, we become blinded to the potential that could be ours in Christ. When we are not in contact with Christ, we lose our perceptions, we lose our way, we lose our sight.
Bartimaeus had it nice, he was able to be right there in the presence of Christ. He was able to ask Jesus to change his perceptions and to help him see. For us, this is a little more difficult; Jesus is not walking the world any more. But this does not mean that we are totally left alone. This dos not mean that we are totally left to our own perceptions. It is the view of the world that we do not have Christ to lead us, and that is what has gotten us into the troubles we see around us.
But we have not been left alone. We have been promised that we would not be left alone. Christ promised us that we would have a comforter and an advocate that would be given to us. And we have! We have the Holy Spirit. Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to support us and guide us. Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to help us with our perception.
Part of how we maintain our perceptions in Christ is when we gather together as the body. When we gather together as the church we support each other and we help each other to grow. When we invite others to join us in worship, we broaden our perceptions. Instead of just seeing the vase, we can now see the faces. Each new person who joins together in community increases our perception and helps us to see the fullness of Christ in the world.
But coming to worship is just the beginning. We also need to continue to learn. We need to continue our life long study of scripture. If we never had an experience of a vase, we would never see the vase. If we have never seen a face, we would not understand that the background was composed of faces. But because we are familiar with these things, they alter our perception of life. When we limit our faith to those things that we learned in confirmation, we limit our perceptions and choose to walk through our world with blinders on.
The Bishop spoke of the three steps in changing our perceptions. The first step is “Repentance.” Now this is not the usual way we think of repentance. We usually think of repentance as being “oh so sorry” for all the things that we have done. But there is a problem with this; if we don’t’ perceive properly, we will never know what we should be repenting of. So our first step, our repentance step is to work to see the world as it really is, not as we wish it were. And again, I believe the Spirit is best comprehended when we gather together as a community to worship and to study.
The next step is that of Renewal. Renewal is being open to change. We may see reality truly and accurately, but if we are not willing to make the necessary changes, we are just as blind as if we did not see reality at all. Change may be frightening, but one of the facts of life is that change will and does occur. When we open ourselves to renewal, we open ourselves to the changes that God will bring into our lives.
And the final step is Revitalization. Revitalization is exactly what it says, it is making us once again vital, bringing us new life that we can find in Christ. When we look at life in an open and honest manner, when we join together and open ourselves to the working of the Spirit, when we join together as a repentant community of renewal, we open ourselves to change that God will bring into our lives. And when we are open to this change, God will bring new life to us. When we are open to new life, God will open our eyes so we can truly see.
Bartimaeus wanted to see, and he knew that Christ could give that gift to him. We, too, are blinded by or perceptions, but when we come together as a community of faith, we find our perceptions changed and our true sight restored. We find the gift of perception when we join together for worship, for communion, and for study. This is a great gift that has been given to us, and it is a gift we are call upon to share with others.