Our pastor opened her sermon yesterday with this story:
In the darkest part of the night, a ship's captain cautiously piloted his warship through the fog-shrouded waters. With straining eyes he scanned the hazy darkness, searching for dangers lurking just out of sight. His worst fears were realized when he saw a bright light straight ahead. It appeared to be a vessel on a collision course with his ship. To avert disaster he quickly radioed the oncoming vessel. "This is Captain Jeremiah Smith," his voiced crackled over the radio. "Please alter your course ten degrees south! Over."
To the captain's amazement, the foggy image did not move. Instead, he heard back on the radio, "Captain Smith. This is Private Thomas Johnson. Please alter your course ten degrees north! Over."
Appalled at the audacity of the message, the captain shouted back over the radio, "Private Johnson, this is Captain Smith, and I order you to immediately alter your course ten degrees south! Over."
A second time the oncoming light did not budge. "With all due respect, Captain Smith," came the private's voice again, "I order you to alter your course immediately ten degrees north! Over." Angered and frustrated that this impudent sailor would endanger the lives of his men and crew, the captain growled back over the radio, "Private Johnson. I can have you court-martialed for this! For the last time, I command you on the authority of the United States government to alter your course ten degrees to the south! I am a battleship!"
The private's final transmission was chilling: "Captain Smith, sir. Once again with all due respect, I command you to alter your course ten degrees to the north! I am a lighthouse!"
Our pastor then preached from the Gospel of John, Chapter 9, an excerpt of which I include below:
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." 16 Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. 17 So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet."
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, 19 and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" 20 His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." 22 His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him."
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." 25 He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." 26 They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 27 He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" 28 And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." 30 The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 34 They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" 36 He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" 37 Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." 38 He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him. 39 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." 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?" 41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, `We see,' your guilt remains.
She wrapped up her sermon with a passage from Ephesians 5:
8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord.
So what? What does it mean to me? What lessons can I learn from any of this that apply to my life? Here's what I took from it, and am still pondering:
1) Often we are so busy looking at the world from our narrow point of view we don't see the bigger picture. We insist that we are right as we head perilously close to the shore, ignoring even the possibility that the light we see is there to warn us, and is there for our protection. I know I tend to look at the world through my narrow straw. I see no good path for myself. Perhaps I am not looking at it through the right perspective. Perhaps I need to step back and try to see the bigger picture.
2) Like the Pharisees, we often get caught up in looking at the rules to the exclusion of struggling with challenging the status quo. If it threatens our comfort zone, we like to turn to order and rules and turning our back on "radical" ideas that challenge us. For instance, I have a hard time seeing divorce as anything but an unforgivable sin, one that would bring shame on me and my family. Perhaps I need to reexamine this viewpoint and prayerfully and thoughtfully search for the answer to whether there are times when the vows taken are so damaged that a divorce would not be a bad thing. I think most would agree that nobody should suffer physical violence in a marriage, and few would argue that a battered wife should stay in her marriage no matter what. But what I need to seek answers to is when does it become too much. When is the marriage so damaged as to be unsalvagable? Or am I just looking for a way to asuage my guilt. That is why I need to prayerfully consider this and look for His guidance in the matter.
3) The concepts of goodness, righteousness and truth as guides for our actions plays into the considerations I must make. I certainly have not been truthful in a long time with a lot of people, nor has goodness or righteousness played into my thoughts and deeds in any significant way yet has always hovered close by leaving me guiltridden over many things.
I made myself a commitment today. I committed to myself that I will spend time daily in prayer specifically over my relationships situation for at least a week. I will try to hold myself open to receiving God's guidance even if it isn't leading me on the course I prefer.
One of the first issues I want to pray about is an analogy that popped into my head yesterday on my drive from LOH to LNJ (I often find drive time to be good thinking time). I thought of the pregnant Catholic teen who claims she cannot have an abortion because it would be a sin. When asked if she used any form of contraception she answers that of course not as that would be a sin. What always strikes me about the situation is that sex outside of marriage would also be a sin in her religion, but that point never seems to come up. Similarly, if divorcing W is a sin so I tell myself I can't do that then why do I find ways to justify committing adultery which is also a sin? Am I better person by committing adultery than by divorcing? No, of course not! Does my faith require me to sacrifice the next several years of my life by living as a faithful, celibate spouse? Can I find a way to do so without becoming bitter? Deteriorating into addled rambling again. I believe I'll close this post now and go spend some time in prayer.