Cleaning Our Glasses

Friday, December 20, 2013 — Week of Advent 3, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 40, 54 (morning) // 51 (evening)

Zechariah 7:8-8:8

Revelation 5:6-14

Matthew 25:14-30

My 13-month-old is currently obsessed with glasses. He grabs them off of my face, pulls them apart, throws them on the floor. He pries open their case and snaps it shut again—hopefully without trapping his fingers. I am forever cleaning the lenses from the smudges he has left behind.

The glasses of our soul are not so easy to clean. Our Scripture readings this morning remind us of how often we strain to see God through dense smudges and fingerprints, and of how we might need to take some time to clean the lenses. In these readings, people’s negative perceptions of God are often directly related to the hearts and souls that they are looking through.

In our first reading, the Lord explains through the prophet Zechariah what he wants from people. His instructions are, “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” These words of guidance from the Lord have everything to do with opening and softening our hearts. They reveal to us a God who is just, kind, merciful, liberating, and good.

But the people see something very different in God. Why? The passage says, “They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law.” When they tried to see God through the lens of their adamant hearts, they saw a God of anger. As the passage explains, “Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.” When our hearts resist God’s call to love and mercy, we experience God as wrathful and angry.

Our first reading also explains the connection between closing off our own ears and experiencing God as one who doesn’t hear us: “Just as, when I called, they would not hear, so, when they called, I would not hear.” When we have ears that do not listen openly and attentively and with a willingness to be transformed, then we may experience God as one who does not listen to human needs and testimony.

The gospel this morning also includes people who experience God in ways that are directly connected to their own hearts. The servants with five talents and two talents take bold risks with what has been entrusted to them, and they experience their master saying “Well done,” trusting them with great responsibility, and inviting them into joy.

The other servant, though, believed that his master was unjust and punishing: “I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow . . . so I was afraid.” This servant saw his master as someone harsh, someone to fear—and that is exactly how he experiences his master in the end.

What glasses will we use to see God today? Will we perceive God through loving and trusting hearts, through open and eager ears? Or will we strain to see God through hearts that are rigid and afraid? For better or for worse, we are likely to see the very God that we are looking for.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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