“Stop. Look. And Listen.”
Cathy Harris – PFM – 5/24/20 – Ephesians 1:15-23
Ephesians 1:15-23 (NIV)
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
When I was a child, my mother taught me to Stop. Look. And Listen. … As I walked across a street, I would Stop. Look. And Listen. … When a ball rolled out into the road, I would Stop. Look. And Listen. My mother ingrained in me – and my brother – that we needed to Stop. Look. And Listen.
When I started school, we lived in town – in Greenfield – and I walked to school every morning – walked home at noon to eat lunch (there was no cafeteria) – walked back to school, then walked home in the afternoon — so it was important to learn how to cross the street.
When I was 9 years old, we moved to the country – a few miles east of Greenfield. … So, I had to switch schools in the middle of 3rd grade. I liked my old school, but I was excited about my new school, too, because my cousin, who was the same age as I was, would also be attending Eastern Hancock … and not only that … I would get to ride a bus to school!
I had ridden a school bus a few times – before I was old enough to go to school. My grandfather was a farmer, and he also drove a school bus – and I got to ride with him sometimes when he drove his route. So, when I changed schools, I was excited to get to ride a school bus.
But, to get on and off the bus, I had to cross the road. Every morning I would head out the front door of our house – whether walking to the end of our drive to wait for the bus … or … if I was running close on time, racing out the door to catch the bus.
Either way – I ALWAYS stopped at the edge of the road – just like my Mom taught me – and then I stopped, looked to make sure that the bus was completely stopped – and then I looked both ways – up and down the road – and then I listened for other vehicles before crossing the street. It was very important – because we lived on a very busy county road.
One day I walked out the door to wait for the bus. I stopped at the road … waited for the bus to come to a complete stop, and then looked both ways and listened for cars and began crossing the street.
What I hadn’t noticed – was that the bus driver wasn’t paying attention – and after the other kids got on the bus at my stop, he began to take off – while I was walking in front of it.
What I DID notice was 4 or 5 mothers screaming from their front doors as they saw the terrifying scene unfold before their eyes. When I heard them scream, I turned toward the bus and saw it moving towards me. At the same time, the bus driver heard the Moms screaming and slammed on the brakes. The bus had come within inches of hitting me.
Looking back at the situation now, I realize that it wasn’t enough to stop at the edge of the road … to look and see that the bus was stopped. To look both ways and listen to make sure no cars were coming.
A first look at this picture indicated it was safe for me to begin crossing the road – and it should have been, but it wasn’t enough to look at the picture – I needed to look again – beyond my initial perceptions – through the window – to make eye contact with the driver to make sure he had seen me.
The initial picture – on the surface – looked safe. A closer look – through the window to the driver – might have revealed that the driver wasn’t paying attention – a vital piece of information!
My bus driver was young. He was probably about 20 years old at the time he nearly hit me. Several years ago, as I was walking into the Greenfield Walmart, there he was – my former bus driver, smiling, and saying “Hi! Welcome to Walmart” – he was a greeter at the store. I was surprised. I hadn’t seen him in years – or even thought about the bus incident – but here he was – right in front of me – working at this store.
Every time I went to that store, I saw him – about once a week – and every time I saw him, I was reminded of the time he nearly ran over me with the school bus – and was surprised to realize that I carried some hard feelings about the situation – even though I know he is a nice man and liked him as a bus driver. I found myself – every time I saw him – feeling resentful.
I kept thinking to myself – this is silly – it happened 40 years ago – I was not hurt – I’m fine – but the sad truth was that I had some hard feelings – not hatred or a huge amount of anger – not, it was resentment.
In the scripture reading this morning, Paul writes to the Ephesians:
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the EYES of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”
Paul prayed that God would give them a spirit of wisdom as they came to know God more and more and that they would be able to see with the eyes of their hearts … hmmmm … a spirit of wisdom and revelation and to be able to see with the eyes of their hearts enlightened.
In the book, “Windows of the Soul”, the author – Ken Gire – says that when we look long enough at something – whether it is a scene from a movie, a page from a book, or a person across the room – that, when we look deeply enough, those moments grow transparent. He says that everywhere we look, that there are pictures that are not really pictures, but windows. And if we are willing to take a second look – and look closely at someone or a particular situation, that we will be able to see something beyond our initial perceptions.
In the details of our every day life, we need to Stop. Look. And listen. But we need to go beyond that – we need to go beyond looking at the picture and look and listen again – with our eyes and our ears and our hearts – and look through the window.
Paul challenged the Ephesians to look with the spirit of wisdom and revelation – to look with the eyes of their hearts. Jesus seemed to constantly do that – to see beyond the initial picture – and to look through the window to see what was going on beneath the surface – to look with a spirit of wisdom and revelation – with the eyes of his heart.
– When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, he saw – not only a tax collector – not only a man of power and wealth – but he also looked beyond – to see a man who yearned for something the world couldn’t fill.
– When Jesus saw the Samaritan woman at the well, he saw beyond her five failed marriages to the emptiness in her life – and he saw the value of her life.
– He saw the need of the widow at Nain – she had lost – not only her son and her husband, but she had also lost the person who protected her and helped her bring in an income.
– And when the poor widow put her last two coins in the temple offering – perhaps no one else noticed her meager offering – or perhaps a few people saw the small offering, but never gave it a second thought or second look, but Jesus did. He looked beyond the initial picture – beyond the actual dollar amount given – and looked through the window with the eyes of his heart and saw that in her love for God, she had given all that she had.
In the details of our everyday life, we need to Stop. Look. And Listen. But we need to go beyond that – and look through the window with our eyes and our hears and our hearts – like Jesus did.
And, what do we see when we take a second look? What do we see of who we are? Or who we might become? What do we see of our neighbor living down the street? Or our neighbor living ON the street? What do we see about God?
God has given us a unique set of eyes to see … a unique set of ears to hear … and a heart to feel/see …God has given us the eyes and the ears and the heart of Jesus – God’s own heart – to take a second look – to look through the window – God offering us a moment of simple insight – enabling us to see some deeper truth that we might have missed had we not slowed down to take a second look with the eyes and ears and heart of Christ – to give us insights that can help to make us a little slower to judge and a little quicker to show compassion or understanding.
When I ran into my bus driver at the store nearly every week, I was surprised each time that I was experiencing feelings of resentment.
So I decided to take a second look – and instead of looking at the situation through my own eyes – which was that I had done what I was told – Stop. Look. And Listen – to make sure it was safe to cross the road – and saw him as a careless bus driver.
When I was willing to look at the situation through the eyes and ears and heart of Jesus – beyond the picture on the surface – to look through the window, I saw God’s love and pain for both of us – me at the terror of almost being run over, and the bus driver for making the mistake of not paying attention.
And – looking beyond the picture through the window, I was able to forgive my bus driver and let go of my resentment.
A Jewish theologian – Abraham Heschel – once said, “To sense the sacred … is to sense what is dear to God.”
Taking a second look – is to look for the sacred – to look for God in someone else – or – to look for God in a particular situation.
I found myself thinking about the early Friends/Quakers this week.
Quakers find our beginnings in northern England in a rural area known as the Lake District in 1652.
It didn’t take long for the movement to spread and grow in rural areas in northern England.
And soon, George Fox and other Friends felt led to travel south towards London to share the Good News about Jesus coming to teach his people himself.
London was a city of culture – high society – influence. Do you know what the Londoners thought? When the people in and around London first stopped to look and listen to what early Friends had to say, on the whole, they initially saw them as a group of people from the countryside who were not highly educated and not very sophisticated – they didn’t hold titles of Lord or Lady.
And, yet, for some reason, the Londoners and others in Southern England, took a second look – and they saw a group of people who had great passion for their spiritual beliefs … a group of people who spoke so firmly and with such genuine sincerity … that they were able to hear the words God had given them – and they began to see beyond the initial picture and look through the window – they no longer saw a group of country bumpkins, instead, they were able to hear the word of God – and they were a little slower to judge and a little quicker to show understanding – and a little more willing to listen.
Isaac and Mary Penington were among those who took a second look at those Quaker country bumpkins. They were impressed.
Here was a group of people, who not only spoke passionately and firmly and sincerely about their faith in Christ, but these Quakers KNEW they were a bunch of country bumpkins – these Quakers from the North knew that they were not sophisticated – they knew they couldn’t debate on the level of the sophisticated and well-educated – and yet, do you know what Isaac and Mary Penington saw? They saw how those Friends depended on God and they were impressed. They talked with Quakers for two years before joining their ranks, and went on to become significant leaders in the Quaker movement.
Fred Buechner writes, “If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else, we must SEE our neighbors. With our imagination as well as with our eyes, that is to say, like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces.”
In other words, Fred Buechner is saying that we need to take a second look. Look beyond the picture on the surface through the window to what’s taking place at a deeper level – looking with the eyes of our hearts.
Sometimes we don’t give something a second look because we don’t think there is anything there to see. To look with the eyes and ears and heart of Christ is to understand that there IS something to see – that there is more to see beyond the surface, something that has the power to change the way we think or feel – the power to change the way we see – something that may prove so profound a revelation as to change not only how we look at our lives, but how we live them.
What a difference it would have made if those Londoners – including Isaac and Mary Penington – hadn’t taken a second look at those country bumpkin Quakers from the countryside in northern England. It completely changed the way they lived their lives.
During this time of pandemic, I’ve been going to Greenfield every weekend to buy groceries for my mother. She has been doing great at staying home and staying safe. I usually buy most of her groceries at the Kroger store in Greenfield, but with some of the shortages we’ve seen in stores, I sometimes stop by the Walmart in Greenfield to look for the things that Krogers is out of – so I’ve seen my old bus driver occasionally.
He knows who I am. I have no idea if he remembers almost hitting me with the bus, but he knows I was one of his kids on the bus – and he greets me with that same warm smile – and now, when I see him – because I took a second look – tried to look at the situation through the eyes and ears and heart of Christ, I have been able to forgive him and let go of my resentment. And now when I see him, I smile, say hello, knowing I have a lighter heart.
God has given you and me a unique set of eyes to see – a unique set of ears to hear – and the heart of God to feel. When we look beyond the picture at the surface and take time to take a second look –with the eyes and ears and heart of Christ, then our hearts are moved and changed – and once we’ve looked and listened with our hearts – our hands and feet will almost instinctively know what to do next.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, “Life Together”, wrote, “If we cannot listen to our brothers and sisters, then we will find ourselves no longer listening to God. It is then that there will be a fall of Christianity.”
What’s going on in your life? Where are the places you are looking at the picture, but not through the window? Is there anything you need to take a second look at – to see with the eyes, ears, and heart of God? Or, if you’re like me, you may stumble across something that needs a second look – like when I saw my bus driver in Walmart and suddenly realized I had some resentment towards him that I had not been aware of.
God is faithful to meet us in those places. When we take a second look, perhaps we will see what God wants us to see and understand.
Isaac and Mary Penington looked beyond the commonness of early Friends to see how they spoke so passionately, so sincerely, so firmly about their faith in Christ – by looking beyond the picture through the window – by listening with their hearts – they began a new life in Christ. (By the way – Isaac and Mary Penington’s daughter was married to William Penn – founder of the city of brotherly love – Philadelphia – and founder of the state of Pennsylvania and a prolific Quaker author).
I like Ken Gire’s words about some of those moments of insight when we take a second look. He says, “What we see offers a word spoken to the very depths of who we are. It may be a word to rouse us from sleep and ready us for our life’s journey. It may be a word to warn us of a precipice or guide us to a place of rest. It may be a word telling us who we are and why we are here and what is required of us at this particular juncture of our journey.”
“Or, in a startling sun-drenched moment of grace, it may be a word telling us something we have longed all of our lives to hear – a word from God – a word so precious it would be worth the most arduous of climbs to hear the least audible of its echoes.”
Paul says that, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”
What hope has God called you to?