You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
I have to go to hospital later this week for tests on my eyes. I don’t think there is really a problem but the local ophthalmologist wants a second opinion on a mark on the back of my right eye. Our eyes are a very important part of our physical makeup; I can’t imagine not being able to see. Yet how often do we look but not actually see.
It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Sunday’s Gospel reading was from John 1:43-51. Here Philip tells his friend Nathaniel that they had found the ‘One about whom Moses wrote in the law... Jesus, the son of Joseph, the man from Nazareth’. Nathaniel’s contemptuous response was “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” “Come and see” said Philip. When he met Jesus Nathaniel saw how utterly wrong his initial response had been. But how often do we judge on first impressions, or perhaps on what others tell us, about a person? Do we see the families of refugees trying to get in to our country as simply rough, dirty scroungers only after our jobs and our free healthcare? Do we ask why don’t they stay in their own countries and get on with it? Or what about the chap sleeping rough in the shop doorway in the High Street? Do we ask why doesn’t he find a proper home for himself? Listen to God’s words to Samuel: ‘for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart’ 1 Samuel 16:7 KJV (AV). Is the Lord not asking us to look beyond our neighbour’s outward appearance; to ask ourselves, would people really risk drowning in the Mediterranean simply to get access to free medical care? And surely no-one would want to risk hypothermia by sleeping on the cold, hard pavement in the middle of winter with just his dog for company if there was an alternative.
The prophet Isaiah exhorts us to: ‘Lift up your eyes and look around’ Isaiah 60:40. If we do that what will we see? Yes, we will see the glory of God’s magnificent Creation but we will also see the beauty that lies at the heart of our neighbour. After all, God lives within him just as He lives within you or me; as Christians we are not an elite class of people superior to all others. In fact Our Saviour came as a Servant-King and we are called to imitate His life and actions. So, whilst looking around, as Isaiah asks us, let us take a long hard look at ourselves, our attitudes towards others and our actions. If we really use our eyes to look we can see the problems others less fortunate than ourselves are suffering. And then we are called to make a start by showing compassion to them.
Next week I will let you know how the eye examination went!
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years