Text: Isaiah 2: 3-4; Romans 13: 12, 14a; Matthew 24: 40-41
I had just turned 40 and was sitting at my desk in the Conference office where I served on staff before being called to Trinity. As I started to read the morning mail the print looked fuzzy and the letters were too blurred to read.Was this a sign I was losing my sight?When I confessed this fear to my secretary, her face took on a smile as she reassuringly said,“It’s the sign that you are now old enough to wear bi-focals. Welcome to the club!”
An old cartoon shows a man trying to step on a curb. His foot is raised as though not sure where to place it.
A passerby, seeing his problem, remarks, “Just got bi-focals, right?”
Some of us know all about adjusting to glasses or contacts that focus the eyes for near and far vision, bi-focal vision.
On this first Sunday in a New Year for Christians, Jesus holds up a Gospel eye chart to test whether or not we are living with a bi-focal faith, one that has us seeing the present and the future clearly, and keeping both in focus.
The long view appears to be a scene showing darkness and foreboding, signs of impending doom, that summons us to be on guard, watchful for “the Son of Man” Who will come suddenly and unannounced; the far-vision focus that fills us with apprehension and fear…and the pre-occupation of reading the violence in nature and the riots and protests that are happening - as shock-waves warning of impending destruction.
But look more closely at the Gospel eye chart Jesus holds up to test our bi-focal faith; move down from the far-vision lines to the near-vision ones that have us reading:
Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. “
Look closely and see the ones who are taken away are the people who are messing up God’s creation, and the ones who are “left” are individuals who fix their far-vision read in the lines "as in the days of Noah" when the family that was faithful to God, that was not messing up God's creation were the ones who were left behind, while the others were swept away.
Now listen to the Old Testament lesson read on this First Sunday in Advent: Hear is as the Creator-God’s intention read in the words of Isaiah:
Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
The far-sighted vision of faith sees a future in which:
(God) shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
What the “left behind” people read in the far-vision lines of today’s Gospel eye chart and see brought into a near-sighted focus in Jesus.
The Apostle Paul, when seeing with this near-sighted vision of faith, celebrated through his letter which we continue to read:
…the night is far gone, the day is near.
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
…put on the Lord Jesus Christ…
The near-sighted lens for a bi-focal faith that has us looking and searching for places and people where God’s creation is already being renewed, where the far-sighted vision of God’s intention to “make all things new” is being brought forward into the present, in near-vision sights, when we have a bi-focal faith.
In the midst of riots in the streets, a near-sighted faith has us focusing and seeing Christ-like acts
- in a homegrown service, like “Daily Bread;”
- in a more-than-disappointed Black woman fearing that after the elections racial tensions will escalate, but rather than joining protesters in the street, she vows to work at home, beginning with her two sons with goals that echo the Golden Rule – “do to others as you would have them do to you.”
- and in another scene two clashing protesters dare to say, “Let’s sit down and listen to each other.” and as they do, the rage within them changes into feeling each other’s hurt, and searching for shared way to heal each other’s pain.
Come, with the near-sighted vision that sees Christ is coming to us in Bread and Cup;
come with the far-sighted vision that sees God’s intended future where people gather together as God’s family
living at peace with God and with one another.
Come to begin a New Year in the life of the church, living with a bi-focal faith.