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Learning to see the world the way God does…

March 29, 2008

12.jpgI have been reading a book that Jon passed along to me–Get Up Off Your Knees:  Preaching the U2 Catalog.  Today I read “To See What You See:  On Liturgy & Learning & Life,” Steven Garber, Calvin College.  The Biblical reference is Psalm 123.  The U2 song reference is “When I Look At The World.” 

As I read this essay, I thought of the impulse behind my post yesterday.  It is so easy to look the other way (from the problems of the world) and make Christianity primarily about individual purity.  The integrating schema that brings coherence to the Biblical narrative becomes personal salvation, personal relationship with God, going to heaven when I die.  The redemption of all things is understood almost exclusively through the prism of converting individual souls. 

If we don’t look the other way, or domesticate a truly biblical view of justice and Kingdom come, we are still at risk of being overwhelmed by the massive complexity and scale of the worlds problems.     

But what does it mean to see the world the way God does? 

Garber says that in biblical imagery, it takes people with ears to hear, and eyes to see.  It takes people who know that to know–in a deeply biblical sense–means to be responsible, and that to be responsible means to care.  People who “get it” understand that deeply Christian discipleship is marked by learning to see the world the way that God does, to know the world the way that God does, to love the world the way that God does.

This is not easy.  Garber offers a helpful analogy.  He says it is like the cartoon where college professor who fills up two whiteboards with mathematical calculations–a maze of letters and numbers.  After the complex relationships between addition and subtraction, multiplication and division are set forth, and most of us find ourselves overwhelmed, not sure what to do with all that we have seen, there is a seemingly simple “equals” sign on the far side of the second board.  And there is one word:  Whatever. 

Whatever.  Whatever.  Whatever.  For many, that word captures our feelings as we look at the world, full of complex sadness and sorrow, multifaceted injustice and evil.  Simply put, we don’t know what to say or do, because we don’t know what to make of what we see.  I meet students all over the world who feel this way.  They do care, they want to engage God’s world, but when they touch it, when they see it and smell it, too often it crushes them, it overwhelms them in the complexity of its griefs.

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!  As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until he has mercy upon us.  Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.  Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

Psalm 123

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