The collected prayers, sermons, and spiritual musings of an Episcopal priest
Monday, June 23, 2014
Letting God Open Our Eyes: Speaking to the Soul, June 23, 2014
A beautiful little wildflower at Osage Forest of Peace in Sand Springs, OK.
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
I spent several days last week at a lovely retreat center called the Osage Forest of Peace near my hometown of Tulsa. One of the favorite things to do there during the early morning hours is to walk over the hiking trails that wind behind the retreat center over nearly forty acres.
Now, given that this was during the very end of spring in Oklahoma, it is also copperhead season, so I had a tendency to look at the ground often to see if any dangers lurked along the path ahead of me. I was working on notes for the lectionary readings for Sunday so they could be sent to the members of the group that meets each week to discuss them on Sunday during Christian education. But also, I’ll be honest, I was lost in thought about a problem. And strangely, I began to notice all kinds of beautiful tiny wild flowers, almost all of them varying shades of purple, all of them no longer than two inches. They were easily missed, and seemingly insignificant. But they were also amazing. And to see them, I had to open my eyes.
That same phrase was used in one of the readings in the lectionary from yesterday. Hagar and her son Ishmael have been cast out into the wilderness, despairing, thinking that she and her child were about to die of thirst. And yet, God opens her eyes: and there is a well. In fact, both of Abraham’s sons are saved at the brink of disaster when someone’s eyes are opened: in a couple of chapters, Abraham will be on the brink of sacrificing Isaac, only to look up and see a ram caught nearby, ready to take Isaac’s place as the sacrifice.
I was thinking about Hagar’s story, and Jesus’s reminder in Sunday’s gospel that sparrows were sold two for a penny, yet even they would not fall to the ground without the notice of God. While I had been looking for danger, and probably not doing that very well because I was also distracted, my eyes were opened to all kinds of miracles along a dry and rocky path.
Sometimes, we focus on the problems, and forget about the blessings. Sometimes we feel insignificant, and that our needs or concerns are being overlooked. And then, God provides us something to remind us that God is listening, and that we shouldn’t be so preoccupied with concerns that we forget to look around us and really see the hand of God in our lives. Sometimes miracles are more showy: the well of water is right there, another sacrifice is found, yes, but also the baby leaves the NICU, the car wheels find purchase as they spin on the rain-slicked curve, the surgery turns out well.
It’s often that way. We go about our business, plugging along and not paying much attention to what is going on around us. And smaller miracles appear, but still important: here are tiny flowers, blooming where no one might ever see them, yet they bloom anyway. Yet there are often hidden miracles—we only have to look up and open our eyes.