Blurred Vision

Isaiah 25:6-9

When I was nine years old I had terrible headaches.

They were bad enough to send me to the nurses’ room to rest. I remember doing this enough times that it became routine – as though my new life would be to spend the afternoon hours laying on a cot in some quiet corner of the elementary school.

This was not my destiny, of course. My mother suspected what the problem might be and sent me to the family ophthalmologist, the same one she had first seen at about the same age. It didn’t take any elaborate testing for that eye doctor to confirm the cause of my headaches:

I couldn’t see.

Not literally, of course, but that’s not far from the truth, either. The conversation with Dr. Hunter went something like this:

“Mary Catherine, you’re having headaches because you can hardly see!”

“I can’t?”

“Well, can you see anything on the board at school?”

“Not really, no.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?!”

Why hadn’t I? For moment that question made me feel like a fourth grade moron. Sitting in the doctor’s chair it seemed perfectly obvious that I should have told someone that I couldn’t see. But it hadn’t been obvious to me before; I figured everyone saw the world as I did, in colorful blurry blobs.

glassesNot long later we were picking up my first pair of glasses: thick plastic frames that supported even thicker glass lenses. When I walked out the door downtown St. Petersburg felt like a whole new world. Leaves! Trees weren’t just big green circles, I could see thousands of leaves! And grass! Not just a vague light green blanket anymore – there were blades of grass out there!

I couldn’t believe that this was what everyone with normal vision was seeing, all along. I was completely convinced that my view of the world was the real thing. It turned out that the real thing was something way better.

Isaiah 25 describes a similar experience, but instead of foliage through the eyes of a nine-year-old it’s the city of Jerusalem through the eyes of an Israelite. Many Biblical scholars think this particular section was written after the exile – so, after the Israelites were deported by the Babylonians, and after Emperor Cyrus of Persia allowed them to return home. Returning to Jerusalem has been the dream of residents of southern Israel for fifty years. I bet there were a hundred times more excited to go home than my kids were about candy yesterday.

But when they arrive they don’t find things as they might have hoped. The temple of King Solomon is destroyed; the walls of Jerusalem are broken. “This mountain,” Mount Zion, the location of the Temple, is not what it used to be. It’s a disappointment.

That is what the human eyes of the Israelites would see. The prophetic eyes of Isaiah see something else:

Feasts, and lots of them: food, and wine, and then more food, and then more wine.
The end of grief.
The end of death.
The end of tears.
A day when we’ll say, “This is exactly what we were waiting for God to do.”

Human eyes saw nothing like that. Human eyes saw something more akin to blurry blobs in depressing gray tones. But spiritual eyes could see another reality in crystal clarity, a future whose coming is so sure it’s as though it’s already arrived.

Today is All Saint’s Day, when we remember those who have died and gone on to become saints, officially. During church we light candles in memory of these saints.

This is my first year lighting a candle for my mom, who passed away in February.

Many of you, who are experienced in grief, know what the past nine months have been like for me. This grief is deeper than I expected it to be. This grief is also always present. Sometimes, after sitting with it for a while, it can start to change the way I view the world. I begin to see things as blurry blobs in depressing gray tones.

But the prophet Isaiah would look at my world differently. Isaiah would see a future that’s so sure it’s as though it’s already here. Isaiah would see a reality that can’t be seen with human eyes, but that’s no less real.

Feasts, and lots of them: food and wine, and then more food, and then more wine.
The end of grief.
The end of death.
The end of tears.
A day when we’ll say, “This is exactly what we were waiting for God to do.”

Each of us have our own grief, our own suffering, our own experiences with death. Each of us might look at the world through our human eyes and see something more like blurry blogs in depressing gray tones. Today, we light these candles to bear witness to another reality, the one the prophet Isaiah pointed to: the reality of an empty tomb and God’s kingdom come.

We can’t see it, now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

There is grief and loss. But there is also God’s kingdom.

It’s here.

Do you see it?

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