From Pastor Pat: doubt, faith and miracles
(Posted March 25,2017)
There is none so blind as those who will not see. -- Unknown
Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith. -- Paul Tillich
Decades ago, just before Gary and I were married, we both thought at the time that our future lay as teachers for the blind. We received a fellowship to Teachers College at Columbia University. One of our first assignments as a class was to journey to MIT to look at devices that we in development by their genius-level graduate students. It was 1968. During our week at MIT, we had a hands-on chance to try a number of assistive devices, fully blindfolded, using things none of us had ever heard of. There was a hand-held flashlight that took the place of a white cane and used a marvelous new development called “laser.” It could warn users of the presence of solid objects or even curbs in front of them. Trouble was, it could not detect water, as I found when I walked right into MIT’s sprinkler system on their Quad. There was also a battery-run basketball that beeped as it flew through the air – which I promptly punctured by shooting it into the rose bushes alongside the MIT president’s driveway, instead of hitting his son’s basketball hoop.
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And then one day we were taken to the Grad student research lab to see and listen to a complete surprise. Our professor removed a large box from the shelves of projects, set it up, and put a book underneath the device. Mind you, this is 1968. The huge box began to read, haltingly and in a emotionless mechanical voice, the text of the book. It was amazing, in that era before the age of computers, to see this. Today we take readers and computerized voice for granted. But this was 49 years ago!
But here is the rub. Graduate students depend on corporations to see the value of their projects and fund them into existence. There was NO corporation in 1968 that could see any monetary value in the development of what was the first electronic text reader with a simulated human voice! Not one. As a result of their inability to see the value, it sat on the shelf for decades. Just think of the thousands of blind and visually impaired individuals who continued to be isolated from the written word, barred from full participation in this world. In the world of profit and prophets, too often the first wins out.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus encounters a man blind from birth, who used to beg at the city gate. His disciples, like so many people of the time mused as to whether his disability was from his own sin or those of his parents. Jesus dismisses this, makes a poultice of mud and spit and, applying it to the man’s sightless eyes, cures him. However, following this miracle, the man’s neighbors can no longer recognize him, because he is so identified by them only as “the blind man.” When he is taken before the Pharisees, they are stunned and, frankly, frightened. They try to discount the healing as a trick. They refuse to see the hand of God in this healing, and try to claim that Jesus is in league with the Devil, especially since he had the audacity to heal the man on the Sabbath. They failed to see the value of this miracle when sight was restored to the blind. They banished the man, and Jesus sought him out to reveal his identity as the Son of God.
It is our own blindness, driven by fear of the unexplained, that makes us dismiss miracles, and what potential the future holds. We fail also to understand that the hand of God moves through the advances of science. And what a waste that is. There is no divide between faith and science. Albert Einstein once said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Around the world today there 285 million visually impaired or blind people waiting for a healing. And it is because of—you will pardon the pun—visionaries who refused to take “no” for an answer, and who pushed forward that they may realize their dream. Today people who were blind from birth are seeing, many for the first time, with new devices like the Smart Glasses. These fill in and delineate what lies before a person, especially with that person’s particular disorder. Dreams are worth holding onto. Miracles do happen.
Come join us this Sunday at 10 when we explore Doubt, Faith and Miracles, and spend some time with our favorite psalm, Psalm 23. See you there. – Pastor Pat Kriss
(Image above: The view through Smart Glasses that today’s blind or visually impaired person could see.)