Expect The Unexpected

September 9, 2019
by Richard Worden

John 9:30 – The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes." (NRSV)

The age of being politically correct is a struggle for some people. Ways of speaking and behaving have changed and are changing. The second great commandment — "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:39 NRSV) — is the new normal (though for Jews and Christians it always was the norm). However, when we encounter the neighbour and hear an unknown language, or view clothing that is strange, or smell things being cooked that are unfamiliar, or do not see ourselves in the neighbour, we instantly fail to love the neighbour.

The Gospel of John strings one vignette after another, and each one invariably shocks readers. One of the vignettes is about a man born blind. A discussion ensues as to whether or not his blindness was due to some sin committed by his parents before he was born. Jesus dismisses the notion and restores the man's eyesight. The story is a simple one with a huge challenge — what about our own spiritual blindness? Do you see the neighbour who speaks Spanish? Do you look away from the man and his turban? Do you complain when the air carries the aroma of curry?

As I was driving to lead worship at a country church, I spotted a man walking along the Trans-Canada Highway. He was not walking facing the traffic but his colourful robes flowed freely in the prairie wind. Stopping the car, I greeted the man with the Namaste gesture. I discovered that he was walking across Canada to bring attention to the situation faced by immigrants. I gave the man a blessing and wished him a safe journey. The next day, I learned that soon after my brief meeting with him, someone tried to run him down with a truck, and when he reached his destination for that day's walk, he was refused accommodation at a motel.

Astonishing things can happen when we take literally the words of Jesus about loving our neighbour. It will change us. It will change relationships. It will be the realization of what Rabbi Marmur describes as the very essence of spiritual maturity, and that is the refusal to slam doors.* As we join the circle of prayer, let us each pray:

Prayer: Gracious God, I confess my blindness, my refusal to hear, and my reluctance to speak with my neighbours. Isolating myself from others is my sin. As I take one step away from my sin, and as I risk focusing my eyes on others, I am astonished by the changes in me. Amen.
* Harpur, Tom. Life after Death. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 1991, page 215.

About the author:

Richard Worden <cliveworden@gmail.com>
Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    A great word, Richard, and one needed.


    Amen. And thank you for today’s devotional.


    Thanks, Richard. This is a message needed by all of us.


    Thank you for sharing this devotional with us. Blessings.


    Thanks for sharing that heart-warming story and message with us.
    Blessings,
    (Ontario)


    Richard,
    A very important message of tolerance and love. Well done for writing and sharing this!
    Blessings.


    Thank you for today’s devotional.
    If more of us openly accept our neighbours perhaps it will encourage those that are unsure or feel threatened by our “differences”.


    There are so many things that I could write. But the best is an AMEN!
    Thanks for your message. Thanks for being kind to the man walking. I hope he remembers your kindness, not the evil he later encountered.


    Hello Richard,
    A very good devotional! Thank you for writing and focusing on a very important commandment that we need to follow each and every day.
    Blessings,
    (B.C.)


    Thank you for today’s devotional Richard.
    I was blessed to have been brought up in a Presbyterian/Anglican home with this teaching, and even more blessed to have what my friend calls our “United Nations Family” for we have many races, cultures, religions and non, in our family.
    One of my most favorite sayings is that of a Rabbi I once heard over 50 years ago which is, “We are all called to the same table, we just sit in different chairs”.


    I live in one of the most multicultural cities in the world and I love the diversity. In my neighbourhood alone there are people from over a hundred countries.
    Yet I think it is normal, for instance, to feel left out when a conversation goes on around you in a language you do not understand.
    Or when my neighbour walks out the door in conservative Muslim garb, black from head to toe with eye slits only.
    But I did not back away. I smiled at her. And enjoyed watching her transition as flowers sewn on her black appeared and one day she appeared in a headscarf, not all covered up. Signs of increasing feeling of comfort in her new country.
    As for the conversation? A smile in their direction says volumes.
    And I recall with amusement, a blond, blue eyed missionary who served in Taiwan. She was shopping in a very traditional local Chinese mall and heard a conversation in Mandarin, wondering what she was doing there.
    She explained, in her fluent Mandarin, how much she enjoyed the beautiful Chinese merchandise in the store.

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