39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”
Luke 6: 39-49 (NRSV)
(Note: This is not from daily lectionary)
Don’t we wish we knew the answer to that question! The season of Advent confronts us with many such questions of Jesus – two others found in this short text alone – but, likely we are no closer to finding a suitable answer to his queries of us, than were the disciples when they first encountered God with them.
Taken at face value, these four stories – vignettes – Jesus offers in this ‘Sermon on the Plain’ may seem unrelated. Yet, for some reason, Luke chose to group these four little scenes together when he wrote his version of the gospel. What did Luke see in these teachings of Jesus, that we might miss, ordinarily? Perhaps a common thread that runs through these illustrations is simply the experiences of the Christian life. Each story tells of at least one aspect of that journey of faith.
One of which is preparation. While Luke calls the story of the two blind people, a ‘parable,’ it reads more like a ‘proverb,’ – a saying from the Wisdom literature – in asking,
“Can one who is blind, lead another blind person?”
Jesus may be raising the question in order to give the listener a mental image: Blind leading the blind. Common sense would dictate, of course, that it would be far better for the one who is leading – whether in a physical or a spiritual sense – to be able to see the way ahead. Here at the seminary – as in other schools – we place a high value on learning and following the truth as an important way of being able to see. Learning requires preparation…doing the homework that is necessary to prepare the way of the Lord, and guiding others to do the same.
Carrying that sight motif a step further, the second vignette (in verses 41-42) reminds us in our journey of faith through Advent of our personal need to look inward…to be able to see ourselves. The hyperbole of Jesus describing some lug with a wooden beam in his eye trying to extract a tiny speck from the eye of another, should cause us to smile… Until we realize, of course, that this is precisely what you and I do when we see and find fault in others before we see our own failures of faith. Jesus bids us to look inward – to reflect, if you will – before we cast our gaze toward others and perhaps their shortcomings.
If you care to follow the thread of faith in our journey just a bit further in this text, it might lead you to expression (verses 43-45). “Each tree is known by its own fruit.” The world, of course, is not simply black or white…neither can it be classified simply as good or bad. All of us fall somewhere in-between the two extremes. While none of us possesses the whole truth, we are called to express what we believe about Jesus in our journey of faith with others, as we watch and wait for Christ to come again.
And the last of the four components of Christian faith, described here, is really what lies in the beginning…(verses 46-49) our foundation. Not only have most of us found a need for some foundation that is strong and firm against the onslaught of life’s turmoil or challenge… We also need to build on that foundation a faith in the One that won’t let go…
A Prayer for the Twenty-Third Day of Advent
You have called us, O God, to a journey of faith. As we continue on the way, guide us by your Spirit to prepare for, reflect upon, give expression to, and build on the foundation which is ours through Christ…who is, who was, and who is to come. Amen.
Rev. W. Clay Macaulay
Director for Alumni Development