Keep On the Sunny Side: Whoo Do You See?



BY JENNIFER HAMPTON

Mom’s hoot-owl cookies were an annual fall staple in the Bingham House growing up. We made them every year, like clockwork, when the temperatures dropped and the daylight hours faded.

After mixing the dough, but before baking the cookies, there was one crucial step of creation. We carefully selected two M&M chocolate candies and a cashew to become the eyes and beak, animating facial features onto the dough. This was my favorite part: choosing eyes, green, brown, blue, even sometimes yellow, and gently pressing the colored candies on to transform a sweet treat into a friendly, hoot-owl face. For me, there was something in the eyes.

Matthew 25 has a discourse on the Kingdom of God. In it, the gospel writer speaks of a day when the Lord will hold accountable all of us who have, or have not, shown sincere compassion for our neighbors; all of us who have, or have not, made a lifestyle practice of social justice and mercy. It’s interesting how both the merciful and the unmerciful responded to the Lord by using the language of sight, and seeing: “Lord, when was it that we saw you…” hungry, thirsty, a stranger in need of welcome, without clothes, sick or in prison? There must be something in the eyes.

Do me a favor in the next four weeks: look around on Sunday morning and make a note of what you see and, in particular, whom you see. Especially in worship—if you are a committed Christ-follower—look around and take note of whom you see, and ask the question, “Whom do I not see?” Who are God’s children not represented in our worshiping community? Can you see who is missing? Do you notice who is not there? Do we intentionally, or unintentionally, exclude these children—precious in God’s sight—because they do not fit a majority demographic of race, gender, socioeconomic status, age?

This week, I’ve been reading Father Gregory Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. I was intrigued by his challenge: “Close both eyes, see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled with the burden of our persistent judgments, our ceaseless withholding, our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened, and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location, in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love.”

Oh, that we could see with Christ’s eyes!

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is credited with naming 11 am Sunday morning the most segregated hour in America. I can’t prove this is true, but in my experience, I’ve never witnessed anything different. In fact, from my experience, it seems to go deeper than even racial segregation, with division lines drawn by socioeconomic status, gender identity, and proclivity to unwritten social, moral and ethical codes. This should not be.

I wonder, do we even see it? Do we see the ways we segregate rather than welcome and embrace for the sake of Jesus the Christ? Or will we, too, stand in front of the Lord one day and respond, “Lord, when did we see you?”

On the Sunny Side of Life, may we have merciful eyes to see those too often ignored or forgotten and may we with relentless compassion welcome those marginalized, displaced, and discriminated against.  


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