Relating, Creating, Transforming

John 16:12-15

Our perceptions are incredibly important. How we see the world—our perspectives—determines how we react to things in life and also how we interpret the t hings we experience. So let’s do some activities to reinforce that idea.

What do you see?

illusion1

You may see a lakeview with a tree and two people standing.

 Or, do you see an infant in the fetal position?

 What do you read?

illusion2

Did you skip a “the” in the triangle?

illusion3

Which word did you see? Good or evil?

Quick: How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?”

Two, you say? All right.

But wasn’t it Noah, and not Moses?

What do you see in this picture?

illusion4

Coffee beans. Right. Me too.

But what about the poor guy buried in the beans? Do you see him?

Look on the lower left-center side of the picture.

illusion5As you look at this picture, do you believe me when I tell you that there are no triangles?

 How we see and perceive things makes a huge difference. But what our eyes see is not the whole story—not at all. Our perspectives, attitudes, and our worldviews determine how we interpret what we see. For instance, some of you may have already seen these pictures before. This time, was your perception different than the first time you saw them? And, for those of you seeing these for the first time, I’ll venture a guess that your experience was quite different than mine.

Often we cannot see what we are not expecting to see.

This is called confirmation bias, the tendency for us to favor information that confirms our preconceptions or assumptions regardless of whether the information is true.[1]

We look to see what we expect to see.

And depending on what stage of life we are in, perceptions change. We illustrate this all the time with kids. There are some things we don’t want a child to see, but we in fact see these things daily as adults. So we shelter the child from those things—at least until he/she is a bit older and perhaps more able to “see” and “experience” the thing in a healthier way. I am about to perform a wedding this afternoon. The young couple soon to get married will hear me give them some advice and a blessing for their relationship. But my words won’t mean much, you know. They haven’t even begun to experience the challenges, blessings, joys, and sorrows of a life partnership. Ten years from now, if things work out for them, I could say the exact same words I will speak today. But I guarantee that this young couple would perceive my words to be different ones than I spoke at their wedding. Why? Because after many experiences, day-to-day life together, and the altering of their own individual views, their ears would hear something else.

Today’s story in John is all about perception. Jesus of Nazareth, trying to comfort his disciples before his departure, leaves them with a new way of seeing things. They won’t be alone. The Spirit will be with them and guide them through this crazy life. The story refers to the Spirit as parakletos, the ever-elusive Greek word that can mean so many things. This parakletos, the Advocate, is the Spirit of truth. This Spirit will lead the disciples into all truth. This Spirit is Jesus’ legacy, for Jesus himself was full of truth, and it is the truth that leads them on their way. But the disciples would not, could not accept such a shift in perspective right away. How could anyone or anything replace their rabbi Jesus? And yet, Jesus kept on insisting that his Spirit would be speaking to them—long after he was gone.

But notice that Jesus is also very honest with the disciples—about their tendency to cling to the past and their nostalgia–their inability to let go. He said to them:

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

Sounds like what we often say to someone when we’re unsure if she can take difficult news or constructive criticism. Sounds like what we say to someone who isn’t ready to change his perspective, or at least recognize that there is more than just one way to see things.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

The disciples loved Jesus; they did. They relied on him. But they were not supposed to be co-dependent. Their calling was not supposed to be limited to their hometowns or to their narrow worldviews. The disciples were meant to be mature, growing, creatively transformed people. They were meant to move forward and to let go. They were not alone, remember. The Spirit was with them! Jesus’ teachings and example were with them.

This was their new perspective and their new way of life. Be humble. Recognize and embrace the Spirit’s presence; be connected to that Something Greater; let that Spirit move you to heal, to forgive, and to love.

Friends, like the disciples, we too can become clingy, nostalgic, static people. We can get too comfortable and stay in the same place. We can start to see the world as a depressing, scary, and awful place.

And then our lives aren’t life at all.

But we are offered another perspective. We are asked to stop putting Jesus and God in a box and to be open to a reality shift. Seeing life with a Spirit perspective means that our theology [how we think about God] is dynamic and forever changing. The way we see God and the world cannot remain the same; God is not limited to a church or a sanctuary or a song or a book or a doctrine. God is not limited even to our past experiences.

The Spirit is not a spirit of oppression or depression, but a Spirit of freedom, joy, and fulfillment.

This Spirit changes our perspective. The world is bigger.

There is more than just one way to see things.

We are connected to Something Greater.

We are connected to others in the work of compassion, justice, and love.

The Spirit is poured out on all of us; we just need to recognize it.

So what do you expect to see each day in your life?

Do you expect God to love you?

Do you expect to have opportunities to help someone?

Do you expect to see positive change in relationships that are broken?

Do you expect healing where there are wounds?

Do you expect to find strength to overcome the struggles you have?

Do you see the work of the Spirit around you and in others?

What actions, movements, creative moments, prayers, experiences, relationships, and enterprises make you more aware of the Spirit?

Which things make you less aware?

All of us are invited to a new perspective. The Spirit is in you. Recognize it. Perceive. Broaden your worldview. The Spirit is in your decision-making, in your day to day living. Notice the Spirit in others. And be led in this way. Find spiritual fulfillment and growth.

Walk this path knowing that you are not alone.

Each moment of your life has purpose and meaning.

And in those moments when this is hard to claim, when you feel alone or lost or completely broken—close your eyes.

Take a breath.

Listen.

Open your eyes and see things anew.

Hear new sounds.

And keep breathing, knowing you are never alone.

Amen.


[1] Baron, Jonathan (2000), Thinking and deciding (3rd ed.), New York: Cambridge University Press.

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