First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Kent H. Little
February 17, 2019
Scripture: Sutra of Hui Neng 2 | Matthew 7:1-5
Sermon: “Right View, A Stick in the Eye”
I really do not remember the first time I became aware of it. I suspect, based on the family stories I heard, all three of us kids in the house learned of it as we grew older, most likely earlier than any of us probably remembered.
It was the fact that when mom was in the room, if we stood really still and were really quiet, she could not always tell we were there. Mom had Multiple Sclerosis and her primary symptom was the loss of her eyesight. She could still see some colors, she knew light and dark, she could see pictures to a degree if she held them close to her face and could even read some, likewise if the print was really large. However, as the story goes, if one stayed really still, one could become like part of the furniture I suppose. Of course, that only worked until we were discovered…and then the law was laid down and it was known if we ever did that again… well… we’ll just leave it at that.
Mom had a way though… as with most people who have lost one of their senses, other senses were heightened, she had a way to compensate in ways that were mysterious to me. I could tell her I could not find the mate to a pair of socks and she would go to my room, reach in my sock drawer and retrieve it…she matched socks by feel. No one could vacuum the floor to her satisfaction, she would walk across the carpet and say, “I thought I asked you to vacuum?” I would say, “I did.” To which she would say something to the effect of, “Well, you didn’t do a very good job, you need to take your time.” Mom vacuumed in her bare feet, she could feel the dirt. Mom had a way of seeing…that surpassed my own.
I have often thought she was one who could see more than just by touch or feel…she had a sense about her that could see so to speak, my mood, the energy in a room, she could feel with more than just touch…but perhaps with her heart. Probably the first time I recall this seeing was one summer afternoon I was having a difficult time after we had moved to a new community. I was laying on my bed in my room…not happy. I remember mom stepping in the door way and standing there…I suppose trying to sense if I was in my room. She finally said, “Kent, are you in here?” I waited for some time before I answered, which is not necessarily uncommon for a teenager… I said, “Yes.” “What’s wrong? Do you want to talk about it?” she asked. To some degree I think most parents have some sense of that ability when their children are hurting… but my experience with my mom was she could just sense it…I think she could feel it in the air. It was how she “saw” the world.
I know I have a tendency to put my mom on a pedestal, but I would say she had a way of seeing the world like few I have ever know. She had every reason, as the result of her disease and the struggles and losses in her life, to see the world very bitterly… and I know she had times when she was down… yet, I never knew her to have a judgmental bone in her body, or an unkind thing to say, about or toward even those who hurt her.
It was her life that came rushing back to me as I pondered this morning’s message on Right View in the Buddhist tradition…and Jesus teaching on judging others. The ability to hold another in the light of love and grace without judgement is not an easy way to see in the world.
[The one] who treads the Path in earnest sees not the mistakes of the world; if we find fault with others, we ourselves are also in the wrong. When other people are in the wrong, we should ignore it, for it is wrong for us to find fault. Buy getting rid of this habit of fault-finding we cut off a source of defilement. When neither hatred nor love disturb our mind serenely, we sleep.
To quote a favorite seminary professor of mine, “Think on these things.” This is a difficult teaching. “If we find fault with others, we ourselves are also in the wrong.” How does one do that? It is a difficult tension in which to exist in the world. Thomas Merton put it this way, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” Or the teaching from Jesus we read from Matthew this morning… “‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” I want to say, “Really Jesus? Ever? I mean…we can’t judge ever?!?
I mean, just look at the world. Jesus surely could not have meant this literally. Jesus surely could not have meant we can’t judge those who are doing evil, injustice, oppression, bigotry… surely…we can judge them.
Just look at our world today…just look at our country! This is a judgement rich environment!
We have a president and administration who wants to reduce social benefits for the most vulnerable in our society and spend 8 Billion dollars on a wall.
We have legislators introducing bills in state governments who are trying to undo the progress we have made in relation to same gender marriage!
We have church folks trying to keep laws from passing which condemn conversion therapy who think it works and is a good thing.
We have people posturing in our own UMC trying to pass a plan that continues to deepen the schism and increase the abuse and persecution of LGBTQ members and clergy in or church.
We have a culture of denial attacking leaders who want to find a better more renewable way to provide energy and tend the creation with which we have been entrusted.
We have leaders who see nothing wrong with white supremacy but deny they are racist.
We live in a culture and society that would rather vilify the other rather than sit down and have a conversation.
Surely…we can judge someone!?
However… Jesus says… I have this stick in my eye.
I want to judge the president… but I have this stick in my eye…
I want to judge the leaders in Washington…but…this stick in my eye…
I want to judge the church… but this stick in my eye…
I want to judge those who want to deny LGBTQ persons in the church… but this stick in my eye…
I want to judge those who disagree with what I believe is right… but this stick in my eye..
This is a really difficult teaching.
Because every time I find reason to judge someone…
The Buddha says… you too.
Every time I want to judge someone…
Jesus says… but, you have this stick in your eye…
I think of Thich Nhat Hahn and his teaching in Being Peace… the right view… he would say… is recognizing everyone is where they are because of what they have experienced in their life. He would say, we cannot judge them because we do not know the life experiences, they have had to bring them to where they are in this moment. He would say as well, that does not mean we cannot work toward changing the world, changing policies that are unjust and oppressive… but we cannot judge the person.
Too often, when we judge another person, we project upon them our own biases and imperfections. In essence, we are sticking our own stick in the eye of the one we are judging
and then judging them based on what we have done or even what has been done to us.
Hahn writes, “Our happiness and the happiness of those around us depend on our degree of Right View. Touching reality deeply — knowing what is going on inside and outside of ourselves — is the way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that is caused by wrong perceptions. Right View is not an ideology, a system, or even a path. It is the insight we have into the reality of life, a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love.”
Right view then… the ability to see the other as they are and accept them as they are, love them as they are, be at peace with them as they are… and I would say… while resisting the policies, actions, and oppression they represent and further and work to change those things.
Jesus would say, in this teaching… as would the Buddha… we start with ourselves…
Look in the mirror…
“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is 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.”
Right View… Knowing the Stick in Our Eye… is about being aware, awake, mindful… in this moment about what is going on within us, outside of us… the perception through which we see the world… knowing our own stick…our own judgment and struggles and biases… so that we can cut off those sources… so we can work on getting the stick out of our own eye and letting it go.
Right View, perhaps, is a way of seeing, that involves not just the eye… but the heart. It has to do with how we experience, see, feel, sense the world around us. The ability to see even those who feel invisible… or who would rather be invisible… to see them…really see them and hold them in the light.
It is a step with and toward compassion for all… where all means all.
May it be so. May it be now.
Salaam, Shalom, Peace be with you…