How many of you have had the experience of being stripped naked before a room full of strangers? Anyone here this morning ever been strip-searched?
You have if you’re a frequent flier. You have if you’ve recently flown through any of the sixty-plus airports that now use “full body scans” as part of their security procedures. Just as the “shoe bomber” made it a requirement for all of us to pad around barefoot on grungy airport floors, the “underwear bomber” has led to the use of these virtual strip-down scanners.
If modesty or indignation prompts you to refuse to let a total stranger fix on you with a “naked gaze,” you can opt for an extended “pat-down” instead. In that case rather than just being looked at by a total stranger, you get to be touched all over, including your private parts, by a total stranger – of the same sex, no less.
Since body-cavities are not revealed in either the body scan or the pat down, one wonders what voyeurist thought this up. But ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do and die.
Some groups are advocating an organized protest against full body scans .The hope was that by opting for the more time consuming “pat-down” procedure, security checkpoints would become clogged to the point of being non-operational. Air traffic would be disastrously disrupted, and security forces would “give up” these embarrassing and invasive procedures.
Right. This year, the week before Thanksgiving a homeland security spokesman assured travelers that they all had complete freedom to choose whether they wanted to go through a full body scan or pat-down or “not.” Of course, if we choose “not” then we would “not” be allowed on the airplane.
Thanks to digital technology, full body scans strip us bare without our having to remove a single stitch of clothing. It is only through the power of its light that we are revealed right down to our skin. The intensity and wavelength of the light allows nothing on our body to remain hidden. It is a different kind of intensity and wavelength of light that Paul is talking about in our text for this morning. But it is a similar kind of scan: except in this case it’s a full soul scan rather than a full body scan.
Truth be told, I suspect that the reason a lot of people refuse a full body scan isn’t because a stranger will get an embarrassingly good look at our body. It’s because we are afraid that a stranger will think we don’t look good or snicker at our looks. Supermodels and body-builders don’t have any qualms about showing off their bodies. It’s those of us who are lumpy, bumpy, flabby and dumpy, or pot-bellied and saggy bottomed, who worry about being revealed without the comforting camouflage of clothing.
However much the airport’s full body scans lay bare, they still are only skin deep. The light they emit cannot penetrate into our cavities, our mind, our heart, our spirit. Nor can they reveal the intentions, the desires, the hopes, the fears, the virtues or the vices we harbor within ourselves.
It takes a different kind of light to get under our skin and into our soul. Living fully exposed in that light is what Paul urged the Roman Christians to do in this week’s epistle text. Jesus’ followers are to live and leg it in the light of a new day, a new reality where the redemptive work of Christ illumines a dark world. Christ-light reveals everything. No compulsion is dark enough, no desire is buried deep enough, no motive is masked thick enough, to escape Christ-light.
Likewise, no act of love is too small, no words of forgiveness too soft, no feelings of compassion too subtle, not to caught in the gleam of Christ-light.
The light of Christ lays bare everything within us. Both the good and the bad.
And yet, Christ’s response to that full soul scan is not to declare judgment, pronounce doom, or laugh hilariously. When we allow the light of Christ to scan our souls and dare to bare our faults and blemishes, Jesus offers us forgiveness, redemption, salvation.
Why is it when we look at others we either look up or look down? Our tendency is either to look down on people, or look up at them. We size each other up, do a first impression scan, and quickly decide whether we are impressed by their looks, or their money, or their power, or whether we disdain their plainness, dismiss their poverty, or despise their lack of status.
The truth is what we see in others is mostly dependent upon what we want for ourselves.
What would happen if instead of looking at others with our self-centered stare; what would happen if instead of looking up or looking down at others: what would happen if we let Jesus throw a new light, give us a new view, a new perspective on people?
Paul told the Roman Christians that in order for them to see the light of the new day that was approaching they must “put on” Christ. What would happen to our vision of others if we “put on” Christ like a pair of respect spectacles. That word “re-spect” means to look again. Re-spect means for us to look again and again until we see the full picture. Jesus teaches us to look again at each other, beyond our critical sizing up and breaking down, and to use respect spectacles to receive every person as a gift to be celebrated rather than a specimen to be critiqued, dissected and dressed down.
Jesus didn’t look up or down at anyone he met. Instead Jesus treated every person he met with respect. In other words, Jesus looked at, Jesus looked into, and Jesus looked with each person he encountered.
He looked at the earnest, yet wealthy young man, and immediately saw his love for money overwhelmed everything else in his life. Yet Jesus loved him.
He looked into the cheating heart of the woman at the well and discerned the parched condition of her soul. Yet Jesus loved her.
He looked with the eyes of everyone he met, and he saw in us all the neediness of a child, a sponge for attention and nurture and encouragement. Yet Jesus loved children above all.
To put on Christ is to re-spect everyone. Instead of critiquing the shortcomings of others the re-spect spectacles offer compassion and companionship. Instead of finding failure the respect-spectacles focus our gaze forward onto a horizon of hope and possibility. Instead of condemnation, the respect-spectacles offer vistas and visions of forgiveness.
Even though none of us is perfect in every way, or has it all together, we together constitute in the Master’s hands a powerful force for good and light in the world.
An old fable tells of trouble in a carpenter’s shop. The tools were in a tizzy. “Brother Hammer, you’re too noisy.”
“Me? Brother Plane’s work is all superficial. No depth.”
“Me? Brother Rule is always telling others what to do, measuring us all by his own standards.”
“Me? It’s Brother Screwdriver who drives us all crazy going round in circles.”
“Me? Sister Sandpaper always rubbing the wrong way.”
“Me? Sister Saw goes back & forth endlessly.”
Suddenly the bickering ceased, for everyone heard the carpenter coming. When he entered the shop, he put on his apron, went to his bench, and began to make a table. He picked up Brother Rule, then Brother Plane, then Brother Hammer and Sister Screwdriver, then Sister Saw, and lastly Sister Sandpaper, whom he used to smooth all the rough edges.
To make a table on which to spread food for a hungry world, all the tools were necessary. None was more important than the others.
When you put on re-spect spectacles, and look at, look into, and look with the eyes of everyone you meet, then all of life becomes one Big Advent.
Leonard Sweet Sermons, Leonard Sweet, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., 2010, 0-000-1415