Looking at things from different angles


Rev. Deb Patterson

Your Pastor Speaks

I was given an image this week that has captured my attention. That image was about looking at things from a different angle. What we see when we are standing looks different when we are sitting, lying down, or even on our heads.

Let’s say we are looking at a red maple tree in full bloom. Facing it you think you see the whole tree, top, leaves, trunk, limbs, and even those roots that are tapping into the ground. Lay on your side, you will see the trunk, its bark, its roots, but no red leaves.

Lay on your back looking up you see the trunk, the bark, the branches, the leaves, and the birds nesting. No individual view gives you the whole picture of that maple. You must put the pieces together to grasp the most complete image of that tree. This is true for all of life. It is necessary to have a vast variety of views, to understand more completely a person, situation, idea and belief.

This is holy week for Christians across the world. They are taking a journey through the last days of Jesus’ life. He has entered Jerusalem not on a majestic stallion, but a simple donkey. The city is in chaos. The streets are full of people not all cheering for Jesus. Across town there are Roman soldiers riding majestic stallions in a show of power and dominance.

There are those who have followed Jesus. There are his disciples who have known him from the beginning of his ministry. There are the those who are of different religious persuasions that think he is a false prophet. Each person in that city has a different vantage point. Whose is the most accurate?

Throughout all of Jesus’ ministry he has invited everyone he has met to think about things from a different angle. To turn their fixed way of thinking on its side, its head and its back. Jesus came not only to turn over the tables of the money changers, but our own table of belief that has tied us down rather than set us free to serve.

Things that happen this holy week to Jesus flip what we expect on its head. He should have been riding the stallion because he is God’s son. He should not have been betrayed and condemned. He is God’s son. Those who were seeking his death, mocking him needed the punishment. Not him. Dying on the cross as an innocent man was wrong. And yet it is a divine eye opener for us.

Jesus’ disciples missed much about him because their perspectives made them nearsighted. The people witnessing these events missed it. Their vision had become narrowed.

We miss much about God and his mission of love because we are stuck in our own way of thinking. That is why we keep the impoverished, the homeless, our brothers and sisters of color imprisoned in their lives. We do that because of our blindness.

Was it necessary for Jesus to endure all this suffering? The results would be the same today. We read God’s word, try to live faithfully, but do it only from our limited perspective. Jesus instructs us through his teachings to look at the world through God’s eyes, not the safety of our own narrow belief system.

Holy week is a reminder of what our narrow vision can bring, the death of God’s son. However, Easter is God’s promise of new life. The invitation for us here and now is to let our narrow, selfish perspectives die on that cross with Jesus trusting that Easter will bring us to a place of new life with God and God’s world.

Rev. Deb Patterson is a retired Presbyterian minister of the PCUSA.

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