This past Sunday I preached about a new challenge that I’m putting out there for people to enjoy….it doesn’t require blindfolds, or detergent or bone chilling water, it’s the simple act of making eye contact with people that we pass on the street or in the mall, or at the post office. As we become more and more disconnected as a society, people desperately need to be seen, to be acknowledged, to have basic human to human connection. Eye contact, perhaps a “Hi,” perhaps even a smile can let someone know that you acknowledge their humanity.
There is a woman that I work with on the streets. She told me she was hanging out by the docks trying to get people to say hi to her. People walked around her except for a well meaning lady who gave her $5.00. “I don’t want her money,” my friend said, I just want someone to make eye contact with me.
To recognize her humanity, not forsake her, not shun her, not send a message that she is unworthy, that she’s someone to be avoided. She just wanted to be seen.
This is often the story of Ancient Israel in the Old Testament, feeling abandoned by God, forsaken as it says in Isaiah 62. This passage also tells of God’s saving power, God’s steadfast love for God’s people. This is the story of a people getting out from under the boot of oppression and also the story of liberation from the spiritual binding that happens when a whole host of people move from feeling abandoned, discarded, and rejected to being named and claimed as God’s beloved people. No longer forsaken, they are called God’s delight. We are called God’s delight, we are all called God’s delight: partners with God in bringing love, compassion, wholeness and healing to ourselves, to others and to all of creation.
The sermon went on to talk about the wedding at Cana. In this story there is a wedding with an emergency. Half way through the party the wine runs out. Jesus’ mother notices and wants Jesus to do something about it. In the moment Jesus says “What concern is that to you and to me?” I hear a challenge here! I hear Jesus challenging everyone who sees a problem, who sees scarcity when there should be abundance, a challenge to everyone who recognizes that something must be done and yet believes that it is someone else’s responsibility.
What if that was Hyannis, and it was a small family out of food instead of a wedding out of wine. Jesus challenges us to do something about it. In the scripture Jesus says “it’s not my time right now,” and yet he takes action. He chooses joy, he chooses celebration, he chooses abundance and extravagance. Jesus chose to elevate the hosts who made a miscalculation, who made a mistake. He saved them from shame, from being “those people.” Jesus did it because a need was identified and care for humanity took the highest priority. People make mistakes. People miscalculate the sum of their choices, people haplessly or hopelessly enter into situations that are not in their best interests and do not work towards their well being. And still, they are deserving of ever-flowing abundance and grace.
Scarcity takes many forms. In Sunday’s scripture it was in the form of wine, but it could be money, food, housing, clothing, freedom, relationship, self-worth, dignity, self-esteem….the list goes on. And when we see scarcity we can offer abundance; abundance of love, compassion, grace, forgiveness, and connection. We can look someone in the eye and say “You Matter!” “You are Worthy!” . Imagine how they will feel when someone notices.
So I ask you to consider the Eye Contact Challenge! Notice someone. Show them that they are worthy of being seen. Show them that they are worthy of abundant living shared through eye contact, a smile, a hello, a nod, an acknowledgement of our common humanity.