August 28, 2016
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Jeremiah 2:4-13


Lying eyes, crying eyes
Proper 17 | OT 22 | Pentecost 15

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Wayne Brouwer
The great composer Felix Mendelssohn loved to tell the marvelous story of how his grandparents Moses and Frumte Mendelssohn met and married. Moses was very short and far from handsome. He walked with a limping gait, partly because he sported a very noticeable hunchback.

The day Moses met Frumte, Cupid’s arrow struck deep. He determined to win the hand of this young beauty, the daughter of a local businessman. He knew it would be difficult because, like other young women of Hamburg, Frumte was repulsed by his misshapen body. Only after Moses made many requests to her father did she reluctantly agree to see him.

Frumte did not fall in love with Moses, however. At the same time, in spite of her constant resistance Moses’ hopes did not dim. He persisted in calling on her until one evening she told him firmly and clearly that he should not return. She did not want to see him again.

Moses threw caution to the wind. This would be the last time he could get a foot in the door, so he asked an intriguing question: “Do you believe that marriages are made in heaven?”

“Yes,” replied Frumte hesitantly, reluctant in the insecurity of not knowing where he was headed with this. “I suppose so.”

“So do I,” agreed Moses. “You see, in heaven, just before a boy is born, God shows him the girl he will someday marry. When God pointed out my future bride to me, God explained that she would be born with a hideous hunchback. That is when I asked God if he would please prevent the tragedy of a beautiful girl with a hunchback. I asked God to let the hunchback fall on me instead.”

Frumte’s eyes filled with tears. Years later she wrote, “I looked into the distance and I felt some long-hidden memory stir in my heart. At that moment I realized the depth and quality of this deformed young man. I never regretted marrying him.”

Maybe Moses Mendelssohn overplayed his hand in conjuring scenes of prenatal heaven. Still, there is something quite insightful about his analysis of who we are in ourselves and what lies inside the persons we meet day to day. For one thing, there is something of divine beauty in every person knit together by God in each mother’s womb. We did not emerge into this existence by our own volition or at the design of our own hand. And if our lives are a divine gift, we ought to be careful about artificial criteria of worth we might use as plumb lines in measuring the bent of another soul.

Second, though physical realities, including beauty and social status, may initially mark our assessments of each other, they rarely tell the whole story of human meaning. “Poor eyes limit your sight,” said Franklin Field. “Poor vision limits your deeds.”

He knew us well. Who wants to kiss a hairlip? Who wants to hold hands with a stump destroyed by meat tenderizer mistakenly injected by a junkie? Who wants to form “spoons” in bed with a hunchback? Perhaps only those whose vision is not encumbered with limited perspective and thus have eyes to see the true person. Some might say it is only those who love.

Third, there is something refreshing about stumbling into the Kingdom of God and finding relationships of meaning that are not prejudged and limited by the rules of others. By the rules of the day, Frumte should not have married Moses. Similarly, Sir Walter Scott should not have remained with his disfigured wife. Likewise, Hosea should have divorced his wayward spouse. There are millions of other relationships that ought to have dissolved, at least on our terms. But what a serendipitous delight to find power in the passions of heaven!

When we play favorites, we miss the gifts God lavishly showered in unlikely corners. We miss a beauty beyond status. And, as our gospel reading today reminds us, we miss Jesus himself, because he was playing ball with the kids down that very alley....

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