To See

Two weeks ago, I preached a sermon that was the beginning of a new series at church I’m simply calling “The Jesus Lab: Discovering and Practicing the Artful Action of Jesus.”  I’m borrowing an idea from the world of acting, wondering out loud what Jesus was doing from moment-to-moment, asking the question the way I would ask an actor about a character.  I know what the character is saying, what words he’s using, perhaps even what activity he is involved in.   But rarely do those things answer the question of what the character is doing, what action they are involved in.   For actors, actions are always verbs and represent what the character is doing to chase after that which they want.

What did Jesus want, and what was he doing to get what he wanted?

The thought came to me to ask the question this way several years ago when I was working on a solo performance piece I called “The Jesus Monologues.”  I felt like (and still do) that people just needed to hear his words, what he actually said.  But in preparing those words for performance, I had to ask myself who he was talking to, what he was trying to accomplish, and what he was doing.  What I knew was that as an actor, I could make many different choices with these words, playing multiple actions that most people hadn’t thought of.  Jesus could be in the middle of a healing, but what he might really be doing is scolding or warning.   I was a director who kept asking Jesus, “What are you doing?”

As I thought about verbs, and proceeding along the lines that we should be acting the same verbs as Jesus, the first thing that came to mind was a simple one: to see.

Eastern approaches speak of “waking up” and “awareness.”   We talk about changing perspectives, using new glasses, seeing with new eyes, re-inventing the way we understand ourselves and those around us, both friend and stranger.  Obviously, our soul-sight is far from 20-20, while the assumption is that Jesus saw even the smallest lines on the chart.  On that Sunday two weeks ago, we talked about the power of the Imago Dei, that Jesus would have understand that these people were all image-carriers of God, the divine thumb-print embedded in the most foul and the most perfect alike.   And knowing that he entrusted himself perfectly to his father, he was free to see the other as they were, broken, unique, utterly savable, utterly worth the self-sacrifice needed to make it happen.

If an actor chose to use that verb for his action, I’m not sure I’d buy it.  I’d wonder how to play it, as we like to say.   And then we’d wonder about the verbs that lead to seeing.  What actions will create the energy that an outside observer would call “seeing?”

To gaze, to meditate, to reach out, to ask, to engage, to pursue, to seek out, to stare, to focus, to…what?


One thing I ask, one thing I seek, to see Your beauty…

4 Replies to “To See”

  1. Jeff, great post. Really appreciate where you are moving with the Jesus Lab series. In “Organic Community” Meyers talks about moving from noun-centric to verb-centric language. This is something that you have really tapped into very naturally. Meyers talks about how we used to use nouns in the church to describe things or put things in categories. Now we realize that most topics that pertain to God are to large to capture (ironic that we ever thought we could), therefore we are moving and need to move in our language to talk about God’s actions or movements.

    Seems like you and Meyers are on the same page.

  2. Jeff, to me, to see is to come to that place where the contradictions are explained. I think of the time I was struggling to solve a math problem in Junior High. All at once I “saw” the solution. (That time the “seeing” didn’t last long.) I “saw” the parable of the prodigal son when I recognized both brothers in me.

  3. Jeff, It seems once again you’re standing in my wavelength! A few days ago I made a blog about this:

    Yes, I think that we can use our hands, our voices, our intuitions to bring treasures of healing and peace to the world. I think that if we try, we can make gold…but it’s definitely about being visual.

    Nathan and I found great church here in Houston. Somehow I’m already getting active with music. I’m pick songs to sing(bring) to the church during stations (#4, #8 and #12) of the cross service on Good Friday! And, I think it’s a way of making gold, you know? To give someone a song.

    For Station #12 which is Christ’s death on the cross I have found an amazing song, “Flint (Undemployed and Underpaid)” By Sufjan Stevens.
    This is from his record “Michigan.”

    It’s really more amazing to hear it with the music,
    but the chorus is “use my hands to use my heart, even if I died alone.”

    Flint (undemployed and underpaid)
    by Sufjan Stevens

    It’s the same outside
    Driving to the riverside
    I pretend to cry
    Even if I cried alone

    I forgot the start
    Use my hands to use my heart
    Even if I died alone
    Even if I died alone

    Since the first of June
    Lost my job
    And lost my room
    I pretend to try
    Even if I tried alone

    I forgot the part
    Use my hands to use my heart
    Even if I died alone
    Even if I died alone
    Even if I died alone
    Even if I died alone
    Even if I died

    Thanks for writing this, Jeff. I think it’s the only way to tap into that more angelic side in Us.
    The Water:

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