I recently heard Tom Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, talk about the practice of squinting. It is a spiritual practice, which has always been vital to the church. I immediately thought about what it feels like to take off my glasses or to take out my contacts, and try to squint in order to see just a little bit clearer. It gives us slightly more focus.
The church has always learned how to squint, whether we are looking out at the world, discovering the kingdom of God in our midst, or we are looking in the mirror at ourselves, seeing the body of Christ. When we look in the mirror, we must learn how to squint in order to notice what is happening before us. We squint, so we can see the Spirit of God, which resists the spotlight, making the Spirit hard to notice.
When we squint and look at Auburn First Baptist, there is so much to see and to discover. We see our children, standing at the front of the sanctuary and serving communion on Children’s Sabbath; but then we squint, and we also see deep faith formation, learning the practice of service and worship, which shapes their lives and souls. We watch the Committee on Committees do its work, asking someone to join a committee for a three-year term; but then we squint, and we also see how people truly invest in a community that means a great deal to them, sharing their time and talents in a way that is life-giving to everyone.
We look at a college student, clutching a bulletin and listening to the choir sing its anthem; but then we squint, and we also see how this congregation impacts his or her life now as well as in a lasting way. We look out at Sunday school classes, seeing open Bibles and lively discussions; but then we squint, and we also see how asking important questions gives energy and hope to people’s faith, making the inroads of faith deeper in their lives.
We look at the communion table in the sanctuary, and we see the breaking of bread and the pouring of the cup; but then we squint, and we also see a feast of grace, gathering people together in ways that are rare and holy. We look and see people in the congregation, reaching out and inviting others; but then we squint, and we also see people generously sharing what they have received in this place. The practice of squinting helps us to see more clearly, discovering the abundance around us, while we discover again how the church is the body of Christ.