This sermon was originally preached by Rev. James Morasco on September 30, 2018.
Today, I want you to look at the back of your bulletins, below the announcements, and tell me what you see.
One day a professor entered the classroom and asked his students to prepare for a surprise test. They waited anxiously at their desks for the test to begin. The professor walked around the class and handed the question papers with the text facing downwards.
Once he handed them all out, he asked his students to turn the page and begin. To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions, but just a black dot in the center of the page. The professor thoroughly read through everyone’s bewildered expressions and said- “I want you to write what you see there.”
The perplexed students began to do what they had been asked to do.
At the end of the class, the professor took all the answer papers and started reading each one of them aloud in front of all the students. All of them, with no exceptions, described the black dot, trying to explain its position in the middle of the sheet, etc. After all had been read, the classroom silent, the professor began to explain:
“I am not going to grade you on this test; I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot – and the same happens in our lives. This is exactly what we tend to do with our lives. We have a white paper to hold onto and enjoy, but we are so busy contemplating about the dark spots that’s in there. Life is a special gift and we will always have reasons to celebrate. It is changing and renewing everyday - our friends, jobs, livelihood, love, family, the miracles we see every day.”
And yet we insist on focusing only on the dark spots – the health issues that are bothering us, the money that we need to have, the luxuries we don’t have, complications in any relationship, problems with a family member, the disappointment with a friend and so on.
You need to realize that the dark spots are very small and only few. And yet we allow these to pollute our minds.
Take your eyes away from the black spots in your life. Enjoy each one of your blessings, each moment that life gives you.
Be happy and live life positively!
And while we shouldn’t focus on the negative, or as the story above illustrated, the “black dots” in our life, perhaps we should look at the bigger picture. If we are honest with ourselves, we can look back and see more than one dot and a multitude of colors. Some are related as many events are and some seem to stick out more than others, depending on their significance to us and the timeframe in which they occurred. Taken as a whole, they represent our life’s journey.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf writes in The Adventure of Mortality:
“One of the great innovators of our time, Steve Jobs of Apple, had this insight: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward,” he said. “You can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
What did he mean by that? Perhaps an illustration will help. In the late 19th century, artists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac began painting in a new style that would become known as neo-impressionism. Their technique consisted of dotting canvases with small specks of color. Close up, these dots appear unconnected and random. But when you take in the entire painting, you can see how the dots blend into colors and how the colors eventually form shapes that reveal a beautiful pattern. What once seemed arbitrary and even confusing begins to make sense. Sometimes our lives are like neo-impressionistic art. The dots of color that make up the moments and events of our days can appear unconnected and chaotic at times. We can’t see any order to them. We can’t imagine that they have a purpose at all.
However, when we step back and take an eternal perspective…we can begin to see how the various dots in our lives interconnect. We may not be able to see the entire picture just yet, but we’ll see enough to trust that there is a beautiful, grand design. And as we strive to trust God and follow His Son, Jesus Christ, one day we will see the finished product, and we will know that the very hand of God was directing and guiding our steps.
We will know that the Master Artist had a plan for those random dots all along. We will see that He has amplified our talents, prepared opportunities, and introduced us to possibilities far more glorious than we ever could have imagined or accomplished on our own.”
As you know, I have enjoyed hiking in the outdoors most of my life. One time I spent a couple of weeks backpacking through the Rocky Mts. in Colorado. Each night the group I was with were assigned individual hours where we had to do what is called a “night watch”. We took turns staying up, outside the tents, and spent an hour of quiet solitude and writing in our group journal. The most amazing thing was that we were so high up it sometimes felt like we could touch the stars. At first you can only see some of them, but as your eyes adjusted, the Milky Way became one. It became difficult to see just one star as the background faded into light. Sitting there, in that magnificent setting, I came to the understanding that it’s all connected. Our lives are not lived in a vacuum. We are not separate from this thing we call our universe, but an intrical part. As human beings, as much as we tend to focus on what we perceive as “differences”, we all have the same needs. When we stop and recognize we are all in this together, we can put our energy towards supporting each other rather than trying to prove we are somehow better than every other person on this planet. Just think how much money is misspent, how much time is lost, lives ruined, year after year, as we fail to learn this lesson.
To expand a little bit on our New Testament Reading from Luke 9:46-48.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.
Like anything else in the bible, this can be interpreted many ways. To me it is the great equalizer. Who is the greatest among us? – none of you he is saying. We are all equal in God’s eyes. Stop trying to prove that you are somehow different or better than the next person, the next group, the next culture.
So you might be asking, what does all of this have to do with me? We started off talking about focusing on the “dots” in our life and now we are talking about equality. Well, it’s my way of saying; we all have things in our lives we are proud of. We also have had experiences we would rather forget. But the important thing to remember is that we are all traveling together on this journey. There’s an old Portuguese saying; “God draws straight with crooked lines”. In other words, our lives don’t go from birth to death in a straight line. In order to connect “dot – A” with “dot – B” we are taken on “side trips” that make life all that more meaningful. We are not in control and cannot possibly anticipate everything that will happen to us along the way. But what we can be sure of is that looking back we can see how the “dots” are connected. We can learn and share our experience with others and them with us. Think about how successful support groups have been. Generally when we are faced with any kind of challenge in life we tend to think we are the only one experiencing it. Then we talk to another person experiencing the same thing and it helps to know we are not alone. Getting together to share and to support each other brings relief and a sense of togetherness that we all experience regardless of our perceived differences. We realize that being human means we are vulnerable, but that together we can overcome our feeling of isolation. When we do this we are helping each other “connect the dots”.
So I want to leave you with this thought. Think of your life as one of those “connect the dots” pictures many children like to do. Looking at it all we see are individual dots that don’t have any rhyme or reason to them. But once we start to connect them, the bigger picture, like the Milky Way, slowly comes into view. My wish for you this week is that you are able to let go and let God connect the dots in your life.