1. The first scene opens with a man,
a. sitting in his favorite chair.
b. Reading the newspaper.
2. The newspaper is filled with reports of crime all over the city.
a. People are being tricked into letting arsonists stay their homes,
b. whereupon as reward for their hospitality,
c. the arsonists burn their hosts’ houses to the ground.
3. The man, named Biedermann, harrumphs and says that he will never be so taken in.
4. But before you know it
a. a traveling salesman, named Schmidt
b. and soon after another named Eisenring
i. show up at his door,
ii. and convince him to rent them a room in his attic.
5. No sooner do they settle in,
a. than they start moving their wares in. – Cans of Gasoline!
6. Biedermann helps them move in,
7. helps them prepare their detonating fuses –
8. even lends them the matches!
a. All the while refusing to see the horror of what is happening.
i. Until of course it is too late.
9. . . . I guess by this point you have realized from the names that this is a German play.
a. It is called Biedermann und die Brandstifter,
b. or in English translation, The Arsonists.
10. It was one of the first German plays I EVER read as a German major, way back in college in 1980.
11. I did not see this play during my recent trip to Germany, but given the news,
a. though I thought about it many times.
12. For the play was written by Max Frisch in 1953.
13. Most people saw it back then,
a. as a commentary on the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930s
14. Admittedly, It deals with the unwillingness of one man, Biedermann
a. to see what is happening in his own home
b. and to do anything about it.
15. But his name was Biedermann,
a. and Max Frisch chose that name with a purpose.
16. It translates as “Joe Middle-class”.
a. Biedermann was an every-man,
b. a member of the “ninety-nine percent”
c. in short, he was, is us.
17. And so, Frisch is not writing a play about the Nazis! At least not entirely.
a. But he is writing about what happens when we refuse to see.
18. And that does not just happen in the pages of history or in scenes from a play, does it?
19. We know it happens all the time.
20. We know it because it happens to us and to those around us.
21. The parents find rolling papers and drug paraphernalia in their son’s school bag,
a. And avoid speaking to him.
22. The wife discovers
23. credit card receipts for hotel rooms,
24. lipstick on her husband’s collar
a. And does nothing.
25. The friend watches, as her best friend cuts herself and speaks of ending her life,
a. And says nothing.
26. When the harsh light of a German play is held up to these and so many other moments in our lives and the lives of others, it is difficult to look.
27. Why, we wonder, did Biedermann, not see what was happening?
28. Why don’t we?
29. Perhaps, because there is something in our eyes.
30. At least that is what Jesus thinks.
31. Sitting there, with all those people in today’s Gospel, Jesus is finishing up Luke’s version of what we call in Matthew’s Gospel, the “Sermon on the Mount” –
a. it is the sermon we have been hearing from over the last couple of weeks.
b. Perhaps you have noticed there are some differences from Matthew’s version.
32. One of the most glaring differences is
a. that Matthew says this sermon took place on a MOUNT.
33. That is most likely because Moses,
a. after spending some time on a mount, named mount Sinai
i. came down with a Law to guide God’s people.
b. Matthew wants to portray Jesus as a new Moses then,
i. with a new law to guide God’s new people.
34. Luke, however, began this sermon two weeks ago by saying quite clearly,
a. that Jesus came DOWN and stood on
b. A LEVEL STRETCH OF GROUND. – a plain.
35. Why? We can’t really say.
a. But is it such a stretch to suppose,
i. that while Matthew wants Jesus to speak down to his people
1. like a prophet,
ii. Luke wants Jesus to speak with his people
1. like a teacher – at “Eye level” if you will?
36. Especially since, at the end of this sermon,
a. with its blessings and woes,
b. its “love your enemies” and its “turn the other cheek”,
i. Jesus speaks about . . . Seeing.
37. He talks about people who lead blind people,
a. but who are themselves blind.
38. About people
a. with wooden beams sticking out of their own eyes,
b. yet trying to remove little splinters from the eyes of others.
39. People listening to him would have laughed
a. at the slapstick image of the blind leading the blind
b. only to fall into a pit,
c. or of people oblivious to the two-by-four sticking out of their own eyes,
i. yet trying to remove a splinter in the eye of someone else.
40. Why wouldn’t they learn, like Jesus says a disciple learns from his teacher,
41. Why wouldn’t they remove that beam from their eye,
a. so they could help both themselves and others, to see?
42. Why wouldn’t the parents confront their son,
43. the wife, her husband,
44. the girl, her friend?
45. Why can’t we see?
46. Jesus doesn’t answer that question.
a. because he knows, we already know the answer.
47. The disciple doesn’t want to learn,
a. because learning means growth.
b. Growth means change and change is frightening.
48. The person with the beam in his own eye doesn’t want to remove it;
a. because then they might just see how big it was to begin with.
49. The parents do not speak with their son
50. The wife doesn’t confront the husband
51. The girl does not help her friend
52. Because they, we, are afraid of losing the son, the marriage the friendship.
53. It is fear that paralyzes us
54. until our attic is full of gasoline cans
55. and we are the ones handing out the matches.
56. It is fear that blinds us
57. as individuals, as families, as communities, as a nation and as a church,
58. to the denial that threatens the health of our families the safety of our communities, the security of our nation, and the future of our Church.
59. Bombs are falling in Kyiv and Europe is literally burning because for so long we in the west were afraid to see what was happening and act.
60. Parishes are closing, seminaries are empty and our Church is withering because our leaders in the Church are afraid to take the necessary steps to reform, renew and rebuild our Church.
61. If fear is what blinds us, you would think that Jesus would address it clearly.
62. For after all, it would be this same fear which
63. would one day cause his closest friends to abandon him
a. that night when he was arrested tried and then crucified.
64. Jesus, however, does not encourage us to look at that fear.
65. He, at the end of his eye-to-eye sermon with us on that plain,
a. directs our eyes to look somewhere else:
i. At a fruit tree.
66. Listening to Jesus could give a person whiplash, he moves so suddenly.
67. But he moves with a purpose.
a. For NO one expects to find figs, growing on a thorn bush
b. No one expects to find grapes, growing in the brambles.
68. When we want to find fruit, we go to a fruit tree.
a. A good tree bears good fruit
b. A bad tree bears bad fruit.
c. A tree is known by its fruit.
69. That may be true of trees, but Jesus is not teaching us horticulture
70. Jesus is saying that it is also true of us.
71. Don’t pay attention to the fear.
72. Rather, pay attention to the fruit.
73. For when we love our families, our friends, our church and our nation,
a. the fear of damaging them, of destroying our relationship with them or even maybe their disappearing altogether from our lives
b. can blind us like a two-by-four in the eye and can paralyze us into inaction.
74. But when we look at what happens due to our paralyzing fear –
a. The wounded relationships, the broken lives, a withering Church, an imperiled nation.
75. in short when we remove the beam, and look at the fruit,
76. we can see clearly to act!
77. So that in time, we see healed relationships, saved lives, a stronger church and a freer nation,
78. Because we will have acted
79. So that they might bear good fruit
80. and that so might we.