Open Eyes, Open Minds, Open Lives — Saturday Sermon from the Sidelines

Luke 24:36b-49

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

For years, the Christian Century magazine had a feature called “How My Mind Has Changed.” The section offered columns by theologians, scholars, church leaders, and public figures. In each of these columns, the writer offered a retrospective look at their thought, work, and action. They described what the title announced – how their minds had changed.

I found that feature enlightening and encouraging.

It was enlightening because I found it useful to watch as powerful minds continued to learn and grow. Sometimes the change of mind was quite pronounced – not quite a hundred and eighty degree turn but close.

It was encouraging because I heard that it was neither possible nor necessary to get it all right from the beginning. And even more important to me, there was always more to learn and always a new way to see.

At one time, having a changed mind was regarded as a good thing.

But not these days.

Photo by Samson Katt on

These days, mind-changing is automatically derided as “flip-flopping.” Public leaders who change their views, perspectives, or behaviors on an issue are accused of going whichever way the wind blows. They are guilty of pandering to opinion, of caving in to political correctness, of just wanting to be liked instead of remaining committed to the “truth.”

“Leaders who change their minds, or change the course of proposed action are often derided as flip-floppers,” writes Samuel Bacharach.  “To be honest,” he continues, “’flip-flopper’ is the king of political insults. Calling someone a flip-flopper is supposed to signal that the intended victim has lost their principles and is somehow untrustworthy.”[i]

In his article, Bacharach lists five ways for leaders to “keep your credibility while changing your mind.”

You can say that your thinking has “evolved.” You can express care for the doubters and assure them that abandoning your position is not the same as abandoning them. You can say that the change is only superficial or that it was forced on you by necessity. Or you can just acknowledge the discomfort of others, say supportive things, and move forward anyway.

Just make sure that it looks like you know what you’re doing (my words, not his).

Luke 24 is littered with the remains of secure assumptions and safe certainties. All the things the disciples thought they knew were of no use to them after Jesus’ Resurrection.

When they met the risen Jesus, they were challenged and changed.

Their thinking didn’t evolve. Jesus didn’t soften the blow with gentle words. He didn’t suggest that the Resurrection required a few minor adjustments in their perspectives. The challenges and changes he brought were necessary because they are part of God’s agenda, not because circumstances forced them upon Jesus. Jesus was not looking for support or buy-in from the disciples.

He opened their eyes. He opened their minds. He opened their lives to the Life that is truly Life.

That’s how the Gospel works. It buries our old world of safe certainties and settled truths. Out of that tomb, Jesus calls us to open our eyes, open our minds and open our lives to the Life and Love that death and hate cannot overcome.

Jesus changes my mind. And that’s the Good News!

If I meet Jesus and remain unchallenged and unchanged, then I missed the appointment. I can meet Jesus in the Sacrament of the Table. I can meet Jesus in the words and witness of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. These are not the only places I can meet Jesus. But these are the places where Luke focuses our attention in his post-resurrection reports.

Here is one of the promises of Resurrection in our midst here and now. Jesus meets us where we are. He opens our eyes to that meeting as he feeds us with his very life. He opens our minds to God’s longing to give Life to all as we meet him in the Scriptures. I am not stuck with the tired truisms of my tentative past.

Jesus changes my mind. And that’s the Good News!

I have been a life-long pessimist about mind-changing. Given my experiences in life and with the Gospel, that pessimism is misplaced, mistaken, and merely misanthropic. I protect myself from the risk of rejection if and when people might disagree with me. I have missed lots of life because of this self-defense. I am always having to repent of this pessimism (which too often descends into faithless cynicism, I confess).

In fact, I’m a Christian and a pastor because the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes minds. The Gospel of Jesus Christ changed and continues to change my mind about the nature of life and hope in this cosmos.

That’s another story, but that’s how it goes for me. Sometimes I forget that, and others have to remind me. But I am the person I am now because the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes my mind and makes me more of the human being God has created me to be.

Jesus changes my mind. And that’s the Good News!

I have witnessed and continue to witness the ways in which Jesus-followers have their minds changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, I am part of an anti-racism book study group that has been meeting weekly for the last six months. I don’t know what I hoped for or expected, but what has happened far exceeds anything I might have imagined.

This study has been and continues to be an experience of the Law/Gospel dialectic that Martin Luther described so often and so well. This is one way Jesus changes minds through the Scriptures.

As we read the witness of Ibram X. Kendi, Bryan Stevenson, Ijeoma Oluo, and others, we white folks in the group are convicted by our ignorance and complicity, our apathy and self-delusion, our participation in and support of systemic and institutional racism in this country.

That is hard and necessary work. It is a daily and weekly and lifelong task and process. Our failures drive us to confess our sin to God and to one another as we talk and reflect, as we learn and grow.

That’s what the Law is supposed to do to us. There’s no merit or credit here for “getting it.” Left to our own devices, we wouldn’t get it at all. Yet change happens through our work together.

Jesus changes my mind. And that’s the Good News!

Every week we also share some small measure of new life, new understanding, new behavior, and new commitments. It’s slow going, and we will spend our lifetimes on this anti-racist journey.

But the call of the Gospel has opened our eyes a bit to the past and present realities of racism in our lives, our communities, and our country. And the call of the Gospel has opened our minds to hear the witness of those who suffer and to embrace an understanding of life from the perspective of the persecuted rather than that of the privileged.

Even though this is the work of repentance, it is often joyful work. The Greek word for “repentance” means a change of mind. It’s not a change from one human perspective to another.

Instead, we are called to have the mind of Christ in and among ourselves. “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” That change is not a burden but rather a gift of abundant life.

Jesus changes my mind. And that’s the Good News!

I have always heard that normal church people avoid Bible studies because they are sure they don’t know enough. They are afraid they will be embarrassed by this lack of knowledge in the presence of people who know the Bible through and through.

I know people have these anxieties, but I think they cover a deeper fear. I think people understand that meeting Jesus challenges and changes us. And they aren’t willing to risk that.

I also know that many people in and out of churches do take that chance. In taking that chance, they meet Jesus. They are challenged and changed. And the change is often for the better.

I empathize with those who avoid the inevitable encounters with Jesus in the Scriptures. Blissful ignorance is good work if you can get it. The encounter with Jesus not only changes my mind, it changes my path. Once Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to the Good News in Scripture, he sent them out on a mission from God.

Just when things were going so well.

A changed mind is not a reversible reality. I can’t un-know what I know. I can ignore it, or I can act on it. The Holy Spirit, the “power from on high,” moves me to act. I suspect that at some point, for example, knowing what I know is going to put me out in public and at some slight risk. I can’t have a changed mind and an unchanged path. It’s terrifying…in a good way.

Jesus changes my mind. And that’s the Good News! I pray it is for you as well.

[i] Bacharach, Samuel.

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