When I was a kid, my mother bought me a little microscope and a set of glass slides. This was pretty awesome as a gift, because it reminds me that I have ALWAYS been a nerd. I mean really, how many little six-year old kids are thrilled with the gift of a microscope? Dolls I could take or leave, except my Mrs. Beasley doll, but I used that microscope for the next three years to look at all kinds of things—blades of grass, creek water, butterfly wings, and, my favorite, my own blood. That was a trip. It was amazing how something that looked one way with the unaided eye looked completely different with the aid of some magnification and some light. Magnification and light also were at work in the telescope my brother got about the same time—right about the time of the moon landings. We would train it on the moon in hopes that we could actually see the astronauts walking on the lunar surface.
The cheap telescope my family could afford really was not nearly capable of that amount of magnification and resolution, but we still would see some of the features of the moon more clearly than we ever had before. We also saw that some of the things we thought were stars were actually planets!
Those experiences with the microscope and the telescope completely transformed my perception of the natural world. Things are really NOT as they appear. I actually experienced objects differently once my knowledge of them had been changed through a shift in perception. I became aware- and for a little kid, weirded out—by the idea that that blade of grass was made up of thousands of green cells that looked like bricks, and that my blood wasn’t just red liquid but was made up of all kinds of weird round things floating in it. My mother never again had to tell me to not swallow pond water after I saw all the weird little critters like water fleas and bacteria flailing around in a drop of it.
In this Sunday’s gospel reading, we see one of the most astounding perception-shifting passages in the Bible, and that is saying something. Jesus has been hinting to the disciples that he is more than what he seems to be, but they don’t get it. And let’s be fair—why should they? There certainly hasn’t been anyone like Jesus before.
The disciples accompanying Jesus see part of what makes Jesus who he really is—and it scares the stuffing out of them. And who could say we could be any different? Yet I wonder if we miss the end of our story today. Jesus has ripped off the veil and sees that his disciples are undone by the reality of his divinity—and yet brings them back to their senses by touching them. With simply a touch, Jesus reminds us of his human heart and human flesh. He touches them with his hand, reminding them that he is ALSO still their pastor and friend. And so he remains for us today.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.