God in a Gorilla Suit

"One more thing"

There's an experience I often have when I preach. As soon as I get done, I often think of other things I should have said.  There have been times I have felt compelled to walk back up to the pulpit and say, "oh yeah, one more thing." But I haven't. Yet.

From this past Sunday, Advent 3A, the gospel lesson...

Matthew 11:2-3:

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, β€œAre you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

I was impressed by the reality that humanity missed figuring out who God's messiah was the first time, reminding me of the question as to whether or not we'll figure him out at the second coming.

In psychology, there is a condition called inattentional blindness. We tend to be blind to things we don't have a category for in our experience. We can be blind to the degree we are in denial about what we don't wish to see. But most interesting, is the blindness to things we don't know we should be looking for.

The popularized version of this condition has circulated on the Internet. Daniel Simons from  the University of Illinois developed the test. His explanation of it can be found at the


. There a number of videos there to become familiar with the concept.

Theological Discernment

But in terms of theological discernment, how do we attend to God's presence? Do we see, or do we merely look at what is taking place around us? Daniel Simons mentions that those who claimed not to see the gorilla in the experiment, actually had their eye on the gorilla for up to second, but claimed not to see it. We can


at something, but if we don't


it, then is was never there. Looking at and seeing are not the same.

How can we discern our lives and culture so as to answer John's question from prison: is Jesus the one, or shall we expect someone else? If John has trouble seeing God's messiah in his own community, would there be potential difficulty for us to do any better than John? How is God showing up, in unseen ways, in our communities now?

Even if God were in a gorilla suit, we still might not see.