A Holy Injunction to Notice

Walking past person in needI just finished reading The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu over the weekend –  a collection of stories about people on the lowest rungs of society in China and their jobs:  Professional Mourner, Former Red Guard, Human Trafficker, Public Restroom Manager, Professional Leper, Corpse Walker.

Two things:

  • These are excellent sermon illustrations for you preachers out there, for your Labor Day sermon.  Or for an upcoming ordination sermon on “call.”
  • Liao Yiwu is a fearless hero and superb interviewer/writer.

As the editor of The Paris Review notes in the forward, “There is nothing to make him take notice like an official injunction against noticing.

It occurs to me that – if we intend to follow Jesus – we have a holy injunction to notice.  Not noticing who is among us, around us, beside us is the opposite of Jesus’ message.  Biblical examples are endless:

  • The Samaritan who notices the victim on the side of the road.
  • Jesus noticing Zacheaeus in a tree.
  • Jesus noticing women in the room.  And by the well.  And on the streets.
  • Jesus noticing children.
  • Jesus noticing beggars.

Etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes we notice but do nothing.  Sometimes we notice but do what’s easy (like toss a dollar in the jar.)

Once, while waiting for a ride on Michigan Avenue, I watched a young homeless woman for about an hour.  She indeed might have been homeless with no means for earning money.  But she was clearly part of a group of others who were working together on that block in Chicago.  A man with his “Homeless. God Bless” sign tucked under his arm came by and took part of what she’d collected.  She knew I was watching.  And just as I was getting ready to go sit beside her, my ride arrived.

I had noticed her but hadn’t connected.

As we strive to separate ourselves from “people like that” I will remember Liao who literally risked his status as an intellectual in China by talking to the man who cleans out the public toilet, just to hear his story.

Imagine a world in which we notice, and then actually talk to the human beings that most people don’t notice.  They probably have interesting stories.


2 responses to “A Holy Injunction to Notice

  1. Thanks. This is completely the heart space Jesus has been bringing me into lately… as follower, fellow human, and artist. I was just working with a Messianic Isaiah passage yesterday that goes at it from the same angle:

    2b He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
    3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
    Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
    (Isaiah 53: 2b-3, NIV)

    Committing to notice Him out on the streets today, …in disguise, as usual.

  2. Hi, Ive been a lurker about your blog for some months. I enjoy this article as well as your entire web site! Looking forward to reading through more!

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