Fourth Sunday in Lent 26 March 2017
(1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:8-14 John 9:1-41)
“Healing Old World Certainties!”
Doesn’t it seem a little strange that the man who was transformed in today’s Gospel passage said not a single word until after he was healed? He never asked Jesus for a cure. He never spoke a single word of his tale to being relegated to begging, the lowest rung on the ladder of significance in a society that took notice of how noteworthy was a person’s life. From the very beginning he was just there. Blind. The object of other people’s scrutiny and judgment. A man who could not see. A man without eyesight, yet very aware of what was going on around him. He was aware of Jesus. And Jesus became aware of him.
Jesus saw in him the potential of carrying God’s works forward. Using mud as if it were the oil of anointing, Jesus smears it on the man’s eyes.
And then the fireworks begin! This story bursts all over the place with the reminder that everything loving begins with God’s initiative. All that is good; all that is healing; all that is life-giving begins with God!
But there is a second step. This second step is ours to make—openness and acceptance by us. The man who could not see is receptive to Jesus’ word. The man who was physically blind is open to Jesus’ command, although there is no way he could have been aware to the outcome of his obedience. Something exciting begins to erupt!
And as the leaders of the temple try to figure what just happened, I love the question they ask the man: “So,” they say to him,” Just how were your eyes opened?”
But I love even more, the awesome answer the man gives back to them when he says: “The man called Jesus!” “The man called Jesus!”
You know, that may be all we need know from today’s Gospel text! But we are not done yet because this is when the real circus begins, and then goes on for 30 more verses! Yes, one more time, this “man called Jesus” becomes the center of confusion and conflict.
“This man called Jesus!”—I love it!
So, where do we fit into the story? Always a most important question to ask in every story from the Bible!
I begin by suggesting that every one of us is the man standing before Jesus. We all stand there with various shades of blindness; and we also stand before Jesus with the possibility and promise of new life and new sight.
Every day we stand before Jesus with new possibilities of Gospel Good News. These new possibilities stand over and against the old managed certainties that have taken over our lives.
In the Gospel these old certainties are things like there can be no healing on the Sabbath or blindness and bad things happen because of the sins of the parents or the individuals are bad, and are being punished by God. These were the things they were certain of at that time
You know, maybe the blindness may have been more significant in the Pharisees than in the young man!
These old world certainties take different forms today but are just as powerful in controlling the way people think and act. Today too many people today are still controlled by the old world certainties of privilege and power and control. Too many are still controlled by certainties that reduces life to owning and having. Too many people are still controlled by old world certainties of privilege according to race, class and gender.
These and many more are the old world certainties in today’s world that blind us and keep us from the freedom and joy of God’s love. This is the blindness that lurks as the very antithesis of the Good News of Jesus Christ!
So let’s return to the question I asked at the beginning: Where do we fit into this Gospel story? I surely believe that we all are the blind man; but just as surely, I know that many times, many times, we are also the person of Jesus.
In the Gospel story, Jesus is the invitation to the blind man, into a different way of living life. Jesus is the invitation into our world, no less, a world that very often seems to be in free-fall. Jesus is the invitation that challenges old world certainties, too often rooted in privilege, and power and gender and race. Jesus is the invitation to move us beyond our blindness, in order to see the world in a different way. Because of “…this man called Jesus. . . . the one who made me see,” this text offers us new possibilities; new ways of seeing what is possible beyond our old world certainties.
Here’s yet another magnificent gift of this story–Over against all of those old world certainties is this man born blind now testifies to new possibilities because Jesus has moved him into a new life. That’s us!
This “new way of seeing” demands that every human is sacred with equal claim to safe water, education, health care, housing and family-sustaining jobs. This “new way of seeing” dignifies the lives of all of us by searching for basic human virtues in all people. This “new way of seeing” recognizes the deep wounds in our society from unemployment and violence and corruption, and how, more than ever we are being called out of our moral blindness, out of any indifference to the challenges that are right here in our community.
Like the Woman at the Well in last week’s Gospel, this young man, who was so quiet at the beginning of the Gospel, at the end of the Gospel becomes a spokesperson for the Good News of Jesus Christ. That’s us!
Finally, a word about the Rite of Laying of Hands. This is an invitation and experiencing of God’s love and healing in our lives. I know it means different things to different people; but today, especially, we offer these prayers, certainly for specific illnesses, but just as importantly, as an invitation to healing any blindness that prevents us from being the eyes and hands and voice of Jesus to those closest to us and beyond. Even if you have never come forward, today would be a perfect time to begin; but, if not, at least spend time ask God’s healing love to hold you close while you sit in the pew.
It really does come down to seeing or not seeing, sometimes refusing to see, or sometimes even being nurtured not to see. And we are the ones who decide; we are the ones who know enough about Jesus and about ourselves to say, yes, yes, yes, I was blind but now I see! Amen.