3/22/2020 4th Sunday in Lent The text is John 9:1-41.
1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,’ your sin remains.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we read of the man who was born blind and who is given the gift of sight by Jesus. And in the aftermath of this miracle, rather than rejoicing, it seems that everyone is more consumed by their own self-interest. His neighbors were divided; some recognized him and others disagreed, saying that it was another person who looked like the formerly blind man.
And the Pharisees were also on opposite sides of the issue; some said Jesus was a man for God and others, that he was a sabbath-defiling sinner. They celebrate the man receiving sight by driving him out of the community. And even the man’s parents, afraid of being on the wrong side of the argument, went weak in the knees when questioned by the religious authorities. To paraphrase, “he is of age to answer for himself; we’re not going to say anything so we don’t get in trouble”. And here’s the thing; everyone is so caught up in protecting their own self-interest that nobody even thought to take a moment to reflect on the miracle that just happened!
Jesus brings sight to a man born blind and it appears that he is the only one capable of seeing the truth before him; that Jesus is the Anointed One, sent from God to heal him and others, and eventually redeem all of mankind. And the neighbors, the Pharisees, and even the man’s parents, though they were fully capable of sight, are too blind to see what’s right in front of them. They all have eyes and are physically able to see, but they do not have the ability to discern the reality, the truth of the identity of Christ Jesus, the Son of God.
And worst of all, they are blind to their own blindness. And it’s this inability, or stubborn refusal to see the truth of what’s right in front of us that leads to the most egregious sin of all; not recognizing the needs of those who surround us daily. And in this time of fear and anxiety the needs that surround us are greater than ever. Yet, because we have been relegated to a rather isolated lifestyle, we risk becoming blind to the material, and perhaps more importantly, the spiritual needs of those around us. Bishop Hazelwood refers to the present situation as “a temporary suspension of face-to-face gatherings”. Throughout the world Christians are worshiping digitally, Holy Communion has been suspended, and we are facing the prospect of many weeks of being forced out of the community that we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It turns out that this Lent we have all been forced to “give up” more than we intended. People have said that for Lent they were “giving up” chocolate, shopping on Amazon, donuts, or a thousand other things.
It’s a good bet though, that none of us imagined we would be giving up toilet paper for Lent this year. I don’t know about you, but of all the things I’ve been forced to refrain from, not being able to share in direct fellowship with my siblings in Christ is the most difficult to adapt to. I miss delving into Scripture with the morning bible study group. I miss participating in the development in the faith journeys of our Confirmation students. I miss not being able to watch our young people gather in community in our beautiful new Youth Room. I miss the bright shining faces of our little ones when they grasp the concept of the Children’s Message on the chancel step. I miss coffee hour. In short, I miss all the times that we gather together as God’s people, sharing worship, fellowship, and servanthood.
But this is the reality that we are faced with; and the situation may last for longer than we would like. So, it falls to each of us to maintain contact with one another as best we can. I will continue virtual Sunday morning worship services on Emanuel’s Facebook Live page (as long as this first one works…if you are tuned in, perhaps you would comment and let me know that you can see and hear me). I’m exploring setting up Zoom check-in sessions so we might all see one another, if not in person, at least on our screens. In this way we can still be connected and offer support to each other. We can share with each other the things that make us anxious and cause us fear and worry. And, most importantly we will be able to offer comfort and reassurance to one another. No matter the challenges we face, we are children of God! Knowing and trusting in this truth, when we are once again able to meet in person for worship and fellowship, we will know that our relationships have been maintained; and that we have been nourished by one another.
At the same time, I ask you to please check in with your neighbors and especially with members of Emanuel who may not have access to the technology that allows them to remain in contact with the church. A simple phone call to let our sisters and brothers know that they are with us in spirit will go a long way in reassuring them that they also remain in the circle of God’s beloved people that we call Emanuel Lutheran Church. As we’ve said many times, the church is not defined by the building; it is God’s people, assembled wherever, and however they may be.
We read in the first verses of 2 Corinthians, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”. So, therefore let us be present for one another in whatever manner we are able, to reassure those most in need of the comfort that only God in Christ can provide.
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, in these times of fear, worry, and isolation from one another, remind us that although we are distant from our siblings in Christ, that your Holy Spirit remains with us all. May we take comfort in the knowledge that nothing can separate us from your love for your children.
And in Jesus’ name together we say…Amen.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Amen.