Sermon for 4th Sunday in Lent - Grace
I Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1 -41
We see Jesus as the miracle worker. The apostle John, on the other hand, was a poet who knew about words. He knew that all men and all women are mysteries known only to themselves until they speak a word that opens up the mystery. John knew that words people speak have their life in them just as surely as they have their breath in them.
All this leads us to expect that the Gospel of John is as different from the other three as night is from day. Matthew quotes Scripture, Mark lists miracles, Luke gives us off parables and each has its own special interest to promote. The one thing they all did in common was to say something about the thirty-plus years Jesus lived on this earth, the kinds of things he did and said and what he got for his pains and what the world got for his pains too. John, on the other hand, clearly has something else in mind. If you didn’t happen to know, you’d hardly guess that his Jesus and the Jesus of the other three gospels are all the same man.
Jesus, for John, is the Jesus he knew in his own heart and the one he believed everybody else could know too if we only kept our hearts open. He is Jesus as the Word that breaks the hearts open and sets the feet to dancing and stirs excitement in our blood. He is the Jesus John loved not just because he’d healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, and fed the hungry, but because he’d saved the world. Because he offered us grace…In God, we grow in grace.
The story of the man born blind leaves us with so many questions. How were your eyes opened? Where is the man who did it? How could he do that? What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes? What do you say about him, since he opened your eyes? Not one living soul said, “Thank God for healing him! What an awesome God we serve!” No one asked him what it was like to see for the first time in his life, or whether the light hurt his eyes. Just “How” and “Who” and “Where” and “What”.
“Here is an astonishing thing!” he says to them. “You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Everyone holds their breath. The room is absolutely quiet. No one understands how this fellow who was blind until just a few minutes ago has just told the Jewish leaders that they could not see God if God stood right in front of them.
The story closes with Jesus’ return visit to the now-healed man. He has come a long way. At the beginning of the story, he called Jesus a man, then a prophet, then a man come from God. It is almost as if his vision keeps on improving so that he sees more and more clearly who has given him his sight – sees more clearly who Jesus is. Finally, he gets the name right, as well as the response. “Lord, I believe.” In God, we grow in grace.
According to the story, there is something worse that wrong belief, and that is wrong disbelief. What if something is God and we don’t believe that it is? That is the question the Pharisees forgot to ask. They were sure of everything: that God did not work on Sundays, that Moses was God’s only spokesman, that anyone born blind had to be a sinner and the same for anyone who broke the Sabbath. They were sure that God did not work through sinners, that God did not work on sinners, and that no one could teach them anything.
Meanwhile, the man born blind, who was not sure about anything – he was the one who eventually saw the light. It was the one and only thing he was absolutely sure about - that he could see. If that made Jesus a heretic, then he sincerely hoped he would be allowed to be one too. Lent is a time of introspection, of evaluating our lives, of amending our lives, a time of clearer vision. There are times in all of our lives when God reveals to us something that changes us. Years ago, I had a particular idea about divorce. I thought that if the couple worked at it, all marriages could be saved. I saw divorced people as quitters. It was not until I was divorced that I saw clearly that it takes two people to make a marriage work and if one person is not willing then there is little that can be done. It was with fresh eyes, the eyes of God that I am now able to walk that path with people going through a divorce or a crisis of trust in a marriage and really understand. I was blind, but now I see. In God, we grow in grace.
Lent is the perfect time to consider our response to who Jesus is for us. It is a wonderful time to look at, to discover, to uncover those things that we have been blind to – attitudes, images, relationships. When I was an assisting priest at Our Savior in Martinez, I regularly visited a little old lady who was pretty much confined to her house with severe emphysema. It was after a couple of months of visiting that she confided to me that she really didn’t approve of the ordination of women. But after knowing me and after being ministered to by me, she saw with new eyes. She saw that God can use any of us. It was an awakening to her and an affirmation of all that God can do. She was blind, but now she sees.
Lent is time to look at difficult things. It is hard to uncover, discover those places in our lives that need to be exposed to the light of God’s love and healing. Several years ago, I was traveling to a meeting with an African American friend. We both grew up in the Augusta area, so we were talking about our childhood. I brought up how good Snappy hamburgers were. They were before Krystals, but a lot like them. She said she could not buy them in the restaurant, but her mother had a white woman friend who would bring them to the family. Growing up in the south in the fifties and sixties, I had assumed our childhoods were similar. My eyes were opened to her experience. I was blind but now I see. In God, we grow in grace.
Lent is a time to look at our past experiences with new eyes – with love and compassion. Because of past experiences, we may hold people at a distance. We may have feelings hiding in the corners of our hearts. We may feel apprehensive about the future, especially during the uncertainty about the Corona Virus. What a gift to allow God’s hand to trace the path and promise of our lives – to believe. When we open our eyes to the possibilities, when we allow our hearts to be opened by God’s only Son, we are able to truly experience clearer vision.
All who live by the truth, the truth of who we are and who God is, come into the light so that it may be clearly seen. God wants us to have twenty-twenty vision into the will of God and the desires of our own hearts. We come together as a community of faith, perhaps not physically. We come together to help others see Christ. Things blind us, distract us, cloud our vision. When we read this gospel, it reminds us of the things we can not see. Perhaps, we have organized our lives so that God is hidden from us. But today, glimpsing the hands of Christ opening the eyes of the blind, we get a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom. It is a place where everyone sees and is seen. The Body of Christ, the family of God, gathered together….. learning how to see. Amen.