“Now I See”
John 9:1-15, March 22nd, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Fourth Sunday in lent
“Hear now these ancient words from the gospel according to John, chapter nine, verses one through fifteen.”
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.”
“Having heard the account of the blind man who regained his ability to see, let us consider how our eyes are opened when we encounter Jesus in our lives.”
“Now I See”
There are many types of blindness. The man in our scripture lesson today is thought to have been born blind; meaning he had no sight. Jesus comes along, puts some mud on the blind man’s eyes and then he can see for the first time in his life. ‘He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”’ /John 9:1-15b/ Truly a miracle! Truly a sign of who Jesus really was and is – the Son of God – with power to give a man the ability to see, utterly amazing! It is just one of seven signs which our Bible study groups have been studying in the scriptures contained in the Gospel of John. Each sign, like this one, have been pointing to the powers given Jesus over creation itself, which Jesus demonstrates for others to witness and to see!
What would it take to open our eyes to the world around us and truly see with clarity what there is too see? Physical blindness is just one malady we humans suffer from. Yet, there are many types of blindness, could it be possible that Jesus might and can help us in other areas of blindness? And if so, what are these other types of blindness? Sitting in my office as a pastor, these last twenty-five years, I have seen a multitude of people disabled, immobilized and put out of action, by their blindness. Yet they can pass an eye exam at the motor vehicle department to renew their driver’s licenses. Are you blindsided by your own blindness? Many of us are. Not sure about this? Well, let’s look a bit deeper. Were you prepared for the calamity and chaos, confusion and turmoil over these past few weeks? Were you blind to the fact, that we humans are not in charge of God’s creation? No, we are only the children of our Creator, and we are called upon to care for this world we live in. Where have we, you and I, where have we been blind? Are we now ready to ask God to help us see, perhaps for the first time?
Here is a simple example of blindness: you go to great lengths to pick out a ‘heart-felt’ and meaningful gift for your thirteen-year old daughter. It is a book, which touches your heart and opens-up the meaning of kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness. You believe she will enjoy reading it and it will help her understand how to improve personal relationships you think she is struggling with. When she opens the gift, what she sees is an inexpensive book, which she has no interest in. What goes through this young teen’s mind, is how thoughtless you are for not getting her the gift card, the present she asked for, so she can go and buy what she really wants! You come to think that this child is so focused on her wants and desires she is unable to see your thoughtful gesture. Parents know how this can feel. The converse is also true of our blindness as parents of the world of teenagers.
It is easy to get ‘out of touch’ with our children and our grandchildren as well. Sure, this is more than just physical blindness, but how can we talk about another’s inability to see what is going on around them – if we don’t discuss this! When we speak of ‘spiritual’ blindness and ‘emotional’ blindness, as-well-as other forms of blindness, we are going deeper into the full meaning of being able to see and fully grasp and perceive of that which is right in front of us! Teenagers can see past adults self-centered decisions and choices as well as we can see theirs; perhaps oftentimes better than we can. Younger adults listen to what us older folks say, yet, they look to see how we live our lives. If we talk one way and act another, then they will see our lack of credibility as hypocrisy! If we can not connect with others about simple things how shall we do so with more important and serious things!?
Let me suggest to you that our miracle narrative, this sign of who Jesus was and is, it can be viewed like one of the many parables that Jesus so often told. In this case he performs a miracle. It is possible, due to the nature of how this account was passed to us through the Centuries, (oral traditions, language barriers and translation techniques,) that the nuances of this miracle have not been recoded. Perhaps, maybe, even possibly, Jesus wanted us to see that, YES, he was indeed pointing to his abilities to heal, not only physical blindness, but also our ‘spiritual’ blindness. The examples I have put forth were only meant to get you into this conversation. There are numerous ways we can be blind to the needs and wants of others! You and I, we may be missing the full picture of what is going on all around us: in the lives of our families and our friends and all our neighbors!
Considering what is happening all around us, this deadly pandemic virus, our need to “socially-distance” ourselves from one another. Coupled with our crashing economy with millions of people out of work. Our families, our neighbors are panicked and unsure of how many rolls of toilet paper to buy, while truly needed things like hand sanitizers and face masks have vanished from shelves! Pastor Edward F. Markquart, of Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington speaks of blind spots! “The Pharisees had their blind spots and we too have personal blind spots.” Pastor Edward has a point. Let us consider this as we review our current life situation. Our society has radically changed overnight it seems, and we are all struggling to ‘catch-up’ and ‘figure out’ what to do now! What: ‘have been’ and what ‘still are’ our ‘blind-spots’! What is it that we are unable to grasp, as our understanding of our society, just a month ago, has slipped from where it was. How can we accept how blind we have been to the fullness of what was and what now is! Writers better than I shall be documenting the fullness of these past, current and possible future scenarios of what was, is and maybe for days, weeks and months ahead. Surely the historians will try to grasp this for decades to come.
The need for us all: is to be ‘healed’ of our blindness! Our blind spots are crippling us! We need healing! Our scripture lesson speaks to us… pointing to Jesus for the answers! As Jesus clarifies for us, in this story of his healing of the man born blind from birth: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” /John 9:5/ This is what we need to focus on today! The power of God comes to us through the healing touch of Jesus. This is what our scripture is speaking of! This is a powerful sign of the Divinity of Jesus. Here we have Jesus quoted as saying he is the Light of the world! No matter what type of blindness we are struggling with we need some of that “Light”; if we hope to see the glory of God’s creation continue to blossom!
Last week I mentioned the famous song from the “Poseidon Adventure”, “The Morning After,” and there shall be! We shall come through this difficult time. And when we grasp, when we as a people are able to see past our blind spots, and recognize that we are all in this together, ‘The Whole Wide World’, it is then that we shall truly begin to heal! Then there shall be “The Morning After!” This pandemic, the flow of this coronavirus, shall pass through us, we can not stop it! However, there is a lot of hope that the efforts of our government, and governments throughout the world are taking, will help to minimize those that shall have succumbed to this virus. If we but learn the lessons from last weeks message, and cross over the barriers that separate us, at every level and work together for the common good of all people, we shall make real progress as we get beyond this current crisis.
For those of us like me and you, we need to keep the faith! We need to be reminded that the “Light of Christ” the “Light of the Living Spirit of God our Creator” still lives and is with us today! Remember that book we lifted-up as a gift to a child, the one about kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness? If we want to spread kindness the way Jesus did, we need to practice it, not hid it in a book. Compassion is something we each need to pull from our heart and bestow it upon another. When we turn toward God’s will rather than to our self-centered motives, it is then that we shall learn to embrace an attitude of thoughtfulness for the needs of others. Let us invite God to open our hearts, thereby empowering us to pass to others God’s love; love which is expressed in the life of the man named Jesus. Then we shall begin to truly see that which God envisions for us to see! Amen.