I am struck by the questions that the disciples ask of Jesus. “Is this man blind because of his sin or that of his parents?” Jesus points out that that’s the wrong question. I love what he says: “For judgment I have come into the world, that those who do not see may see and those who see may be shown to be blind.”
Today we are faced with an amazingly unexpected health crisis. I have a plan in place for example if our building burned down. Nobody knows this but I have a copy of every choir anthem off site in case the choir room goes up in smoke. I have a letter of advice written to all of you in the event of my death. We all know that we are slowly contracting and that we are a very fragile congregation. Personally I have always believed that I live by God’s grace alone and because of his endowment to me that I owe a heavy service to others. It would be hard for me to say what this community of faith means to me, that I can be here and that you listen to me is the most significant thing in my life. I would be very sad if I could not sing in the choir and listen to Al’s music.
The disciples looked at the blind man and they did not understand what they were looking at. I too look at our congregation and the world and I don’t know what I am looking at either. This past week I have been thinking that I am going to know at least a few people who won’t be alive anymore because of the health crisis we are facing but I think that is only the beginning. Closing down our economy is going to cause a lot of money problems for people and by extension for our church as well. We already run our church on almost no money which perhaps leaves us in better shape than some other congregations. This is a serious economic situation the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1930’s. I can remember my grandma teaching me how to manage my life frugally. I did not learn how to manage our congregation in seminary but in the back room of my grandparent’s store.
We are all going to die sooner or later. I have no problem with that. It’s a given and if you try to avoid dealing with that I believe that it is a detriment to the way you live. That we are all going to die is a great gift to us because it causes us to treasure every day that we are alive.
The man who was born blind was not living because he could not see. Jesus tells us that “He was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me.” To put it in different language Jesus made this man authentically alive so that whoever looked at him saw that his relationship with Jesus made him a completely different person.
In our lesson the healing was really the easy part. The people of the blind man’s town could not believe that a man who does not observe the Sabbath could possibly have been responsible for the healing. Because of their preconceived way of looking at the world they could not understand what they had just seen. To cope with their lack of understanding the people absurdly denied that the man was ever blind in the first place. No they say, this is just someone like him. The eyes and minds of the Pharisees were closed. Jesus was doing God’s work of creation and they refused to believe. This is a more dangerous kind of blindness, the blindness of not seeing and understanding God’s work as revealed by Jesus.
Just like the man born blind I think that we need to become very open to seeing the world around us in a different way. I believe that this crisis is the end of the world as we have known it. I am not saying that the world is coming to an end, not at all. But I do believe that we will see these weeks as the beginning of something different. In our lesson the Pharisees saw Jesus as a disaster. But for the man born blind and for believers it was the beginning of something new and different.
The story of the man born blind has another feature that I would like to consider with you.
When the story began the man was blind. But at first he didn’t see clearly. He gradually came to see more and more and the more he could see the more the Pharisees became blind.
I don’t know what is going to happen to any of us in the next few weeks and months. But what I do know is that every one of us is going to die and we must embrace that and see it as the gift that it is. I think that if we embrace the precious nature of the time that we have left to live that we will become more like the formerly blind man and less like the Pharisees.
As the Pharisees’ vision became deader and deader the vision of the blind man became piercing and radiant. He could see clearly and he became authentically alive.
Please notice is that the formerly blind man tells his story over and over again. He never convinces anyone and in fact telling his story makes the Pharisees angry. Every time he tells his story his understanding of himself increases. First he calls Jesus a man who healed him. Later he calls Jesus a prophet. Finally he declares that this man has come from God. Then Jesus takes the now vividly seeing man to full understanding and he confesses that Jesus is the son of man and he worships him. Knowing Jesus in my life is helping me cope with the fear and uncertainty that I feel over this corona disaster.
Some think I am foolish for not being concerned about falling sick and dying. But what I fear most is that I could become angry and selfish. I am afraid that I under pressure might abandon Jesus way and pursue my way. I hope that I can continue to reflect the faith of Jesus in my life. With your help which for me is identical with the Holy Spirit, I hope I will continue to live my life with Christ’s faith. I feel as if my authenticity is on trial.
Every time the blind man told his story he achieved greater clarity. I urge you to tell your faith story at least to yourself. Because every time the man told his story he could see more clearly. His knowledge of who Jesus was gave form and shape to the man that he was becoming. When we share our faith story we grow too. Every time you tell your faith story you will also increase your self-understanding and others will see your authenticity.
Surely the next few months and years will be really hard for us all. Let’s not waste time trying to figure out why any of this happened. That it happened is undeniable. So, let us make every day count and live every day to the fullest possible extent. Let’s each try to be something like the man who was formerly blind. Every time he told his story he made progress. The man’s story did not change very much, but his understanding of himself and his relationship with Jesus, deepened greatly as he repeatedly shared his story. Each of you has a life to live and a story to tell. No matter what we must live our lives and tell our story.
1. Can anyone besides me see death as a gift?
2. Are you afraid that this crisis will make you selfish and angry?
3. As the blind man told the story of his healing over and over he came to clarity. Do you think that telling your own story would increase your self-understanding?
A Man Born Blind Receives Sight
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ 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, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 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.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 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.’ 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. 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.’
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 and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 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.’ 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. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’
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.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 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?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! 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.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.