Monday, March 27, 2017

Now I See

John 9:1-41
Lent 4 March 26, 2017

We have a lot of characters here:
We have Jesus, the disciples, the neighbors, the Pharisees,
The identified patient in this story.
Their disregard of the man,
To bring the saint and the sinner together into one body.

the man’s parents and of course, the man born blind.

We have healings in the other Gospels, even the healing of
blind man in a similar way, with mud and spit,
but here again, we have John’s gospel commenting on those healings,
and looking deeper, John’s story is asking
“what would the people around the healed say about this healing”
“How would everyone react” and
“what does this tell us about God and Jesus?”

Man Born BlindBrian Jekel
The man in the story 
is blind in the literal sense,
but it seems like everyone else in the story are the ones who can’t see.

When the disciples come across 
the man born blind,
They don’t say, “Can we do anything to help this man.”
They don’t talk to the man himself who is sitting right there.
They ask, “What caused this man to be blind? Was it has sin or his parents?”
They assume  that if someone is born in such an unfortunate circumstance,
it has to be evidence of God’s displeasure with them.
They ignore the man and use him as a theological object lesson,
they can’t see the man, they don’t talk to him, they talk about him.

Now this blind man has certainly been
around this town his whole life
It’s the same town his parents live in.
People didn’t move around like they do today.
And his parents say he is of age, so probably 15 – 20 years or so.
But they don’t seem to know his name.

And after he’s able to see,
the neighbors who have passed him every day
for the last couple of decades, hardly seem to recognize him.
Remember, towns were small, neighborhoods were small
It’s not like there were bunches of people to keep track of.

And yet, these neighbors can’t really say for sure
they call him, “the man who used to beg.”
They don’t believe it’s him, even though he says, “It’s me”.

They probably don’t know him because
they never actually met him before.
they probably walked over him, ignored him, cursed
at him for being in the way,  or having the nerve to ask for money,
at him when they were having a bad day,
it probably made them feel better to tell him he was a sinner.
But they never actually saw him. They were blind to him.
And they still can’t see him now.

And there’s the Pharisees,
The religious people.
 Jesus has just healed a man – an amazing miracle –
no one should argue that.
But they can’t see the amazing miracle.
They can’t see it because it was Jesus who did it,
and they think Jesus is a bad guy because he’s not following their program,
He healed on the Sabbath and they count that as bad.
So they ignore the man who was healed, and they curse the one who healed,
and just argue amongst themselves.
The man tells them exactly what happened,
but they are so preoccupied with their own beliefs,
that they can’t see a miracle of God when it happens in front of them.

Then there are the man’s parents
they don’t seem very parental at all.
They don’t seem too happy that their son
has just been given his sight back.
And they keep distancing themselves from him
it says because they were afraid.
They were so afraid, that they can’t see
their own flesh and blood, and his joy
because all they can see are the problems he is causing them.
The man is the one who was called blind,
but the other people in this story are the ones who
were really blind.
They are each so convinced, so set in their ways,
that they could not see what was there in front of them.
They were blinded by their apathy, their religious convictions,
their preconceived notions, their fear, their prejudice.

The only person who can really see in this story
is the man who was born blind.
He sees the Pharisees for their self-righteousness.
He can see that Jesus healed him,
And he sees that anyone who could restore his sight
must be sent from God.

Jesus doesn’t just heal a person in this story,
In this story, Jesus shows us that
the people who think they can see might very well be blind,
and the ones called blind might actually see.

This is the way it is with us.
So often, we are sure and confident in what we know
that it’s hard to see, it’s hard for things to get through.
It’s hard to see something new. it’s hard to put aside our experience
and our preconceived notions and prejudices and see new things.

In my previous church,
we did some mission work in Honduras.
Other people had been there many times, and I went there twice.

When everyone first goes there, it’s jarring to American eyes.
All you can see is poverty, how messy it is, dirty,
there’s lots of garbage on the side of the road,
there’s smoke in the air from burning garbage,
Most of the children we knew weren’t able to go to school after
Middle school because they couldn’t afford the uniforms
and transportation.
The school in the village where we worked would close
for weeks at a time without much reason.
The children were running around the village, mostly without shoes.
The situation is similar in El Salvador for those who have gone.
And most everyone’s first reaction when we got there
was that everything needs to change.
How do we make it more like the US?
They need to adopt our systems, our way of life.
We need to help these people.
We almost wanted to take all these kids home with us to the US
so they can live a “better” life.
So they can learn our better ways, and be like us.

And no doubt, the poverty in Central America can be crushing,
and lots of people do opt to come here to get out from under it.

But after a few days in Honduras, the Americans started
to notice some things:
The children were always outside.
They always had unlimited friends around them.
They had no video games or computers or TV’s
so they were always playing something creative and inventive
They were generous and kind with one another.
The teenagers were engaged with the little children,
helping them and teaching them
When we did sit down and teach the children,
they were enthusiastic and eager to learn.

And the adults in the village didn’t just know their neighbors,
they depended on each other,
they shared everything  food, clothing, free time.
They had real community and didn’t even have to try to have it.
After a while we were seeing that their lives had blessings
that Americans often longed for.

Our eyes had been opened to see the reality
of their situation and more importantly about our own.
At first, we them as unfortunate,
and saw ourselves as the blessed ones,
with our clean, wealthy, upwardly mobile society
But then we saw that there were other blessings that
were not that obvious it’s not all about what you can see.
That man who was born blind  was not cursed by God.
His blindness was an obstacle, but it wasn’t the main problem.
Like so many people with disabilities, it’s the community’s
reaction that was the main problem for him.
their underestimation of his intelligence
their unwillingness to help him get along.
It wasn’t his blindness.
Even after he gets his sight, he’s driven out of the community.

God is not here to bring blessings and curses on people.
God is here to open our eyes to one another.
Jesus is not here to divide people.
Jesus is here to bring people together.
And sometimes that means opening our eyes to our own
shortcomings, and failures, and blindness.

Jesus means to bring the blessed and the unblessed together.
He is here to bring everyone into the circle together.
To bring the light to the darkness,
and to help each of us to really see each other as Children of God.

That is the real healing that Jesus brings to all of us.

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