4th Sunday in Lent
March 30, 2014
If this story doesn’t convince you that John is a master story-teller, nothing will. A pastor friend of mine is looking for someone to turn this into a musical comedy. You can almost see the staging, and find the place for the songs and choruses. But for all it’s playability, it has a darker edge. Two things happen in this story: an unsuspecting blind man meets the Light of the World, gains his sight and moves from unbelief to belief in Jesus as the Messiah; the men who represent the religious establishment become so hardened in their ideology that they refuse to see what is right in front of their eyes.
In the world of the disciples, things are simple. If you are good, trust in God, and obey God’s rules, you will thrive – be blessed. Therefore, if you are not thriving, you must not be good, not obey God, and/or not trust God enough. So if you are born blind, someone must have sinned. Jesus doesn’t buy it. That is not how things work. God is merciful and blesses whomever God chooses in whatever way God chooses. The light of the world spits on the ground and crafts new eyes for this man, asking him to wash the mud away so he can see. You can believe it or not, but it is that simple for God to change the direction of this man’s life.
The neighbors, seeing the man as a blind person rather than a person, aren’t even sure that it’s really him, and the church officials want to hear the story and end up in a fight over whether or not Jesus could make mud on the Sabbath. There is such craziness and distress over this man’s healing that his parents don’t even want to talk to the church people, scared that they’ll be excommunicated for being on the side of the person who healed their son.
We see John’s familiar themes of the light shining in the darkness, of people underestimating who Jesus is, and of the outsider having Jesus’ true identity revealed to him. The church guys are left in the dark because of their inability to accept anything other than their own narrow interpretation of God’s work and will.
I think this is not a good story for the church as it often exists in today’s world either. So often it is a place of shaming and blaming, of narrow-minded disregard for real people and the struggles of their lives. So often the church has been about rules and behavior instead of welcome and grace. So often the church has been unable to see its own sin and arrogance because it is so busy telling others what’s wrong with them.
The man worships Jesus, not just because he’s been healed, but because he has been seen as a whole human being who happened to need healing. And I believe that is why we come as well. We know we don’t deserve anything from God, but that we are blessed beyond hope through God’s love. Our failures and flaws are washed away in our baptism, and our eyes are opened to God’s great love for us. We thrive in that love, growing into those who trust in God’s gifts and God’s will for us. We come here to celebrate together the great love that was willing to sacrifice all for love of us. And we go out from here to live that love in the world around us. The light of the world lights us up, too.
Every day you can see those big Sysco trucks out behind the local restaurants, bringing in the fresh supplies to make into the meals that nourish the people who come there to eat. I think that’s kind of what happens here on Sunday morning. The big Light of the World truck pulls up in the word and song and community we share here, bringing in our supply of love and grace. We are fed and nourished by the forgiveness of our sin and the love that sends Jesus to be with us every day. And then we, like little Light of the World trucks go out into the community we live in to carry that light into our everyday conversations, actions, and thoughts, to feed and nourish others. The world doesn’t need us to tell it what’s wrong with it. The world needs more of the Light that only comes from God’s love and forgiveness, the light that has opened our eyes to the love of God, and now shines in our hearts.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.