1 As Jesus 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; this young man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
4 We must do the works of the One 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 Jesus 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 the young man 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 him.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” The young man kept saying, “I’m the one.” 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?” The young man said, “I do not know.”
13 So the people brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 It was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened the young man’s eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “Jesus put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can someone who is a sinner perform such signs?” And the Pharisees were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The young man said, “He seems to be a prophet.”
18 The religious leaders 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 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 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 can speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the religious leaders; who had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore the young man’s parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 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.” 25 The young man answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 The religious leaders said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?” 28 Then they reviled the young man, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this person, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The young man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but God does listen to anyone who is devout and obeys God’s will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this person were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered the young man, “You were born entirely in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had driven out the young man, and when Jesus found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of humanity?” 36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you.” 38 The young man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Jesus. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
40 Some of the Pharisees near Jesus heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Please pray with me this morning, church:
We want to see Jesus.
We want to be aware of you in our midst.
But often our eyes are closed to the
New thing you’re doing among us.
Give us eyes to see and ears to hear, this morning.
Give us vision.
Look, I think we all did a great job of picking up a number of good health and hygiene habits over the past three years. I think most of us probably learned some new things. But it has never really been considered sanitary to put someone’s spit in your eyes. It’s just not. This is not a new pandemic rule, we’ve understood this for a while. Keep your bodily fluids to yourself, Jesus.
It’s also interesting to me that Jesus never asks this young man if he can rub spit-mud in his eyes or even if he wants to receive sight…but this sermon is not about consent. That’s for another time, I guess. But, just to get it out of the way…yes, consent is very important. We’ve been working on that with a very touchy toddler recently…with varying degrees of success. Mostly unsuccess.
But Jesus almost seems tangential to this story from the Gospel according to John this morning. I mean, Jesus only makes 2 appearances, at the beginning and at the end. The rest of the story and dialogue takes place between this young man born without sight and the Hebrew religious leaders, who are just incensed that Jesus would do such a thing as heal someone, much less do so on the Sabbath. Man, doesn’t that hit close to home? How often do we get our hackles up in the church because someone wants to do something a different way or try something new altogether? Anyway, the young man and the Pharisees are just talking past each other, the Pharisees trying to figure out what’s going on and how they might catch Jesus doing something he shouldn’t be, and the young man who’s really just relaying his experience of receiving sight and who it was that did this in the first place. Plus, the kid’s parents get involved. It’s like a really bad game of telephone.
I don’t think the Pharisees are questioning honestly here, I think their motives are not innocent, but there is a moment, right at the end of our reading, when the religious leaders, perhaps in a moment of clarity and introspection, ask a very revealing question.
“Surely we’re not blind……are we…?”
This season of Lent we’ve been talking about hunger, both physical and spiritual hunger, and the things our heart and our spirits hunger and long for. This morning, I want to talk about our hunger to see clearly.
How can we be attentive to what God is doing in our midst?
How can we be open to being challenged by a different perspective?
How can we be mindful of the times in which we’re standing in the way of God doing what God would like to do with us, with our community, and in our world?
I’ve preached before about this Gospel reading from John, and how my preaching professor in seminary absolutely hates it. He’s now a Bishop in Michigan, Bishop Satterlee is legally blind and, in his words, he’s never seen “normally.” He says something similar to the following: “I’ve never seen in a way that folks would call ‘normal’ so I don’t know what that means. My inability to see is part of me, it’s who I am. And so, in the great resurrection of all things, when all things are finally reconciled back to God in their fullness, will I still be blind? I should certainly hope so! If the resurrection of the body means that our bodies become most fully themselves in their most perfect forms, I should think that my most perfect form is some perfect form of me with my blindness. My inability to see is just as much a part of me as my hands or my feet, or the fact that I’m a pastor, or my identity as a baptized and beloved child of God. I don’t believe God’s desire is to ‘cure’ me of my blindness.”
Here’s the money line. Bishop Satterlee says, “Heaven isn’t a place where I can see. Heaven is a place where it doesn’t matter that I can’t.”
Heaven isn’t a place where I can see. Heaven is a place where it doesn’t matter that I can’t.
The hunger to see clearly isn’t about vision with our eyes, it’s about attentiveness. Attentive to the ways in which “the way things are” can become a stumbling block to the proclamation of the Gospel and people meeting and seeing Jesus. What if heaven is a place where we open ourselves up, get out of our own way, and accommodate for those who have been told their whole lives that who they are is somehow sinful, that who they love is wrong, and that the thing that troubles them is some sort of divine punishment? Church, the blindness that God is seeking to cure us of is our blindness to the suffering and hurt of our neighbors, particularly our neighbors the world views as less than, the marginalized ones who aren’t valued by the world’s standards, the unexpected ones.
David was the unexpected one by literally everyone in that story from First Samuel. Jesse had seven of his sons stand in front of Samuel and each time, they weren’t the one God was choosing. Samuel was just as surprised as Jesse. And it wasn’t until Samuel pressed further—“Are all your sons here?’—that David the young shepherd is brought to Samuel and Samuel finally hears an approving word from the Lord.
The young man in our gospel didn’t wake up that morning expecting to receive his sight. The religious leaders didn’t expect Jesus do be able to do what he did, least of all on the Sabbath. The God revealed in Scripture over and over again subverts our expectations, and over and over again I feel like we’re surprised when God does an unexpected thing.
So what did you come here expecting this morning, church? What brought you here?
Did you come here expecting to see Jesus?
I will confess to you, my siblings, that I don’t know that I really expect anything on Sunday mornings. Or Wednesday nights. I’m not sure I’ve thought very much about what I expect. I don’t know if I expect to see Jesus.
But last Sunday after worship, someone who wasn’t getting many answers from their doctors asked me to pray with them and to pray for healing. Not to do the thing that their doctors can’t do, but just to call out to God in a time of distress, to ask God for help. And so I went and I got my favorite little red book and my little jar of anointing oil and we prayed and I anointed their hands and forehead and wouldn’t you know it, Jesus showed up. Not in a miraculous healing, but in calm spirits and the easing of burdens.
On Wednesday night at our Lenten Midweek worship I read most of that whole gospel from John about the Samaritan woman that you heard last week and my kid was doing laps around the Fellowship Hall for most of it, but then we started in on our table discussions and he brought me a picture he had started drawing with pens I happened to have and he said, “Look Dad, it’s the story. Here’s the well, and here’s Jesus, and here’s the woman, and they’re sharing.” Wouldn’t you know it, church, Jesus showed up.
Why am I so surprised when God shows up unexpectedly and does an unexpected thing…?
Church, where do you see Jesus here? Where does God show up?
I truly believe that we want to see and encounter Jesus, but we don’t always. Sometimes we’re blinded by our own expectations or lack of. So how can we make space for that unexpected appearance? How can we be vessels of Jesus to each other and to a hurting world? How can we make it easier for Jesus to show up?
Sometimes healing isn’t always wellness, but it is wholeness.
In this story, the young man happened to receive his sight, but I think the healing came there at the end of the story. After all this back and forth, the young man is driven out of the synagogue because the powers that be just can’t abide the restoration to wholeness that’s taken place. And it’s just then that Jesus finds the young man again and restores what’s been broken. After being ostracized and put out from the synagogue and the community, Jesus comes to the young man to restore him to wholeness. “Do you trust in the son of humanity?”
“Tell me who he is, so that I might believe.”
“You have seen him…the one who speaking to you.”
“Yes Lord…I believe…”
Surely we’re not blind…are we…?
“If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Where are we turning a blind eye to, church?
What are the unexpected places that God might be doing a new thing that we might be fearful to partner with God in bringing to life?
Is it our partnerships with our many ministries outside these walls? How many of you who volunteer at Armstrong or Eat Fort Bend or Family Promise, how many of you regularly meet Jesus in those volunteer opportunities? Quite a few, I bet…most, I imagine…
Where is God showing up unexpectedly?
Our Welcome and Inclusion Group is going through a training process to help us ask questions as a congregation about our intentional and explicit welcome and hospitality, specifically to members of the LGBTQIA2+ community. As we move through the Reconciling in Christ process, I want to urge us to be attentive to the unexpected ways God is showing up and moving in our midst.
“Surely we’re not blind, are we?”
I don’t think we want to be. I truly believe we want to see Jesus.
Be attentive, church.
Attentive to the unexpected ways God is showing up.
Attentive to Jesus in our midst.