Monday, March 20, 2017

Be Insightful!

WE READ a rather lengthy lesson from Holy Scripture for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. As this entire chapter rolls forth as the Word for the day, we may also note that some persons within the congregation, even we ourselves… drift away as our eyes glaze over. However, though long, this story shines brightly to us. It glimmers like a diamond amid the other occasions of healing accomplished by Jesus.
 As proof for this, I offer that this reading describes to the short-sighted, not only an initial healing… but also gives us a detailed account of the many long term repercussions caused by human sin. Our lesson reads…

As he passed by, he (Jesus) saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 
 Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; for night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 
 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent).
 So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" 
 Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." 
 They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?"  
 He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." 
 They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." 
 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." 
 Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?"
 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 how he now sees we do not know, 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 feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to 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 said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." 
 He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I 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 too want to become his disciples?" 
 And 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, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 
 They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out.  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" 
 He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" 
 Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you."  He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." 
 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?"  Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.  (John 9:1-41)

Define Miraculous!
God performs the miraculous by creating each and every nanosecond of our existence, but we humans take the miraculous for granted. Additionally, we habitually try to scientifically define the miraculous events. We hold up our own measures… just as our ancient forebears have done. Consequently, we share the spiritual blindness of those such as the Jews who were contemporary with Jesus.
 For example, we read from John that during a former day Jesus was leaving turmoil behind in the temple at Jerusalem. He had just caused much tumult in saying that he was “the Light of the World” (John 8:2). Leaving those arguments and tumults behind on his way out of town, our Lord left the temple courtyard and went through the streets toward the southeastern corner of Jerusalem. There in the streets, he and his disciples encountered a man who was blind.
 The blind man’s plight before them suddenly caused a deep theological discussion. We note here that his disability formed theological questions for them, rather than prompting any responsive and active caring. How insulated they seemed to be. Surely, if they had even dropped a coin in his donation basket, its thud would have been resounding enough to make mention here.
 We note that even before they proposed their very human “Why?” question, written scripture had historically pointed to possibilities they might entertain. Was it his fault…. or his parent’s sin… that caused such a malady? The Mosaic scriptures had long said…

"You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”  (Exodus 20:4-5)

 Jesus took the initiative to correct the mindset of his followers. The occasion was a teaching moment. Our Lord explained to all that it was not the man’s sin that caused his blindness, but it was that God’s work would be made known. Thus the cause of the blindness was not specific to the man… but it was a condition allowed by God through which our collective human, corporate sin… was shown. This gave opportunity, for in that occasion grace would be revealed. God would provide a divine answer for all sinfulness.
 Even while verbally explaining this truth to them, Jesus gathered some dirt from which Adam was made. He mixed it with a small amount of water that was indeed blessed… in that it was the very spit from our Lord’s mouth. He applied the resulting poultice to the man’s eyes.
 Amid the reading, therefore, we hearers know that the readers of this gospel already were given prophetic signs by the author. The poultice was certainly representing watery baptisms and healings that had become possible through Jesus Christ..
 The blind man then faithfully did exactly what Jesus told him to do. Though the instruction likely did not make sense to the man at the time, nor to anyone else watching… he in faith went to the pool of Siloam and washed. Thus a miracle occurred. Most assuredly, the water and the Word accomplishes much.
 We… like those of long ago… might also wonder as our minds now race... “Was it the water? Was it the mud application? More so… was it a faith healing due to the man's following of Jesus’ instructions? Or most profound… was he simply healed by the grace of God that was poured out to the helpless man regardless of human sin?” It seems both sinful and ironic to me, that just as the disciples belabored why the man had been born blind, when we today read of his healing... many still encounter this story and argue scientifically how and why he gained miraculous sight.

When Blind See…?
Look closely! So noticeably profound was the attainment of the man’s sight, that religious authorities were called upon to explain what had happened. Great knowledge was needed… and therefore advice was sought from the Pharisees! Being challenged by witnesses, they first tried to determine whether the deed was of God, or of Satan?
 In one sense they argued that the mandate against healing had been broken. Jesus had mixed the mud and done the healing on the Sabbath. They asked, “Was Jesus then a demon?” Could he not have done the healing the next day and not tested the Pharisees in such a way? Tested indeed, the Pharisees then held much discussion with the man, his parents, the witnesses… and each other. Upset were the religious authorities. They could not agree.
 The man who was healed broke their futile resolve to explain. He saws that they were unable to answer… much like we today who try to answer all things scientifically, and often argue uselessly. We question scientifically deeper things. For example, “We ask whether the explosion of a star results in a knowable and predictable physical law in the universe, or is it the force of a planned event happening in a space time instant created by divine edict? Often, even today, we argue until the lights go out… and cannot come to firm, provable conclusions. Human science sometimes casts mystery away which specious chatter, often leaving us with Infinite questions. However, if we heed the Word of God in these times of doubt, we end up like the blind man…moving in faith toward a healing pool of Siloam.

The Seeing Are Blinded!
The man who was healed said to the Pharisees that without God nothing would have happened. Thus Jesus was surely doing the works of God. One proof was that he had been restored from a great darkness. He revealed that the healing was not just one physically accomplished, for spiritually the will of God was revealed before him.
 The result was that others who claimed that they knew, like the Pharisees, were proved as blind leaders. They were leaders who argued over each speck in the Law and missed the point. Thus they found that the Law only convicts and condemns us… both we who offend... and we who judge.
 You see, God’s unchanging Law cannot be fulfilled by man to any positive determination. The Law reveals every one of us to be beggars and unseeing guides. We are found as collectively walking in a sinful gutter that we call our world.
 However, the good news yet prevails. We are driven by that same Law to find salvation in Christ Jesus. For the man born blind… and we who listened to this message with an open mind… see that spiritual sight has been restored. As the prophet predicted, the miraculous comes to us through Christ, shown by the power of the Holy Spirit….
Upon the revelation that the Son of Man stood before him, even though he previously never saw Jesus… the blind man worshiped God. The Son of Man was revealed! The blind man offered thankfulness. It came out of healing and newly formed faith that had been given. Such is the power of water mixed with Spirit. The blind man worshiped right there, openly in the street, and not just in a synagogue as a “gathering place” He worshiped personally in the presence of Truth revealed. Of such is the grace of God that caused faith to come upon him as a gift that could be seen.
 Given this, I offer to you that it follows that whether high or low, great or small, piously private or public, beggar or thief, deaf or blind… when we ironically try to justify ourselves and say that we are smart and scientific… we do not see!” Whenever we do this… we are condemned already. If we say we have certainly been blind and are yet so, however, we are called to kneel and admit our sinfully ignorant guilt. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are poised to really see the Truth by the grace of God. We receive grace upon grace. We become healed! So it was written by Saint John long ago, and so it is forevermore. Thanks be to God.

 For those who wish to do so, view the pastoral message for this week.








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