The Pas Lent 4
26 March 2017
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Holy God, in Jesus Christ you reveal yourself to the world, even when we are blind to your grace. Open our eyes to see your transforming love in our midst, so that we may see your world anew; through Jesus Christ, the Saviour who shows compassion. Amen..
Looking at today’s readings we are able to see that they’re filled with humanity’s reaction to God, especially when God does what we don’t expect.
Now, on the subject of God doing what we don’t expect, the bible, and today’s readings, show us that God is always doing what we don’t expect, especially when what we expect endows humanity with power and position.
Today’s gospel shows us a man born without sight who Jesus blesses with sight.
The gospel, today, shows us an entire soap opera of drama and politics as the officials, those in charge seek to direct God’s will, and God’s blessings as humanity chooses.
Now, we’ve seen this before. We see this all the time, really. In fact, we see this every day of our lives. So, I thought we’d look at this, today, from a different perspective.
We know the story, we’ve heard it before. What I’m asking, today, is with which character do we, the people of Christ church, the people of The Pas, identify?
First and foremost, we have the blind man. This is one who is born without sight. He’s never had the opportunity, before today, to see a sunset, to look upon the faces of those he loves, or to admire God’s creation.
This is one whose life long perceptions of himself and his place in society is that either he or his parents carry the burden of sin that stole his ability to see before he even got a chance to try it out.
This is a man who is left with a life of begging, or at the very least the most manual of repetitive tasks that means this once blind man never even had the opportunity of a family, or a life of fulfillment, of joy, or even of happiness. After all who would want their daughter to marry a man so burdened with sin that God withheld their sight?
Yet, because of a miracle, today; because of Jesus’ spittle and mud on the eyes of this man born blind, and the instruction to go and wash, he gains sight, he has the ability, because of Jesus action in his life, to see the world in all its wondrous technicolour.
We see a man who for the first time in his life, as an adult, is able to see the world, in all its glorious, or not so glorious complexity and diversity.
Who because of Jesus actions; actions intended to show God’s majesty, God’s love, God’s compassion for all of humanity, is now singled out by that same humanity as someone who has broken Sabbath law, as someone who has sinned so completely, in their eyes, that even the gift of vision is proof of that state of sin.
But he’s not the only one. We also have the disciples who see the man, and have probably seen the man on various occasions before this as they pass by where he sits and occupies his days. It would seem that they have always wondered, but until now haven’t had the courage to ask, who was the sinner that the man is born without the gift of sight?
After all society is structured between being in a state of sin, and a state of righteousness so one is either in one state, or the other.
But now there’s Jesus. Now there’s one whom we know is from God, and so they find the courage to ask whose burden of sin is it that the man bears.
Today they have the courage to ask, and this encourages Jesus to be compassionate toward this man, although it’s the Sabbath, and to do what only God can do – give sight to a man who has never seen.
There are the Pharisees, those who are willing to accuse anyone of walking too far, of lifting too heavy a burden, of actually having the audacity to break God’s holy law by working on a Sabbath! They’re also willing to accuse anyone of breaking purity laws any other day of the week, as well.
These are the men who accuse our now formerly blind man of breaking God’s holy laws, who accuse him of willingly being a follower of a man who he’s, literally, never seen in his life! These are the men, who out of fear of a formerly blind man, as well as Jesus ability to heal and disregard for Sabbath regulations, are throwing out accusations like peanut shells in a bar.
And there are the parents of the now formerly blind man.
In them we see a couple who has done what they could to live according to the laws of Moses and to raise their son right. In them we see a couple who have accepted that it was probably their burden of sin who condemned their son to a sightless life. This makes for a couple, a family with a constant sense of dread, and who are unable to find the joy that God intends between a husband and a wife in their lives.
Yet, today, we see that they are, once again, afraid of being cut off from the body of faith, a threat that the Pharisees are willing to carry out against any person who admits to being a follower of Jesus. They’re afraid of being worse off than they’ve been since their son was born, and the whole community looked at them with fear that their sin might just be contagious.
So, I’m asking with whom do we, as the people of God, as the people of Christ Church, in the 21st century, identify? This isn’t a question we will come away from with a collective answer. After all there are many participants in today’s gospel.
We didn’t even touch on the bystanders, those of the community who watched Jesus passage through their community. Those who heard the interchange between him and his disciples. Who saw him spit on the ground and make mud with his fingers, apply it to the man’s face and tell him to go and wash.
Those who saw the man wash and see for the first time in his life, who saw the interchanges between him and the Pharisees; between the Pharisees and the man’s parents, and who see the man ejected from his community of faith.
These people are important because we see what’s happening. We’ve seen Jesus healing on the Sabbath, we’ve seen the man see, for the first time, ever. We’ve seen how ferociously the Pharisees protect their base of power, upholding the laws of Moses, the laws We’ve been striving to fulfill, to not break all of our whole lives.
No matter who we are, we’ve seen today’s interchange between all of the characters, and like a traffic accident, like a soap opera, we can’t look away. We can’t walk away from this and carry on with our lives as if nothing has changed because something has changed.
What has changed is that God’s love is found in the world. God’s love is amongst us and has the ability to change our lives in an instant, as it has done for every one of the characters in today’s gospel passage.
They are unable to go away from this and not think about it, not talk about it amongst themselves. We’re unable to go away from this passage and not see how, if we let it, how it has the ability to change our lives.
But that’s the key. We’re back to this so vital a part of free will: the choice to allow this to be how God enters our hearts, to let this change how we see and interact with the world around us, as the blind man does? Or will we walk away from this encounter with the divine, with the healing love of God for a man who expected nothing from anyone and whose life was turned around so quickly that we could get whiplash from the speed at which God’s love moves.
When we look at the passage from 1 Samuel for today, we see that God has instructed Samuel to go and anoint a son of Jesse to be the next king. Samuel is afraid because Saul is still alive. He’s been stripped of God’s divine grace to be the absolute earthly ruler of the Israelite people, but he’s not dead. It’s just that in God’s mind, Saul is no longer king. At the same time, God tells Samuel “I will show you what to do” (1 Sam 16:3b)
Jesus, too, hears God’s voice telling him what to do, as we strive to hear the voice of God in our lives as well.
Perhaps it’s not coincidental that we hear this passage, from John, today? Perhaps it’s not coincidental that we look for ourselves, discern where we are in the story, from the bystanders to the active participants.
In our lives, God continues to teach us how to love, to put examples of God’s love, God’s devotion before us constantly.
As I wrote today’s sermon I had the opportunity to listen to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. I’ve been in love with the urging and melancholy strains of his 2nd movement since childhood. And for those of you who are now wanting to hear this, I recommend the scene in The Kings Speech when he makes his first radio address.
But the most incredible part of Beethoven’s music is that his best symphonies were written after he had lost his hearing.
He is able to give us a gift that fills up our senses and allows our hearts to grow, to reach out to feel what he could only imagine, what he could never actually hear himself.
In the gospel, today, the man born without sight gains not only sight but insight into the hearts of those who grasp at power and position to the exclusion of the compassion that is a necessary part to all in our actions, in our words, for all of humanity to convey the love of God.
Each of us is able to identify with at least one of the characters depending on our lives, and the decisions we’ve made, and continue to make.
At the same time, not only can we identify with those in today’s gospel, but we can choose with whom we would like to identify and use their example in our own lives, in our own journeys, still today.
The young man was able to follow Jesus, to learn from him, to take this newfound sight for a real test drive in the world as we learn from God to look at people’s hearts, not their outward appearance and work from there for the spreading of God’s kingdom.
Remember, even Abraham entertained angels, without knowing it. Maybe there is an angel is sitting right next to us, right now.