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3/19/23 Sermon

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John 9 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

9 As he 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; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him 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 he 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 he 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 he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am he.” 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?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He 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.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 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 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 will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his 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 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They 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 him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 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 who were with him 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.

Sabbath Poem VI, 1987

Remembering that it happened once,

We cannot turn away the thought,

As we go out, cold, to our barns

Toward the long night’s end, that we

Ourselves are living in the world

It happened in when it first happened,

That we ourselves, opening a stall

(A latch thrown open countless times

Before), might find them breathing there,

Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,

The mother kneeling over Him,

The husband standing in belief

He scarcely can believe, in light

That lights them from no source we see

An April morning’s light, the air

Around them joyful as a choir.

We stand with one hand on the door,

Looking into another world

That is this world, the pale daylight

Coming just as before, our chores

To do, the cattle all awake,

Our own white frozen breath hanging

In front of us; and we are here

As we have never been before,

Sighted as not before our place

Holy, although we knew it not.

In our scripture this morning, after Jesus declares that he is the light of the world, his next action is to bring his light to a man living in the dark. The ensuing narrative illustrates how little the sighted people around him actually see.

The man born blind is unrecognizable to those that passed him every day… because he looked that different? Or because they never really saw him, never really looked at him, did their best to avoid him. Think of what you do when you come across someone differently-abled – uncomfortably so, for you. Do you make eye contact? Do you really see them? Would you recognize them if you saw them again, elsewhere, out of that context?

In this scripture, the Pharisees are shown to be the truly blind ones, refusing to see what is plainly before them. This man, Jesus, answers to a Higher Power, does the works of God, therefore, must be of God, according to their own ways, yet they refuse to see, refuse to believe what is so plainly and powerfully present before them.

We too, frequently refuse to see evidence that is in front of us. We prefer to continue to believe what we believe rather than let new information challenge our way of thinking. If it was a Pharisee that was healing, or any follower of Moses, the Pharisees would believe that person is of God, but because it was Jesus their way forward was to accuse him of blaspheming by healing on the Sabbath. They needed to discredit him in order to hold on to their beliefs.

They also needed to discredit the one born blind – they looked down on him – they wouldn’t hear his testimony – they ridiculed him rather than learn from him – rather than be changed by his story. How often do we wrongly dismiss those we think are beneath us? Those whose stories we do not know. We kid ourselves that they are too young to know anything, or lack our advanced education, or are from a developing nation. What could people like that teach us?

In the Kin-dom of God our worldly status quo is turned upside-down. The blind see but the sighted are blind. The sighted are blind to the effects of prestige, class, status. They (we) are not even aware anymore of the lens through which the world is viewed. We are not aware of the kaleidoscopic lens of privilege, of plenty, of power that distorts our vision.

I always laugh at myself when I am writing my sermon and commit the very act that Jesus is railing against. Interpreting this scripture, I saw what I wanted to see. What I have been conditioned to see. Conditioned to see the other in the wrong and myself in the right. Yes, the Pharisees were blind, but they were not the only ones. It was also the townspeople, the blind man’s neighbors, people that knew him his entire life that did not see him, did not recognize him after Jesus changed him, gave him his sight, put light in his eyes.

Those that are blind in this parable are lacking in humility. They are unable to see their own blind spots. Unable to question their own beliefs. Unable to change, to grow, to learn anything new, especially if it is unexpected. Correction, unwilling, not unable.

Would that we all had “blind spot detectors” – that fancy technology that prompts our cars to beep at us or flash a signal – warning us that we are about to crash into something big.

What is Jesus really warning us about? What is he exposing here? Unjust systems of power. They existed then. They exist now. And not just in faraway places. I pray for us all, that our eyes be opened. I pray that we see what is plainly in front of us – and that we believe what we see. And that we have the courage to say what we see. And the courage to change what we see.

There is an urgency to Jesus’ ministry, especially in the Gospel of John where his ministry time frame is abbreviated from three years to one year. In this passage we experience the tension caused by Jesus healing the man born blind on the Sabbath. The Pharisees take issue with Jesus – and they use healing on the Sabbath to prop up their argument against him. What are the real issues? The Pharisees feel threatened by Jesus’ ministry. They have not ordained Jesus or his message or his mission, and yet people in the villages and towns are claiming that he is the Messiah. As far as the Pharisees are concerned, this man, Jesus, is out of control and must be stopped.

The Pharisees are protecting their power, their place, their privilege – all of which Jesus jeopardizes with each new sign performed, each new conversion, each new believer. The townspeople too, protect what little they have by closing their eyes to their changing world.

Who are you in the story? The gospel narrator, Jesus, the blind man, his neighbors, the Pharisees, the blind man’s parents… Who are we in the story? We relate to one group or individual more than another perhaps, but we are all a bit of every one of these people over the course of our lives, even over the course of a week, or a single day.

I’ll tell you who I want us to be. I want us to be the one born blind. I want to have our eyes opened. I want the light to pour into us and through us, so that we too are the light of the world.


Rev. TJ Mack – March 19, 2023

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