My sermon from 2017 is here
My sermon from 2014 is here
A blind man sitting by the side of a dusty road. It’s likely something that he did every day, sitting there, presumably begging, although we’re not told that in the text. Born blind, he had struggled with that challenge all his life.
Jesus and his disciples were passing by. We may assume that the blind man wasn’t alone, that there were others congregating with him, as beggars, panhandlers do, in places they hope have lots of foot traffic. And like Jesus, when we see them, we very likely pass by as well.
But the disciples took notice. Not of the man’s suffering or need; their theological curiosity was piqued. Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
Were the disciples bored? Were they hoping their question would inspire Jesus to offer a lengthy discourse on the nature of sin, suffering, and divine justice? Or did this question come from a genuine place of concern on their part? If so, why the blind man? What was about him that drew their attention?
Meanwhile, the blind man is just sitting there by the side of the road, undoubtedly hearing the question and the response. It’s pretty belittling, don’t you think? Unknown passers-by, asking whether your blindness was a result of your or your parents’ sin. They’re not interested in you, not interested in your difficult life. They could care less.
And at first, you’re sitting there, overhearing the callous conversation, and the teacher seems no more interested in you than any of his disciples are but at least he puts the blame for your blindness not on your or your parents’ sin.
“He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Is that any word of reassurance? But then, and again, you don’t know what’s going on because you’re blind and there’s no one to narrate the action, you feel these hands smearing your eyes with mud.
What’s going on? How can someone invade your personal space like that and mess with your face, your eyes? But he hears this unfamiliar voice telling him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, and perhaps only because he wants to get rid of the mud on his face, he obeys. As he does it and as he returns, he is able to see.
Now there’s lots more to this story. It goes on for 41 verses with many characters, plot developments, and debate. If you would like to know my take on this story from previous years, I direct you to my blog, where sermons from past years are posted.
Instead, I want us to focus on the blind man, and on Jesus. We are like that blind man. We are in the middle of a situation none of us could have imagined and for which none of us have prepared. We can’t see into the future; we can’t really even see tomorrow. We are helpless, alone, isolated. We are overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. And we are impotent. We can’t control our environment. I went out for a walk yesterday and while I was vigilant in practicing social distancing, many bikers and joggers on the bike path were not.
And there are those voices, like the disciples, in our heads and in our media, asking questions about the pandemic, seeking to lay blame, on our government, on China, or perhaps even blaming ourselves or God.
In our isolation, in our fear, in our blindness, Jesus comes to us, touches us and gives us sight. He gives us hope, courage, and strength. Jesus is the light of the world. He is our light. Shining in the darkness of these difficult days, Jesus offers us healing and hope. His touch comes to us, breaking the barrier of social distance and isolation to open our eyes and fill our hearts.
Thank you, Jonathan..I’m spending the afternoon with Jesus 😊
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Jonathan, THANK YOU very much!
From 2017, two very striking sentences/comments:
2/3 of the way down, “Their opposition leads him deeper. Their opposition brings him to an awareness of who Jesus is.“
and, 2nd paragraph from the end, “Jesus may come to us then, with words of comfort and consolation. Jesus may come to us, reminding us of what we saw, what we knew, reminding us of who he is. And in that moment, that new encounter, our relationship with him enters a deeper place, where we can rest in him, know him, and be known by him.”
Three years later these statements are being proven out for me.
paragraph 5, “Jesus is saying, ‘We must work the works of him who sent me so while it is day, so that God’s works might be revealed in him.’ The rest of the story helps us to understand what this might mean.”
“He comes to faith slowly, through a series of questions, a lot of struggle and uncertainty. In his struggles, uncertainty, and blindness, we can see ourselves groping toward faith. If we continue to grope, if we continue to ask, our eyes may be opened, we may see Christ, and confess, ‘Lord, I believe!‘
The thought-filled process you put into your homilies pay out long after. May God continue to guide you on the path He has charted for you.
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