The Rev. Kathi Johnson
A Lent 4 – 26 March 2017
Text: John 9:1-41
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Grand Prairie, Texas
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One lesson that I have struggled with over the past several years is how much our life circumstances influence our perspective or how we see things. What do I mean by this…?
I mean that – even as adults - the circumstances into which we have been born influence our perspective, as do our circumstances growing up as children. Someone born into a poor family has a different perspective than someone born into a rich family. Someone who grew up on a farm has a different perspective than someone who grew up in a city. Our different races, cultures, religious expressions, languages, physical abilities, generations – all of these, and more, shape each of us to see the world in certain ways, and to experience the world in certain ways.
Notice, please, that I’m not placing a value judgment on any one perspective or life experience over another.
To today’s gospel story – the man born blind has had a different life than those around him. He’s been blind for all his life, so for all his life, he’s had to learn how to live in a world full of sighted people.
Not only that, but he’s had to deal with the common assumption at the time which said that he (or his parents) must’ve sinned in some way for him to be born blind. So, not only is he dealing with a physical reality – his own blindness – but he’s dealing with the people around him assuming that he’s done something wrong to bring this upon himself.
Even Jesus’ own disciples ask Jesus whose sin caused this condition. So this was common thinking at the time. And Jesus tries to change their perspective – “No, no, no. That’s not it at all. His blindness gives us the chance to see God at work, first hand! Look!”
Then Jesus smears mud on the blind man’s face, and tells him to go wash, which he does. And for the first time in his life, the man born blind can see.
Then enter into our story a group with yet another perspective: the Pharisees. Their perspective is one that focuses on the Laws of God. That’s why they’re all wound up about Jesus healing someone on the Sabbath. In their perspective, Jesus is a sinner because he has done this deed on the day which is set apart for resting.
So they question the man and then go to his parents (as if he can’t answer for himself), and the parents don’t really want to deal with their questions, so they send the Pharisees back to their son.
The Pharisees are trying to pin their idea of sin onto Jesus. And the man born blind has the perfect response: “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now…I see.”
This man who has been blind not only has his physical blindness removed, but he begins, too, to see Jesus – not only as the one who has healed him, but as the One sent by God – the One for whom they have been waiting. His experience of his physical world has been completely changed – he has a new perspective – and his experience of God has changed, too, because here is God-in-the-flesh, rubbing mud in his eyes, and taking away his blindness.
This change in perspective is what Paul is writing about in today’s epistle lesson, too. “Once you were darkness,” Paul says, “But now in the Lord you are light. [So…] Live as children of the light!” Our lives in Christ should change our whole perspective – our whole vision - so that we see our lives as God sees them.
Think about how much our perspective changes just from flipping on a light switch in a dark room. It is one thing to stumble around in the darkness, tripping over furniture or dogs or rugs on the floor. But – we have the light! Why stumble around? Just turn on the light!
Recently, I’ve had several people in my life who have lost loved ones. And in each case, yes, there has, of course, been sadness and grief. But mixed in with that grief has been the perspective that we have as Christians: that God is present, even in someone’s death – and that God gives comfort and peace to those who are still living.
It reminds me of a letter that my dad wrote to family and friends after he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Throughout the letter, he sought to explain what was happening medically, and then he ended on a note of where he was spiritually, referring to Philippians 4:7 – that, even in the midst of his illness, he had been given the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Our lives are caught up in Christ. Our lives are caught up in the love of God. Do you see it?
“Once you were darkness,” Paul says, “But now in the Lord you are light. [So…] Live as children of the light!” Our lives in Christ should change our whole perspective – our whole vision - so that we see not only our own lives, but we also see the world as God sees it.
I’ll say again – for the third time this Lent – remember: “God so loved the world…”? That is God’s vision: God’s love for the world. Do you see it?
I close today with this Celtic prayer, and I invite you again to close your eyes as I pray:
God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.
God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.
God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.
God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.
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