March 26, 2017

Pastor Tammy Sharp

John 9:1-41
I have worn bifocals for a very long time. I got glasses when I was in college and the forced me to read lots of stuff all the time, if I had any plans on passing my classes. I am not a reader by nature. And when I did read, it stained my eyes. Or maybe, my eyes were strained but I didn’t realize it until I had to really pay attention to what I was looking at. That was over 30 years ago, and let’s just say I WISH my eyes were as good now as they were when I first got glasses. Now, when we go to a restaurant and Rick (my husband) want’s to use my glasses because the lighting is not good and he can’t read the menu, I can barely see the person across the table from me. Okay, it isn’t quite that bad, but it is bad. One Wednesday during Lent some years back, at about 3:30 in the afternoon one of the pins holding my glasses together fell out. I don’t know how that happens. Panic struck me. How could I lead worship without seeing? Fortunately, there is an eye doctor in the old Krogers shopping center across the freeway. I went there in because that wasn’t where I had my eyes checked, and they simply greeted me, listened to my panicked story and smiled. They graciously put an new screw in my glasses right then and there, charged me nothing and I could see clearly once again. I now use them for my eye care.
In today’s lectionary readings there is enough material for me to preach on for the next 10 weeks. But no, they don’t spread this all out, they put it all together. And so, sit back and get comfy…. Just kidding. I love the 23rd Psalm and all that God says to us within that Psalm. But that will have to keep for another day. And there is more than enough just within the Gospel to go on and on. But I will spare you. Today we are going to focus on ourselves. I am going to encourage you to focus on yourself today. I don’t do that very often, but today, it is all about you.
The obvious thing that stands out in our lesson is that Jesus heals a blind man. The heading of this section (which is not in the original text) is “A man born blind receives sight”. These headings are really handy when you are looking for a passage and you know generally where to look. But these headings often make us think that the message we should get from a passage is that a man born blind was healed. This heading can limit what we understand or are challenged by when we read this passage. Today, I want to the heading to say something like “Who is really the blind person in this text”. Or maybe, “Why are people so unwilling to admit they are blind”.
The Pharisees get wind of what has happened and they are not celebrating that one of the people in their community who was blind can now see. They are quite annoyed. First of all it is the Sabbath and to heal someone is work. A holy person would have waited a day to give this man his sight. Instead of celebrating with this man, they are ready to take on this horrible person who would “Work” on the Sabbath. When the people ask how a sinner could do such things, they go to the obvious. This is a trick. The man wasn’t really blind, right? And so they confront his parents to prove this is a hoax.
One would think that if you had a child that was born blind, there would be nothing greater than being there when he sees the world for the first time. As a parent, you would go screaming to anyone you know that your child who was blind can now see. But not these parents. Not only to they NOT run around rejoicing in what has happened to their son, they are willing to throw him under the bus in front of the Pharisees. “Ask him yourself. He is of age.” Thanks mom and dad for standing up for me.
Lest we be too harsh on these parents, it is important to understand that they were really afraid. As much as they may have wanted to rejoice about what had happened to their son, they knew what that would cost. If they celebrated with their son, and admitted to believing this man Jesus, they would be out of the temple. Being thrown out of the temple for them, was not like it would be if you or I were kicked out of the church. If we looked at the church from 100 or even 50 years ago we might be able to get a bit of an understanding of what it would have meant for this family to be kicked out of the church. Back then, the church was your social network. You had your work, your school, your family and the church. The church was the place where you met people, and had friends, and those were the people who celebrated with you and mourned with you. Life revolved around the church back then. Life centered around the synogog for the parents in our Gospel. To be thrown out of the temple would be being thrown out of society as they knew it. Their son was grown and they would be there alone, unable to go to the temple for anything. It is harsh that they said to ask the boy himself, but, they had to survive.
The Pharisees ultimately get that the man was blind and now he can see. They get that this man Jesus is the one who made him see. But how did he do it? Dirt and spit and a little washing and this man’s eyes were opened. And when the man stand up admitting that he doesn’t get it; he is not sure why or how it all happened, but this man made him see and for him, that could only be from God; the Pharisees response is, “who are you to tell US what is from God?”. It was the equivalent of us parents answering the “Why” question to our 3 year old kids and ultimately saying “Because I said so”. And what do they do? The very thing that his parents were afraid would happen to them. He was out of the temple.
Ultimately they go to Jesus themselves and ignore anything Jesus really has to say to them. And Jesus basically tells them that they are the ones who are truly blind. Which of course they did not listen to.
On Wednesday evenings we are doing Ignatian Contemplation. It is a way to read scripture as prayer. You read it, then you read it again placing yourself in the story. You try to see what is being said in a different way; through a different set of eyes. I would encourage you to try that in your personal devotional time. But for Sunday morning worship, I am going to do what all good preachers should do and tell you what you need to hear in scripture. Okay, that isn’t quite accurate. That really isn’t my task as the preacher, but it is what I am doing this morning. Today, you need to hear that you are blind. Like the Pharisees you may not want to admit it, but every one of us has some form of blindness. Some need thicker glasses than others, but all of us fall short in the ability to see clearly. We are unable to see clearly because we are not very good at looking at ourselves and admitting our shortcomings. We all have things in our lives that keep us from seeing all that God would have us see in this world.
Some are like the parents in our Gospel. Fear keeps us from seeing clearly what God really wants us to see in this world. We may be afraid of what people will think of us if we are honest about what we need to see. Like the Pharisees, we may be too proud to admit that someone else is right and we may be wrong when it comes to seeing what God had put before us. It may be we are like the blind man himself, able to see things we have never seen before but we have no idea who this Jesus guy really is and so we don’t know what to do with this new sight. It doesn’t matter what is keeping us from seeing what God is placing before us; the people in need, the work that he wants us to do. It doesn’t matter. What matters is if we are willing to do what needs to be done so that we can see clearly what the God of all creation is placing in front of us.
What does Jesus use? He uses spit and dirt to take away the blindness in the man. What are spit and dirt? There are few things in life more offensive than spitting in someone’s face. It has nothing to do with sanitation. It is all about the way it degrades us. When someone spits in your face they are basically saying you are the worst. And dirt. Just plain old dirt. What could possibly be in DIRT that would open this man’s eyes?
That is honestly what it takes for us to truly see the people, the tasks, the paths that Jesus has in front of us. It will take us seeing the disgusting and the dirt in ourselves to open our eyes to a world that is in need of God’s love and grace. Until we are able to admit we are exactly who we are, with the secrets and the dirt that are a part of who we are, we will never be fully able to see the work God has for us to do. We cannot be the love of Christ to others until we fully understand the love that Christ gave us. While we were yet sinners. While we were dirty and disgusting Jesus came and loved us. If I can’t see that; if you can’t see that; then how can you possibly understand how God could love those disgusting people out there?
So today, to put yourself in this story you have to stop looking at the world around you and look within. Be completely honest with yourself. If you have it in you, be completely honest with someone you trust. Find the dirt in your own life that you have worked so hard to keep from the world. What is it about you that you think God won’t really love? Be honest about where you have been in this life. Be honest about the things you have done that you are ashamed of. Be honest about the hurt that you hold on to like a security blanket. Just be completely honest with yourself and before God and let God use that spit and dirt to bring healing to you. Let God take what is the worst about you and wipe it over your eyes and then wash your face and be cleaned.
Don’t be afraid to see what is out there. Don’t be afraid of those folks that are different than you. Get to know them, and see in them the child that God sees. Know that their greatest yearning is the same as yours and that is to be loved and cherished. You will not understand those who are different if you do nothing but run from them, or cast them aside. The God who loves the dirtiest parts of you, loves them just the same.
Do not be afraid that if you give to those who are needing there will not be enough for you. God’s promise is that God will provide. We need only to trust that promise. WE have to be faithful and good stewards of what we have, but we cannot make our decisions about whether to help others based on our fears that we will go without. We have to trust God.
Today I get the honor of Baptizing James Alexander Kane. That poor little guy has no idea what the future holds for him. No one knows what dirt will come his way or what horrible things may happen, or even what he may do. Oh I am not picking on the baby. I am being honest. All of us, no matter what age we are, are facing a life in which we will be dirty and disgusting. It is our nature, and the sin within us that we can be completely certain of. BUT…..
As the water is poured over James’ head; as we were washed at our baptism; and the words are said “James Alexander, child of God I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”, James will be washed clean. God’s grace will come to him, as God’s grace comes to us anew each day, and we are blessed with the privilege of facing this world with open eyes. Eyes that are washed cleaned and healed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Each of us walks through this world with some sort of dirt and disgust that blinds us. Through the waters of baptism and by the love and grace of our Lord and Savior we are washed clean. Believe that. Believe in God’s grace in your life. See your life honestly so that you can know that the dirt in you has been washed clean. Knowing that and having been washed clean, you can go out into the world with your eyes wide open to face and truly see the world that is in need of healing. You can go forth in confidence, even when you don’t quite understand how, and bring the healing power of God’s love and grace to the world.