Saturday, March 21, 2020

Fourth Sunday in Lent Yr A March 22 2020

Fourth Sunday in Lent Yr A March 22 2020, second week of confinement due to COVID-19
1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41, Psalm 23

Imagine yourself as one of the disciples, walking down the street and into the marketplace with Jesus. It’s a noisy, hot and busy place, everyone gathers, does business, sits in the shade drinking the original chai, that is tea, black and strong. Actually, that’s everyone with status and power. But the marketplace is also the place where the poor, the crippled, the blind, go to beg. Jesus saw a blind man, and stops. Rather than giving thanks for the miracle of sight, the first thing out of the mouth of the disciple who asked is, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? And Jesus’ answer is that this man’s blindness is not due to his parents’ sin or his own sin. In fact, to Jesus, this is not about sin at all. Many people of Jesus’ time thought that a physical ailment was do to you sinning or inheriting your parents’ sin. But for Jesus it’s not really about sin at all; it’s about sight and seeing.

Jesus heals this blind man. Here is a man who has just had his sight restored, truly a miracle, and all the disciples can talk about is whether this man is the man who used to sit and beg. They really can’t quite place him, even after he says who he is, even after all the years they’ve probably walked by him in the marketplace. They want to take him to his parents’ house so that his parents can identify him, and then his parents don’t seem to be overjoyed at the miracle either, it seems they don’t want much to do with their son. 

Eventually the conversation turns to who the man is who healed the blind man, and the blind man says, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” It is an astonishing thing that they don’t know who Jesus is; and, that Jesus healed this man who they all know was blind. They just don’t believe him. 

I think this is a story about who is really blind; it is a story about seeing and not seeing. Jesus saw a man blind from birth. The disciples looked right through the blind man, they had seen him sitting in the same place for years, but had never seen him. When Jesus healed the blind man, the blind man saw Jesus for who he really is, the One who is from God. The Pharisees could neither see the blind man, nor could they see that the one who healed the blind man is the One who is from God. The blind man is the one who sees, the disciples and the Pharisees are the ones who are blind.

What is it we are blinded by? What is it that is right in front of us that we don’t see? All of us are born blind in one way or another. Some of us have blindness of body: a crippling disease, cancer, diabetes, or bad bones. Some of us have blindness of heart, and that is a terrible blindness. The blind of heart can’t love another beyond a superficial level and usually can’t even love themselves. The blind of heart often live lives corroded with addictions to material things, possessions, and work, to cover up the empty hole. And worst of all is blindness of the soul, which wraps all the rest of life in gloomy darkness.

Or maybe we are blind to our own self-indulgence. The messages we constantly get are messages of possession of things and people, and consuming things, and yes people. Competition for our dollars spurs networks to charge millions of dollars for seconds of advertising time, advertising that forms us into people who believe that the aim of our life is to acquire more, to have bigger, better, newer.

Or maybe we are blind to our own pessimism. This culture of fear we live in has a tendency to take our hope away. Sometimes it is difficult to see who we really are, people who are claimed and marked by God, delight of God’s life. Perhaps we are blind to the pain of a neighbor’s sorrow, or the loneliness of a child, or the needs of a spouse. Perhaps we are blind to the other who is different, whose life seems so foreign to our own, that we just don’t understand. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in making a living, pursuing the good life, or running from our fears that we just don’t see. 

And now we are living in this very peculiar time of blindness, we are encouraged not to see each other, not to be with each other so that we may contain this disease that spreads so rapidly. Because we cannot be with each other we yearn to really see each other. I wonder if not being in one another’s presence today, will improve our ability to really see each other when we are finally able to be present to one?

But Jesus notices our blindness. Jesus sees. Jesus invites us to see. Jesus invites us to see with our very blind eyes, with our wounds and brokenness. Jesus uses our weaknesses as grace. Today we have this gift of seeing each other in really new ways. Seeing both need and generosity. Seeing each other through the gift of technology.

I wonder if we are being called to be healed of our own blindness, and we prepare for celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in the bread broken for us, and we celebrate that through Jesus we come to see others, all creation, and ourselves as wonderful gifts. This is the Good News that shines brightly through our blindness. The Good News that Love wins. Jesus has offered us a new view of life, death and resurrection. We have been called and claimed, but not because of distinctions, achievements, family lineage, or personal attractiveness, not because God sees us as any more beautiful or deserving as anyone else. God’s love is blind to such plastic categories. 

We have been called and claimed despite our tendency to blindness. We have been called and claimed even though we trip over those we cannot see. We have been called and claimed despite looking directly at someone, and not seeing who they are, their pain and suffering, or their joy. 

But, in this new view of life, we recognize that life, death and resurrection mean that we must look at people in the eye, and that we take a new look at ourselves. It takes time to see clearly, and we must be patient in our recovery.

Our vision is changed in these days. We see one another through our screens and our windows. Can we see that each and every one of us is a wonderful creation of God. Can we see a person who is hurting and lonely just like us; and blessed and joyful, just like us. In this peculiar time when we are apart from one another, when our connections are through Facebook live-streaming, and zoom, can we see one another as blessed children of God? We are called to connect in new ways, and the stories we are seeing in our news feeds are stories of healing, music in Italy, pollution lifting in Japan, the waters of Venice becoming clean.

It will be some time when we populate these pews again, but remember, this building I am in today is not the church. The church is you, all of you out there, seeing with the eyes of kindness and mercy the need of your neighbor. This feels a lot like loss, loss of mobility, loss of going wherever we want whenever we want, loss of being together. And yet, maybe it’s not so much a loss, but it’s a gift of sight. Let us see one another, really see one another. Let is be so.

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