Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 2 Sermon: Brought to Light

This isn't really a transcript from my sermon on the 2nd, more like my notes that I used to prepare. I didn't really talk about eating disorders in the sermon, but you can still follow the link.

Brought to Light

I remember vividly my one and hopefully only experience with blindness. While working on my “handicapped awareness” merit badge, I had the opportunity to get to know the woman in my church who ran the local “group living” home for people with mental handicaps. We worked together on the requirements for the merit badge, and she helped me create day long simulations of being blind, deaf, mute, and wheelchair bound.

I remember specifically walking around downtown with her with big gauze pads and a blindfold over my eyes. At the end of the day, after my eyes had adjusted to the dark of the blindfold, taking it off was an overwhelming flood of light.

The gospels tell the story about the overwhelming imparting of the light of grace to humanity. Some are unblended and tentatively at first, walk out into the life of light, and others grimace with the discomfort of the light and grab the blindfolds and put them on.

Past few weeks during season of Lent, we have focused on the senses. We have heard the call of Abraham, we have felt the saving grace of God in a story of new birth, we have quenched our thirst with life giving water. In today’s story, we are given sight with the man blind from birth.

Today we’re reminded of the scripture we heard earlier, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”j

The healing miracle of John 9:1-41, then, is not simply a story that shows the revelation of the works of God in Jesus’ gift of sight (v. 3). Rather, the Fourth Evangelist uses this healing story to portray the world changing truth of Jesus’ incarnation palpably and poignantly. Light and darkness are no longer merely concepts, but are embodied in the characters of John 9. In the blind man’s journey from physical blindness to spiritual sight, the reader is able to watch as someone comes to the light and is given new life. In the Jewish authorities’ journey from physical sight to spiritual blindness, the reader is able to watch as they close themselves to the light and place themselves under judgment.

This month is eating disorders awareness week. You teachers are probably aware of that, but I didn’t know until I was looking at a friends website the other day. I usually don’t pay attention to “national month or week” of this or that, but this subject caught my eye in relationship to the scripture given today.

I have friends with eating disorders, and I would say that it is a blindfold of sorts. Much like me wearing around those patches and blindfold as a Boy Scout, there are young women and men who wear a blindfold toward their own body. They are blind to the beauty that God bestows on each and every child. They look at their own bodies and see only defect. Some are driven by the illusion of control, that we can actually possess it and always apply it. When they feel the tumultuous swerve of the world around them, they seek control wherever they can find it, and it usually ends up being their bodies that suffer.

Christ wants to remove this blindness. He wants to come into the lives of those women and men with eating disorders and all other kinds of disorders and give them the self worth and sense of peace and strength that will pull the shudders back on this illness that is so prevalent in our culture.

If you know of someone who suffers from an eating disorder, there will be a link on the website on this sermon to some professional resources http://eatingdisorders.laureate.com/contact_info.asp
who can help. I would encourage those who suffer to speak with their pastor or someone. The sense of shame about these kinds of things cause us to bury them deep in our heart, where they can take root and shot up in other aspects of our life.

One thing I liked as a boy about this bible story is that Jesus spits in the dirt to make the mud paste that he puts on the man’s eyes. I liked this passage especially because it came in handy when my mother would get on to me for spitting and then I would come back with, well Jesus spit! If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me, right!

But a connection that I make now that I didn’t make when I was more concerned about justifying spitting is that this passage seems to me to reflect the creation account in Genesis, when God scoops up the mud of the earth and fashions human beings and then breathes into them the Spirit of life. Eugene Peterson, in his translation of the Bible called the Message calls the new creation “mud man.”

We know that in several places, John references Genesis, maybe this is an intentional image for us—the blind man with mud caked over his eyes, so that we may see his gift to the blind man not just being a healing, but a re-creation. And whereas the blind man is astonished and hungry for more creation in his life—he encounters Jesus again and asks him—show me the Son of Man and I will believe—the Pharisees and others who show nothing but contempt and suspicion for the newly re-created man are engaged in de-creating.

Instead of yielding to new possibilities, they become overly concerned with process and policy. Instead of celebrating vision, they are more obsessed with the cause of the blindness. For this they are judged by Jesus. He says they are choosing blindness while the man who had no choice about being blind has chosen vision.
(From Dylan's blog)
But, the most damning point this Sunday's gospel has against Jesus' accusers is one that we easily miss: they did not know the blind man who was healed.
He sat and begged there daily, and every day they walked by him, but when the time came, they couldn't be sure of who he was -- others had to fetch his parents before they could be sure of the identification (again, props to the Social Science Commentary on John). Or maybe they'd identified him solely by the darkness they thought was inside him, as a social problem indicative of how far society had sunk. For whatever reason, they'd never looked him in the eye or really noticed his face.
Are we like Jesus, who goes and seeks the blind man, or are we more like the Pharisees, stuck in the Temple, debating the finer points of this and that? Jesus doesn’t test the blind man to see if he has enough “faith” to be healed. Indeed, he seems to grow in his faith after having his sight restored. This aspect of Christ’s ministry MUST be lived out in our church’s expression of faith and invitation.

We must reach out and invite and get to know others in our community who lack the spiritual vision we believe comes with a relationship with Jesus Christ. If your answer to me is that, “I don’t know who to invite into the life of discipleship, because all my friends are Christian,” then we’re not working hard enough at cultivating relationships with people in our community who can be brought to light. Have you seen the light of Christ? Then I’m sure you would agree that it HAS to be shared. The blind man lives in our community. He’s probably doesn’t expect to receive vision. His whole identity may be built around his “lack of vision.” But Christ wishes to bring him sight.
This is one reason I am so happy our church recognizes the open table when it comes to celebrating the Lord’s supper. We offer this communion to everyone who is in attendance. It matters not what blinds you or what state of the darkness you are in. Like Christ seeks out the blind man and heals him without any declaration of belief or requirements, the gift of sight brought to us in this meal of bread and wine is offered freely and equally.

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