"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church
As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you saw that your say, "We see", your sin remains."
Whew! This is our gospel for Sunday - a mouthful. The past tSundays, in this Lenten season, our gospel texts from John are stories about "seeing". The gospel writer, John, uses this imagery a lot in his gospel. Remember week one, with Nicodemus and Jesus alone at night, and Nick asking Jesus questions about how one can be born from above. And Jesus tries to explain, but Nick doesn't really "see it" because he's looking through the eyes of his religion.
Then, we remember the woman at the well at the well, in the height of the summer sun, in broad daylight. Jesus approaches this Samaritan woman (not named - which is significant in itself) and asks her for a drink of water, and then promises her "living water". The woman sees Jesus as the Son of God, and runs to tell her community. Her eyes are opened to who Jesus is.
This Sunday, our gospel is John's story of a man born blind. His family, and the religious community can't figure out how it came to be that he was born blind. His parents only could say that "once he was blind, but now he sees." And as is so typical of John, the religious community - the temple leadership, blame either him or his parents for somehow having sinned, thereby causing his blindness. After all, that's what the Scriptures say, so it must be so. Again, the man's eyes are opened - he doesn't know how or why, but just that he can see for the first time. Maybe his eyesight is clearer than those who are sighted at the time, because he's able to actually SEE that Jesus is Lord, when others see him and don't believe/see. Either they choose not to, or are so bound as to not be able to see for some reason. Maybe their religion has gotten in their way - which is part of my message for Sunday. Can you think of what I might mean by this - their "religion" has gotten in the way of loving one another.
My message this Sunday will be a little about family and community dynamics. Think of three circles, if you will - one being the family/community circle in which the blind man finds himself; the second circle being the wider religious community; and the third, being Jesus himself. Neither the first two communities could or would help this poor man out of ignorance, neglect, or, in the case of the temple leadership, their religion. Yes, that's right...their religion. Their church doctrine. Their church rules, if you will. There is religion, and there is the love of God in Jesus Christ, and sadly, they're not always the same. Get my point?
Did you ever know of someone whose religion got in the way of helping another? They quote scripture, chapter and verse, and yet fail to love their neighbor. They hide behind their theology, or their church doctrine, and yet when it comes time to love another person not like them, they blame it on the other. They're so blinded by their "religion" that they can't love someone.
I'll say more on Sunday, but this is where Jesus comes in. He breaks down barriers between himself (God) and humanity, casting aside his deep Jewish roots and traditions, in favor of loving his neighbor. He casts aside all of the "laws" dealing with unclean people, and touches, talks to, heals, and engages with those no one else at the time would. This is the love of Jesus - the love that knows no boundaries, no borders, no classes of people, only all as children of God. Thanks be to God, Amen!
I get this question a lot - Why did Jesus come into the world, Pastor? Great question. How would YOU answer that question?
Here's my answer, going back to my Confirmation days (did I mention I never finished Confirmation?) I was actually confirmed with my 7th and 8th graders at my last congregation in Reading, PA. I thought if I'm going to continue to pastor a congregation, I should be confirmed, right?
Anyhow, here's what I remember about how I would answer that question above. Something like Jesus became human like me so that he might be Lord over sin. And he did all this so that he might become MY Lord. For he did none of these things for himself, nor did he have any need of them. In other words, a divine act of generosity, love and concern for creatures like you and me. The key work here is, for me anyhow, "for me".
Hope to see some of you Sunday morning. Don't forget, we're having a pot luck meal following worship this Sunday, with everyone bringing a hot or cold dish (or dessert!!!) I'm bringing one of my special dishes. You'll have to wait and see what it is. And, we'll also get to meet and greet our newest members. Please join us in welcoming them to our little faith community. Amen.