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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Lent - 3/2

God Restores Our Sight

Lent IV
March 2, 2008
John 9:1-41
Bethany Lutheran Church

 

I have been thinking about summer a lot lately. It helps me to warm up on these blistering cold days to think of warmth. In preparing this text, I found myself thinking a lot about a particular week of VBS, vacation bible school, in which I participated when I was about fourteen. For the teenagers, VBS was held at a local park and was led by a woman named Grace. Out of all the weeks of VBS that I have participated in throughout my life, very few of the lessons remain in my memory. But there is one that stands out very vividly for me. It was the lesson that Grace taught on blindness.

I was paired up with Jamie, another teenager, and then, the blindfolds came out. I was blindfolded first by this guy who I barely knew. I was attending VBS with my cousins in Ohio at a church I never attended. I was a stranger among these people. My initial fear was over the sudden darkness. Then, I began wondering if I could trust this guy or whether he was some hooligan that would lead me into danger. I thought that I could gauge the twists and turns of the stone path as it led into the woods, but I found myself falling off it when I did not trust Jamie’s hand that led me. I could tell by my ears that we were approaching a creek and wondered if this is where Jamie would lead me into danger, unaware of the exact location of the small foot bridge. We slowed down our walking pace and I trusted him to guide me across the bridge, I temporarily without vision and Jamie a complete stranger who served as my eyes. We crossed the bridge safely and then I knew I could trust him.

It was not so for the blind man in our gospel story for this day. He was born blind and did not know who he could trust. The townspeople knew him as the one who used to sit and beg. He was helpless. Then Jesus comes along and spits upon the ground near the blind man. He spits – phlegm and saliva mixed with dirt, an action that is often associated with insult, and Jesus spreads this paste upon the blind man’s eyes. The blind man could do nothing to stop what Jesus was doing since he could not see. Then he is told, “go and wash,” an action which he would have likely done nonetheless to clean and rid his face of the spittle that was smeared upon him. One man born blind, helpless and alone receives his sight. One man living in brokenness is washed in the waters and made clean.

But even having been washed, life does not get much easier. The blind man is repeatedly questioned by the Pharisees as to how he was healed. Even his parents, out of their own fear of being shunned from the synagogue, abandon their own Son, leaving him to answer for himself. And the man, who was once blind, answers boldly that he had been healed, yes, even on the Sabbath day.

The Pharisees thought they had it all figured out. They believed that they understood precisely how God works. Their God would not heal on the day of rest, therefore, this Jesus who healed on the Sabbath, must not be from God. The solution to dealing with those whom the Pharisees disagreed was to put them out of the synagogue, eviction from the community. The Pharisees would not want their worship of God to be stained by anyone who they thought unfit. Unfortunately for the Pharisees, God does not reside in a box. Even though the Pharisees drove out the blind man from the synagogue, God was with him. It was outside the synagogue, outside the worshipping community, that Jesus came to the blind man and revealed himself. It was outside the synagogue where in verse thirty-eight of our gospel text it is written that the blind man believes and worships Jesus.

We, likewise, sometimes like to think of this sanctuary as a very holy place. We keep the doors shut to prevent the distractions of the world from entering in. But God cannot be confined among walls. Surely God is in this place among us and with us, but God is here precisely for the orphans and widows. God is here for those who are in the midst of deep depression. God is here for those who are hungry and thirsty. God is here for all those who need to be reminded of their baptisms, for all those who once again need to hear a word of forgiveness.

But who is missing? Who is not present here among us when we gather at the table? Who are those that still need to feast on the Word of God and the body of Christ? Bring the little children in here with their toys and have them sit in front so that they can see why it is that we are here. Let them watch the gestures of the pastor as he blesses the bread and wine; let them listen to the choir as their angelic voices descend from the balcony. If the children start to cry or get restless, carry them around – walk them up and down the aisles, but whatever you do, stay in here, for even the noisiest of children are a part of our community. Even the noisiest of children desire an encounter with God.

There are others who I notice are also missing. Where are the schizophrenics and the mentally disturbed? Where are those who are addicted by drugs and/or alcohol? Where are those individuals who dress differently from us – those who have over a dozen piercings or tattoos? Have we invited them to come eat with us, the body and blood of Christ? Have we invited them to encounter God in a place where we believe God is present?

We were once those who were blind at birth, but having been baptized our eyes were opened to the presence of God in our midst. But do not forget what it was like to be blind. Do not let your ability to see the world, make you blind to those places where God is present. We have the ability to see clearly the works of the Lord and to identify those places where God is alive and present in our midst. If we had more time, perhaps I should encourage you to blindfold each other to once again recognize how your other senses begin to compensate. How, when you cease to have vision, you must see things differently. 

If we had to identify a theme between our scripture texts on this day, it would be that the Lord does not see as we see. Our Old Testament reading made that quite clear. Jesse’s seven sons passed before Samuel while Samuel waited to hear from the Lord which one should be anointed king. These seven sons, strong and mighty and full of wealth were not chosen. Rather, God chose the eighth son, David, who was so meek that Jesse did not even think to include him.

God sees things differently than we do. While we often see the exterior, God sees the insides of the heart. While we see a person as they are, God see us as what we could and will be. Even the drug addict is regarded as having great potential. Everyone has a place in serving the Lord, especially those who do not see themselves as fit.

I have been with you for over six months now and I frequently hear many of you comment that you do not see yourself as having enough faith or wisdom to evangelize and to talk about your faith in the world. But I tell you, you are precisely the ones who everyone wants to hear. Your faith, and my faith for that matter, will always be full of questions. The unchurched do not want people to pump them full of answers. Rather, what they want is to know that it is okay to have questions. They are seeking people like you to engage them and to share the frustrations you have in not having all the answers.

Even if we do not understand fully the works of God, we are sent forth to bear witness to the God we know. It is the God we encounter here each week in the eating and drinking at the table. It is the God we encounter here each week as we pass by the baptismal waters and remember our baptism. Baptism is not simply an experience of the past. Rather it is a life-giving and life shaping experience that is never-ending.

We are partially blind and do not always know where God is leading us. But touch the waters once again. Wash your face with the water as you trace the sign of the cross upon your forehead. Discover again the sight and vision that God has given you to serve a world in need, to serve God’s kingdom.

Vicar Luke Smetters

 

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
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one who
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