“Revealing False Assumptions”

John 9:1-41

30 March 2014

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

John 9:1-41

http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=262934558

 

Prayer.

 

As a child of eight

I recall this Sunday school lesson,

our Gospel lesson for this morning

as recorded by St. John, the Evangelist;

taught by the local bank vice-president,

Herb Larson,

dressed in cleaned, pressed, and starched

white shirt,

blue tie,

black suit,

finished with cuff links

and wing tips.

 

As a third grader

I marveled at the miracle.

The spit of Jesus

mingled in mud

smeared into the eyes

of an unnamed man

born blind.

Dirt and spit

was natural, organic, and raw.

The image of a perfect Jesus

with dirt under his nails,

touching the hollow eye sockets

of one so pitied

opened for me

new opportunities to plumb the depths of Christ

and what he means to us.

 

In masterful ways

our Gospel author weaves the theme of

light and darkness

from beginning to end.

The self identified

Light of the world (9:5)

comes to a man born blind.

 

Many authors over the ages

have used the power of irony and metaphor

of light vs. darkness

to point to a deeper truth.

Light and darkness,

seeing and blindness,

understanding and the failure to understand

are images used in

Plato’s Republic,

Sophocles’ Oedipus,

Dante’s Paradiso,

Shakespeare’s King Lear,

Milton’s Paradise Lost,

and numerous plays by Samuel Beckett.

The focus of these cosmic dipolar images

is the Gospel’s statement that

Jesus is the Son of God

who comes to defeat sin,

find the lost,

restore the broken,

to bring belief to those who do not believe.

 

Jesus is the Son of God

who comes to defeat sin,

find the lost,

restore the broken,

to bring belief to those who do not believe.

 

Sin is the opening topic in today’s narrative.

Who sinned causing this man’s suffering,

“this man or his parents, that he was born blind”? (9:3)

It is easy to dismiss this statement

as a relic of the ages,

but,

less we deal this deck too recklessly

if we are of the mind that

people get what they deserve,

Karma bites,

and we frequently ask the question

“what did I do to deserve this?”

then we are no different

than the twelve

dimwitted doorknobs

following Jesus.

 

This is the Divine legacy Jesus was sent to correct.

Yes, the God who drowned sinners but spared Noah

was a God of judgment.

Yes, the God who sent prophets

to warn Judah of impending defeat

if they didn’t turn back from their evil ways

was a God of judgment.

Yes, the God whose whale swallowed Jonah

who caused boils to rise on Job,

and who fueled Daniel’s fiery furnace

was a God of judgment.

Yes, the God who sent Nathan

to rain down judgment upon David

was a God of judgment.

 

When God moved,

sent His Son,

judgment was tempered with grace

in new and transformational ways.

“God sent His Son into the world,

not to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him.” (3:17)

This was language and concept

previously unknown in Jewish thought and belief. 

This un-named, formerly blind man

turns world upside down

for everyone in authority

and sporting the best in liturgical vestments and head coverings:

We know that God does not listen to sinners,”

the formerly blind man testifies,

“but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.” (9:31)

 

News flash!

Jesus listens to sinners.

Not just righteous holier than thou street corner prayers.

Jesus listens to those who worships him.

Not just those who pay lip service or stuff the temple cash box.

Jesus listens to those who obey his will.

Not just those who pray up front,

but Jesus also listens to the prayers from the back row.

Jesus listens.

 

We are no more punished for the sins of our parents

than we are spared from crisis or tragedy in our lives.

Not only will we each walk our own Valley of the Shadow of Death,

Jesus assures his disciples

everyone of us who follow him

will be further persecuted

for our belief and Kingdom building efforts.

This is not punishment for punishment sake.

Our Gospel sheds new light

that we are a part of God’s greater plan

that is revealed in suffering, sorrow, and pain.

“He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (9:3)

 

Our Gospel narrative

forces me to more deeply consider

if I am so self-centered to believe

that God’s plan is limited to only me and my world;

my concerns, my needs, my shortcomings, my sins?

Before we cue the collective pity party,

consider the reality exposed this morning

that God works

with or without

our permission or invitation.

This man didn’t petition Jesus to cure his blindness.

He didn’t know what sight was.

Instead, Jesus sought him out,

not only in the beginning,

but 26 verses later,

Jesus seeks out this man

to fulfill God’s larger purpose,

to reveal God’s greater truth:

Jesus is the Son of God

who comes to defeat sin,

find the lost,

restore the broken,

to bring belief to those who do not believe.

 

“Jesus 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.”” (9:39)

Seeing is believing,

one might say.

But greater the faith is the one

who believes but never sees.

 

When it comes to

finding the lost

and restoring the broken

perhaps our Gospel author wants us to consider

how calcified and resistant we have become,

as modern day practitioners of organized religion,

as means of God’s grace and love in the world.

Because of his testimony to a miracle

performed by a loving and gracious God

the people want this formerly blind man

brought up on charges,

and the Pharisees were happy to oblige.

We have rules!

they trumpeted.

We have rules!

we echo today.

Those who live by the rules are destined to die by the rules.

This back and forth debate,

evidence gathering and reporting,

witness statements and affidavits;

don’t we, like these Pharisees of old,

find ourselves quick to judge

based on our own beliefs and assumptions

instead of acting on behalf of a merciful and loving God?

 

Forget the rules!

Suspend the rules!

Stop living a life of slavery to the rules

and start living a life of freedom

through faith in Jesus Christ.

We’ve become so enculturated in the rules

that we should be living them like a monkey turns a crank.

Forgetting rules doesn’t we we stop following them.

Suspending rules frees us to focus

on the business of Jesus at hand,

and not the double edged blade of judgment.

The rules will take care of themselves.

Jesus suspends the rules when he heals on the Sabbath,

gives sight to the blind,

and raises the dead.

Jesus suspends the rules when he

dies on the cross

and walks out of the grave.

 

This Gospel begs us to suspend judgment

and to become suspicious of assumptions.

In their place,

take heart with this man’s testimony,

which is rooted in fact.

This is what happened to me:

I was blind.

I can now see.

Keep it simple;

it was as simple as that!

Jesus brought light where there was once darkness.

It is astonishing;

here is a man who previously did not believe,

who responds, “Lord, I believe.” (9:38)

 

Our assumption is that there is no such thing as miracles.

We work hard to explain them away.

We fall back on the scientific method,

even though we are aware that

the more we learn

the more we realize how much more there is to learn.

We ascribe cure to the hands of doctors

and death to the inevitable reaper’s sickle.

Yet, today’s Gospel plants a flag

on the high ground

of God’s grace,

love,

and miraculous abilities.

God knitted a complete sensory and neuronal network

where there previously had not be one.

A characteristic of being the Light of the World

is being the Lord of healing

and, as Salvation history is about to be played out,

the Light of the World

is also the Lord of resurrection from the dead;

the Light illuminating our path,

leading us to life eternal.

 

Dearly beloved,

our Gospel narrative ends with Jesus and this man

in deep discussion

just like where it first began. 

Except, in conclusion

the blind had been given sight,

authorities on rules and punishment

were writhing with frustration

because sin has been defeated

and they’d be soon out of a job.

The lost had been found,

the broken had been restored,

and one more individual had been led to believe

that Jesus Christ is Lord.

For us, this is quite the lesson

in tempering our judgment,

reexamining our assumptions,

and allowing our hearts to be led by God’s greater plan.

For Jesus, this was a good day;

one new person

came to believe.

Amen.