Tag Archives: man born blind

Jesus sees

Note: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not holding our usual services. This sermon will be part of a shorter service at 9.30am (Brisbane time) tomorrow. It will be streamed at https://www.facebook.com/westenduniting/

We welcome your feedback and questions.

Readings
Ephesians 5.8–14
John 9.1–7

At the centre of a Gospel riddled with light and darkness, blindness and sight, truth and lie, John tells the story of a man born blind from birth. From birth he knew nothing but darkness. That Jesus sees the man who cannot see him is a literal fact. It is also a theological truth. From Nicodemus in the middle of the night and the Samaritan woman at the well to Judas in the garden and Pilate at the headquarters, those who dwell in darkness cannot of their own volition see the God who has come to them in Jesus Christ. Rather, God in Christ sees them in the darkness of the human condition without God and pitches his tent. ― Cynthia A Jarvis, Feasting on the Gospels, John Vol. 1

____________________

A very short sermon today. One point.

Jesus sees the man born blind before the man sees Jesus. Jesus sees him because he is the Light of the world. 

That’s it, that’s the sermon. 

But, just so you don’t switch off disappointed, I’ll preach for longer. 😉

Let me remind you of the Gospel text:

As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 

Jesus saw a man. A person, in all his particular-ness. This man was a beggar. He was a beggar because he was blind. Not only that, he had been blind since birth. 

Jesus saw him. 

His disciples saw something too, but they didn’t see him. They saw a puzzle to be solved, a riddle to be answered, a theological conundrum: 

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? 

Jesus sees, the disciples see; yet they see different things. 

Jesus sees a person in need; the disciples see an object of theological speculation, to be discussed and discarded. 

The story in John’s Gospel goes for the whole of chapter 9. That’s 41 verses. Read them. It begins with everyone in darkness, except Jesus. It ends with the man born blind also in the light, but the other players in the story remain in darkness. 

The Pharisees want to check this unauthorised healing out. They ask his family if it’s really the same man. His parents don’t want to get involved. 

The Pharisees are adamant that it can’t be the same man. They prefer to stay in the darkness. 

Jesus sees them every one, but only one responds. 

The disciples separate themselves from the blind man by their judgement. It’s not social distancing, it’s ostracism framed in nice theological language. Nice God-talk. Of course, that’s the worst kind of ostracism there is. 

The religious leaders also ostracise the blind man; they ostracise Jesus too. Jesus sees them, but it disturbs their religion. They remain in darkness. 

How can we live confidently as people who are seen by Jesus, ‘as children of the light’? St Paul says:  

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 

The days that we are in certainly are evil. Many have died. More will fall sick. We have taken the extraordinary step of suspending public worship to help, as they say, ‘flatten the curve’. But we want to make the most of our time. We want to see others, just as we are seen and loved. 

Let us see others in the coming week. Others who may be discouraged and disheartened, depressed or downright sick. See them for themselves, pray for them, and reach out. 

Don’t make the mistake the disciples made, and speculate about them. It’s our business to walk with people through what may be a difficult journey. It’s our call to relieve suffering where we can, and to pray always. 

Was there only one-point in today’s sermon? Maybe there are two — 

  1. Jesus sees the man born blind before the man sees Jesus. (We call that grace.) Jesus sees him because he is the Light of the world. 
  2. Jesus calls us to truly see others in this time of ‘social isolation’ because in the Lord we are light, and are called to live as children of the Light. 

Amen.

Streamed from West End Uniting Church 22 March 2020

Leave a comment

Filed under Lent, RCL, reflection, sermon

Blind/Not blind

Readings
1 Samuel 16.1–13
John 9.1–41

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.—C. S. Lewis

____________________

In the readings we heard today from 1 Samuel and the Gospel of John, we find one striking similarity: people are talked about as if they are not there. Instead of speaking to them, people act as though they are somehow invisible.

The disciples talk about the man born blind:

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

His neighbours talk about him:

Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?

Finally, he speaks himself:

I am the man.

It reminds me of that line in the film The Elephant Man, where he has had enough of being treated like an object of fear and pity:

I AM A MAN!!!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Lent, RCL, sermon

Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year A, 3 April 2011)

Blessed are ‘us and us and us’


Readings
Ephesians 5.8-14
John 9.1-41

Our beatitude today is:

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.

And we’re looking at the person we know as ‘the man born blind’.

One thing is clear: there was no mercy from the disciples for this man born blind. They had a question that was a theological hand grenade for Jesus. It was this:

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

There’s only one way this kind of thing can happen as far as the disciples are concerned: sin. That’s already decided. The only questions on their lips are: Which sin? Whose sin? His, or his parents’ sin? Was it passed down from parent to child? To them, the man born blind is an ‘object’ of theological speculation. His disability must the result of some kind of sin; in other words, there’s ‘something wrong’ with him.

But you know, there are others in this story who lack mercy; it’s not only the disciples, wanting to know which ‘category’ of sin caused the blindness. We also have the Pharisees, who are divided about whether Jesus is doing God’s work; and the man born blind’s parents who cower before the authorities in fear, unable to stand up for him. Not one can see that God is at work, and so they show themselves to be spiritually blind in their lack of mercy.

By the time we get to the end of this story, there are only two who see it all: Jesus, the Light of the world; and the man born blind.

What did Jesus say the purpose of this man’s blindness was? It was

so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

In other words, we can reveal God by the way we respond to people in need. We can work God’s work. Or, we can hide God’s presence by the way we respond. Which do we want it to be?

These days, we would say that ‘the man born blind’ has a disability. If we can say, ‘Blessed are the merciful’, then I am convinced that a ‘merciful theology of disability’ will reveal God’s work. What I’d like to know in the light of our Gospel reading and today’s Beatitude is: how does ‘mercy’ apply to our relationships with people who have a disability? Could my attitude and yours be called ‘merciful’?

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under church year, RCL, sermon

Though I was blind, now I see

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent


John 9.1-41

 

Oh, hello… What are you staring at? Yes, I am Rabbi Gershom, and yes, I am one of the Pharisees. You want to know what’s been happening here? Well, allow me to tell you

It all started this morning. The beggars were sitting just over there, like they always do… I was walking by, ignoring them, I mean what is one supposed to do, when I heard someone say, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Well of course, I assumed he was talking to me, I mean I’m a rabbi, a very important teacher, but no, another man answered him. Someone from up north, you could tell by his uncouth accent.

He said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” I’d never heard such utter rubbish! I suppose people as theologically illiterate as you might not understand why this Jesus—I found out later who he was—why this Jesus was spouting foolishness. Well, it’s like this…

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under RCL, sermon