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.
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 —
- 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.
- 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.
Streamed from West End Uniting Church 22 March 2020