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SERMON 4/3/11 Lent 4A

John 9:1-41 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The 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?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He 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.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then 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.” Some 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. So 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.”

The 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 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but 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.” His 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. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So 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.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He 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?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 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.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, `We see,’ your sin remains.”

On her tenth birthday, a young father took his daughter Betty down to the local “second hand” store to buy her a bicycle. As much as he would have liked, dad couldn’t afford a new bike, but he wanted to give Betty a special gift nonetheless. Betty found the bike she wanted. It was obviously not brand new, but it was pink, had a little horn and it had well-worn tassels on the handles. She beamed with joy because in her heart she knew that the bicycle was very special; it was from her Dad. A few days later, Betty was riding the second-hand bike down the street. Suddenly, her friend Sue rode up beside her on a brand new Schwinn bike. It was shiny, with clean tires, colorful tassels that were not worn, and a horn that was loud and clear. With an overbearing smirk Sue asked, “Where’d you get that old thing?”

When Sue looked that the bicycle, she merely saw the rust, the worn tires and the tattered tassels. When Betty looked the bicycle, she saw the birthday her Dad had given her. Sue saw an old hand-me-down that just didn’t measure up to her standards. Betty saw the outpouring of love from her Dad. On one hand, a solitary reality was seen through the eyes of love and on the other, truth was seen through the eyes of self-absorption.

For some folks, our lives are merely solitary threads in an unrelated, individualistic, cosmological reality. We are here for a moment and then gone. Life is lived as if to grab all the gusto we can with little regard for others. For some folks, our lives are a tapestry of individual threads woven together, that intricately bring beauty to the whole. Both views express a given perception of reality. Jesus confronts us with the alternative reality that life is meant to exist in an intimately interconnected community.

God set the cosmos in motion out of love. Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit breathed the Trinitarian dance of intimate relatedness, into the very nature of creation. We are invited to be in loving relationship with each other and with God. Over the centuries, humanity has often chosen our own pursuit of self-fulfillment. It’s almost as if we choose to be blind to God’s plan for creation. We grope around in darkness, fraught with an individualistic, self-focused mindset. Today’s gospel provides us with an example of this mindset, through the religious leaders who refused to see God’s love in Christ.

Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man who never had sight before. The man experienced directly the loving, restorative grace of God through his healing. Referring to Jesus, the religious leaders said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” The blind man recognized the gift of sight as a gift from God. The religious leaders saw the healing as an unholy work of a sinner. The obvious truth was that Jesus was embodying a relational dance of love. Jesus was loving neighbor at the risk of scorn from the religious establishment. His outpouring of restorative love brought wholeness to someone, even though it conflicted with the religious laws regarding the Sabbath. Jesus confronted the religious leaders and confronts us with the fact that the love for God and neighbor, comes before all else. The very life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord established this new reality. Jesus embodied the self-giving life, not a self-preserving life.

Through the light of Christ, we see clearly the truth of self-giving love. As a community of disciples, followers of Jesus, we are brought together to be an outpouring of the abundant love poured into us. Receiving and pouring out, this is the truth of God’s love, and it is without a doubt, lived out in this community. The Mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. We are gathered, fed, empowered and sent out so that we may be reflections of “The Light of the World,” in the world. We are sent as lights to pierce the darkness of self-centeredness, isolation, pain, brokenness, so that others may see and know Christ.

Imagine the moment that the man’s eyes were opened. At first, the intensity of light may have been disturbing and difficult to receive. As the images emerged, they might have been strange and maybe even frightening. Yet the sounds, feelings, and smells of decades, accompanied now by the beauty of sight, began to make even more sense. He saw things for the first time, and he experienced life in a new and dramatic way. Imagine that moment of clear, perfect vision, when both his eyes and his heart were open to a new way of being.

The words of the chorus of a popular renewal weekend song are “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you.” Like the blind man on the day, he saw for the first time, we must consider if we are ready for God to open fully the eyes of our hearts. Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see clearly the life of self-giving love. Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see clearly the life of compassion. Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see clearly the God who created and redeemed. Open the eyes of my heart for I want to be blind no more. Living in the light of Christ, we open our eyes to life lived in a new and dramatic way. The tapestry of our inner-connectedness and inter-relatedness becomes vivid and clear. We come to realize in a loving community, that others and we experience God’s loving truth. St. David’s is a loving community like that. Through our mission and ministry, God’s kingdom bursts forth right here and right now in the lives of those around us. For those sick at home or in the hospital, for those struggling to pay the bills, for those walking the mourner’s path, for those recovering from addiction, and for those seeking God’s light, St. David’s reflects the love of Christ, the “Light of the World”.

Through our lives, others do come to know the love, mercy, justice, compassion, forgiveness, love and grace lived out in the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are the Body of Christ and we are on a mission to bring others to unity with God and each other. As the Body of Christ, we live with eyes wide open and hearts filled with God’s grace, so that God’s work might be revealed in us.

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