1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
March 22, 2019 – Fourth Sunday in Lent
Our world has changed a lot in a week, and certainly in two weeks, but it reveals to us what it was that was underlying our wealth.
Our understanding of the world the Baby Boomers built grows deeper… more layered…more clear-eyed. At the same time, the Word remains the same…and it talks to us over the ages.
Let us examine our lives in light of the scriptures and reflect it in all we say and do. Let us resist that primeval urge from something in us that wants us to know who to blame.
If only someone would have done this or would have done that, the social distancing would be unnecessary…the virus would have been contained at the point of the outbreak…there would be ample test kits and personal protective gear for health care workers.
If only… It can start anywhere, and it wants to go everywhere. But there is no there there.
It is the same question Jesus’ disciples asked him when they came across a man who was born blind. “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”
Where there is a bad outcome, there is always a search for the bad guy who caused it. Like Job’s friends, we think the deal is that if we a good, good things will happen to us…and if we misbehave, we will be punished.
So who sinned? The blind man or his parents? Or as Job’s friends asked him, “What was your sin. Confess it now and be reconciled.”
But Job was a faithful and blameless man who lived in the land of Ur. He was faithful and blameless, just like Jesus.
Well, it’s a little late to be asking who sinned from the blind man’s point of view…so to speak. No matter if his parents sinned…he is blind…and it is hard to see what he could have done wrong before he was born to cause him to be blind on the day Jesus and the disciples came across him.
Casting blame and being sure that the world is a mean place is counterproductive. It gets us no closer to a solution.
Then, too, being anxious and angry suppresses our immune response and makes it harder to resist disease…or to get our health back.
It’s like my second or third jump and Army Airborne School. I signed up to learn how to jump out of perfectly good airplanes… because I thought I would never have another chance to do that… and it was free.
That doesn’t make much sense to me now, by the way, but it was what I was thinking when I showed up at Fort Benning for three weeks with the Infantry.
Things can happen when you are engaged in a hazardous activity, and on my second or third jump…I can’t remember which one now… two of the troops who jumped out of the plane I had been in bumped into each other.
They are descending at a fairly rapid rate of speed…and they are going to have to execute their Parachute Landing Fall fairly soon…and they had better be listening to the spotter on the ground talking to them through a bullhorn…but do you know what these guys did then?
They got into a roaring argument over who had bumped into whom. It was a very distracting…even amazing thing for me to see…but I knew that ground was coming up and I just had to force myself to ignore them…and forget about whose fault it might have been.
We have…after a fashion…jumped out of a plane…and we need to do what we can to land as safely as we possibly can.
So what did Jesus say to his disciples on that day so long ago in a world that is so far away? He said, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him.”
Don’t get me wrong, and please, please, please, don’t misunderstand what Jesus is saying, other than that nobody sinned…it’s nobody’s fault that a man was born blind.
But here we are…and there is something we can do to heal him. So let’s do what we can. He spits on the ground and makes mud with the saliva and puts the mud on the blind man’s eyes…then tells him to go and wash.
His sight is restored…on the Sabbath, mind you…but he is healed. Everyone wants to know how Jesus did it…or how he knew what to do.
They don’t believe it. They query the parents and they confirm this is the one who was blind all his life… and now he can see.
The Pharisees want to know who did it. Then they find fault with what he had done and when he did it.
Unlike the Pharisees, we understand the mysteries of the world far better than they did…not perfectly, but we don’t have to fall into suspicion and fear every time we witness something we don’t understand.
We can…but we don’t have to. We need to lean into the love God showers down upon the world… and let up on the urge to find someone to punish when we feel fear. We need to embrace what works and avoid what won’t work.
Paul writes to the church in Ephesus…and to us…this morning and he puts it so very well. “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light.”
Live your life as children of the light.
See what there is to see. Do what can be done. Don’t cast fear. Embrace the light and let the light embrace you. Then see what happens.
Be ready to be ready. Be good and you will attract goodness to you. There is very little…nothing, really … to be gained by obsessing on who bumped into who when you are going to hit the ground…or the ground is going to hit you…very soon.
And there is so much we can do. Follow the best advice. I hear my mother’s voice as I hear…again and again…that I need to wash my hands more often…that I need to eat a good diet…that I need to take my vitamins…that I need a good night’s sleep…and that I need to get a reasonable amount of exercise every day.
Who knows what the thing is that will lead us to the right place…who it is who will put the mud on our eyes and restore our sight?
Maybe it is our neighbor who will help us through. Maybe a stranger will. Maybe we are the neighbor or stranger who can help someone else through.
One thing that is definitely going to happen as a result of what we are all going through now: We will understand more clearly what is important and what is not.
I think I have told all of you…more than once by now…that shortly before I was supposed to take my finals in my last semester of law school…I was mugged and hit over the head and knocked into the street and run over by a pickup truck.
I spend 10 days in the hospital, I kept my job and I graduated from law school. But I felt a great need to go home so people who had been worried about me…like my mother…could see me and know I really was okay.
The Registrar had been good to me all the way through school and I owe Barbara King more than one favor, but this day she was adamant. If I postponed my final exams, they couldn’t be graded by graduation day and I would not get to go through the graduation ceremony with my classmates.
It might sound like a hard choice to some people but I didn’t even blink at that. I went home and let them mail my diploma to me.
Inside everyone’s heart…I really do think everyone’s heart…there is a still small voice that tells us what we need to do and what we don’t need to do.
And the good news is that I see that happening now. I got a call this week from someone I have only talked to a couple of times in my life. He had 40 meals that no one had come to get, so he called me to see if I could find someone who needed them.
I was tied up at the moment, but I knew one of you…just as I know many of you…and I called them. I would have kept calling if they had not been able to help, but it was the first person I called who said they could set down what they were doing at the moment, get the meals, and deliver them.
And they did. The first one I called.
I am hearing many different ideas of ways we can be in ministry to our community, and it makes the people with the ideas excited to think that they might be able to help someone who is less fortunate that they are.
It gives us a mission and a purpose …and something we can do that will make a difference in the world.
This ministry is open to everyone. If you know a need and can see a way to fill it, do it…or talk to someone who might be able to do it. That’s why we are live-streaming this morning. We need to keep in touch with each other…with the deep teaching of the scriptures
Email your ideas to us or call the church and leave a message. But most of all…for goodness’ sake… talk to each other…keep in touch with each other…let your neighbor know that someone cares and will do what they can to help…or call someone else to help.
We can’t do everything…but we can do what we can do…and letting people know you are there with them and for them can help.
You never know what you might save…or make possible…or heal. We read of the Prophet Samuel anointing David…who turned out to be the great King of God’s chosen people.
Samuel was afraid to go, but he did. He looked at the oldest brother and thought this is the one…but the Lord said No. So he looked at the next and the next…and the Lord said No again and again.
So he asked Jesse if he had any more sons and Jesse says, yes, but he is young and he’s out tending the sheep.
Call him, Samuel says…and David was the one. You are looking for David. You are called not only to see more clearly…but to help others see, too.
We are not called to cast blame, but to help any way we can. You are out tending the sheep and now you have been anointed to do a great work.
We will learn as we go about our work…as a local church in a wonderful community…what it is that we can do and how it can be done.
Like the blind man we will say to any who ask us…when all is said and done…how we did it and how we knew what to do, “I was blind and now I see.”
O Lord, what is it that you want to do in the world through us… through me…this day? Amen.