A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 26, 2017
(1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ps 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41)
The Moon is the brightest luminary in the night sky. On a clear night with a full moon, it is easily light enough to see even at midnight. The moon, however, offers no light of its own. Rather, the moon reflects the light of the sun. We can only see the moon because it, unknowingly, ‘sees’ the sun.
God has a habit of going for the most unlikely. Isaac over Ishmael. Jacob over Esau. Joseph, the youngest of his father’s sons, guiding the world through famine.
Today we heard of David’s anointing over his seemingly more qualified brothers. The things that matter so much to us – appearance and stature – matter little to God: ‘The LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart’.
And God sets this shepherd boy – in contrast to his older, bigger, and stronger warrior brothers – apart to be king.
God sees differently.
Is it any wonder David – this one so strangely selected by God – could pen the words of Psalm 23? There David credits YHWH with leading, providing, restoring, comforting, and, perhaps most pertinently for today’s readings – anointing.
And all this not simply for David. We love this psalm because it also speaks to us of our relationship with God. God is our good and generous shepherd.
Early on in our gospel reading Jesus claims: ‘I am the light of the world’. It is an appropriate precursor to the saga that emerges around this particular healing.
This moment is divinely planned. To the disciple’s question as to the origin of this blindness Jesus points to purpose even here: ‘…that the works of God might be displayed in him’. John’s lengthy account points to the fulfilling of these prophetic words.
God, once again, selecting the most unlikely.
Early on we encounter a second anointing. It looks very different to the one performed by Samuel. No pre-prepared olive oil. No hollowed-out ram’s horn. No slow pour of fragrant oil.
Instead Jesus spits in the dust. Mixes mud with his finger. Cakes dirt and saliva across the man’s eyes. Is it any wonder this man accepts the invitation to wash?
And the result? He ‘…came back seeing’.
This miracle raises so many questions. For those who recognise this one-time blind beggar. For his parents. For the Pharisees. Some are genuine, to be sure. Others cynical, critical, unbelieving.
All, however, seem to be asking.
And this not because there were any witnesses to the moment of miracle. Indeed there is no indication in the text that anyone saw the man emerge from the pool of Siloam blinking away a lifetime of darkness.
These questions emerge from two sources. First, from what the people know: that this man was once a local beggar. And second, from his simple testimony:
The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’. So I went and washed and received my sight.
The man has little to add. He does not know where Jesus is. He does not know the sin-status of his healer. In fact, the man at the centre of all this commotion has never set eyes on his saviour! All he can do is continue to offer his simple – yet profound – testimony: ‘I was blind but now I see’.
And the critic’s are left with no answer – except, ultimately, to ‘cast him out’.
And there, outside the synagogue, Jesus ‘found him’. Not the other way round. Jesus, not the ex-blind man, reflected the Father’s heart by searching for him.
Only now does this man lay seeing eyes on his healer. The result: a declaration of trust and adoration. Our text says it best: ‘He said, ‘Lord I believe’, and he worshipped him’.
Jesus, it seems, sums up all that has taken place since their initial encounter: ‘For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind’.
The Apostle Paul, took this reality to heart. In today’s reading he does not talk of ‘blindness’ and ‘seeing’. He does, however, talk of ‘darkness’ and ‘light’. The two metaphors are not far from one another.
Paul’s audience, the church, by the grace and action of God moved between these two realities: ‘…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.’ Paul’s call is simple: ‘Walk as children of the light’.
One of the characteristics of light highlighted here is that it ‘exposes’. We can easily read this passage, as a call to be an accusing and judgmental people. We can do the same with Jesus final statement in our gospel reading: ‘For judgment I came…’.
In neither case, however, is there a call to aggression or a pointing of the finger. Jesus, in healing the blind man, shone a light that ‘exposed’ the hypocrisy and ignorance of the religious leaders. His light exposed their darkness. Paul is asking something similar of us: live lives in celebration of all that is ‘good, right, and true’.
And it is this light that ‘exposes’. Perhaps it is not a surprising link. After all, light does make things ‘visible’.
Have you ever been to a BBQ and found that simply by being a follower of Jesus you raised questions in another? I wonder if this is what Paul is getting at with his final words: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’. Walk in the light and your life will wake people up!
Your Christ-lit life can be a grace-reflecting light-source among the lives and places of darkness you encounter.