Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sermon for 03 April 2011, Lent 4C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. John 9:1-41 (Adapted from NLT)
Lord, I believe
Fourth Sunday in Lent, 03 April 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

            My life has been one of lonely darkness. I had been blind from birth. You would call it being visually impaired in your time, but it means the same thing. I know my parents by the sound of their voices. I know both the generous and the cruel by the sound of their voices as well. My hands help me feel around to get where I usually sit to beg. There I hold them out again. I have been sitting here for many years. A blind man in a Jewish community cannot do much. Here, a.A blind man cannot do any useful work. In order to be a scribe, I would have to be able to see. Other dignified labors in the fields require sight. Even helping my mother and the other women with cooking and cleaning is unavailable. So, I sit and beg.
            I have often heard the same common Jewish sentiment while sitting here, “Why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?” I never heard an answer before until one Sabbath when a stranger and his followers walked by me. I learned from their conversation his name was Jesus.
            “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” answered Jesus. “He was born so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
            I remember every word He said, but then, I couldn’t understand what he meant. It was a relief that my blind eyes were not the result of some specific sin. No one had ever told me that before. I heard this man spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva and put it on my eyes. “Go,” he told me, “wash in the pool of Siloam”
            Siloam is fed by a spring outside the city walls. Long ago, Hezekiah constructed an underground tunnel to carry the water inside the city walls. Ever since, we have been able to get water without fearing attack. People around here know that Siloam means Sent. It reminds me of the promises the Lord made long ago to send us the Messiah. How I wished He would come soon! Siloam was also the pool I am taken to for the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. I had been there enough so that I knew the way on my own.
            So I went to the pool of Siloam and washed, and came home.  For the first time in my life the darkness faded. Night was over. The Light of day streamed in my formerly dead eyes. I was seeing!
            People rushed around me as I looked around my neighborhood, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” they said to one another. Some agreed. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But I walked right up to them, looked them in the eyes and insisted, “I am the same man!”
            “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.
            I replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and smoothed it over my eyes. He told me to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
            “Where is he now?” they asked me.
            “I don’t know, “ I said.
            Not satisfied with my answers they took me to the Pharisees. The day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened my eyes was a Sabbath, you remember. The Pharisees also asked me how I had received my sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” I replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
            Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” The Pharisees make a lot out of the Sabbath. For them it is not a day of rest but a day to do absolutely nothing. Amazing! You can’t even do good on the Sabbath!
            Others Pharisees asked, “How could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them. One thing they did agree upon. They wanted to know what I thought about the matter.
            Finally they turned again to me, “What have you to say? This man who opened your eyes--who do you say He is?”
            There was only one answer I could give. “He is a prophet.”
            They didn’t take my word for it. In fact, the Jewish leaders still did not believe that I had been blind and had received my sight until they sent for papa and mama. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? If so, how can he see now?”
            I had to take their word that these two people were my parents--until they spoke. I didn’t know who they were just looking at them, being blind since birth. But I knew immediately when they spoke to answer the questions.
            “We know this is our son, “ they answered, “and we know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.”
            Papa and Mama were afraid. The leaders had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. They were trying to protect themselves. That was why they said, “He is of age; ask him.” I am already a Bar-Mitzvah, a “Son of the Covenant.”
            They asked me to testify a second time. “Give glory to God,“ they said, “We know this man is a sinner.”
            I answered, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner or not. But I know this: I was blind but now I see!”
            Then they asked me, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
            I said, “Look, I’ve told you once already and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
            They weren’t any too pleased by that statement. I haven’t had sight for long, but the looks on their faces spoke volumes. Then they started insulting me. I never knew religious leaders could use such words!
            Then they said, “You are his disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
            I answered, “Now that is remarkable! He opened my eyes, yet you don’t know where he comes from. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
            To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw me out. Literally.
            I wasn’t sure what to do next. I knew I wasn’t welcome at Synagogue anymore. I wasn’t ready to go home. So I sat in my old spot to think. A man walked up to me. Remember, I don’t know anyone by sight. I knew His voice, though.
            Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
            “Who is he sir?” I asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
            Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
            “Then I said, “Lord, I believe,” and I fell to my knees and worshiped him.
            Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who think they see will become blind.”
            I was blind and now I see. I didn’t quite understand at the time what He meant by “those who see will become blind.” The Pharisees standing nearby must have been confused as well. They asked, “What? Are you saying we are blind?”
            Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”
            You people of the Twenty-first Century: You are, no doubt, bombarded with questions every day, as I was that one day with the Pharisees. The questions you’re asked are similarly difficult. The precious truths of our scriptures are called into question. Can you prove that there is a God? How do you know the world was created in six days? Are you sure Jesus is the Son of God? Does sin really exist? Is the Bible really inspired by God? Does Jesus’ death have meaning today?
            Questions from the unbelieving world can be a test to faith. Some questions like those I just mentioned have clear answers from the Word. Is it necessary to have an answer for all of those tough questions out there? Absolutely not. Sometimes it is good enough to answer as I did. That I don’t know, but this I do: I was blind but now I see. I believe.
            The Pharisees weren’t blind like I was, but spiritually! They were blind to their own sin-blind to their own guilt. As many times as they asked me the same questions and still didn’t believe--they must be spiritually deaf as well!
            They were right about one thing: I was born in sin. “In sin did my mother conceive me,” writes the Psalmist, but not in the way they thought.
            “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus said, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
            Jesus came into the world to take away the darkness of sin, for He is the light of the world. He is the Christ, the Messiah! He, too, had to face the religious leaders. He, too, had to testify. They didn’t believe Him either and they didn’t just kick him out like they did me--they handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified.
            No, Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah the Jewish leaders expected. And that’s a good thing. We’d probably be at war with the Romans right now if they got what they wanted. But Jesus is a different kind of Messiah. The physical and spiritual healing that He did is evidence of God’s light displayed in Him. Jesus came to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they can see that they are blind. Spiritually blind. Pharisees judge in darkness. They cannot even see their own sin.
            In the light of Faith that God gives us, we see our sin. And Jesus forgives it. Jesus is the light of the world. No darkness can overcome Messiah Jesus. He was crucified, but He rose from the dead. We were all born into a life  of lonely darkness--the darkness of sin. We were all blind at birth. But with the light of faith, we can see, and say together, I was blind, but now I see. Lord, I believe. Amen.