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Lent 4 – April 3, 2011

Lent 4A RCL April 3, 2011

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5: 8-14
John 9:1-41

Our first lesson this morning finds the people Israel approximately 200 years later on their journey. God has anointed Saul king over Israel, but Saul has proven himself disobedient and morally unfit. So God sends the prophet Samuel to anoint the king God has chosen.

 Jesse introduces all his sons to Samuel, and each is a fine young man. However, none is the true king but the youngest, David, who is out tending the sheep. Point number one in today’s lessons is that God so often chooses the most unlikely servants. God chooses ordinary, even weak servants. And we humans find that so difficult to grasp. Even Jesus, in the healing of the blind man, is considered by the Pharisees to be too ordinary to be a healer, and they have to attribute the healing to evil forces.

 The psalm this morning reminds us of the choice of a shepherd to lead the people Israel, and of Jesus, our good shepherd, who calls us each by name and knows each of us intimately, and cares so much for us that he gives himself. Today, as in every Eucharist, he is in our midst to feed and nurture us. He is with us to nourish us with his presence and with his energy.

 Today’s gospel offers us an extraordinary incident of healing. Jesus and his disciples meet the man born blind, and the first question that pops into the disciples’ heads is, “Who sinned, that this should happen to this person?” What is this a punishment for? Point number two in the lessons for today is: suffering is not a punishment. God is not out to hurt people. God loves us and wants all of us to be whole. Suffering and pain happen in a broken world. But they are not sent by God. Suffering is an opportunity for healing and for making whole, not for judging or blaming.

 In the face of this affliction, Jesus says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

 And then comes the very earthy act of Jesus’ spitting on the ground and making a little mud pie, a poultice of mud, and putting it on the man’s eyes. He tells the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Siloam means sent. Apostle means one who is sent. We are all called, we are all sent to proclaim the good news. And the man goes and washes, and, miraculously, he can see!

 I read the gospel in its entirety because, though it is long, it illustrates the way in which we humans, when we get a particular mindset, cannot see truth. We are, in effect, blind. In this case, the Pharisees, who are so set on law and observance of the law, cannot see the wonderful, creative healing work of the God they profess to honor.

“Then I washed and now I see,” reports the man who was born blind. But the Pharisees don’t get it. The man’s parents come to testify—you would think Jesus had committed a crime instead of effecting a healing. The whole scene looks more and more like a trial, with the Pharisees as judge and jury. The Pharisees accuse Jesus, the Son of God, of being a sinner and it is the man born blind, who has spent all his life having to beg, who is powerless, who never went to college, much less law school or seminary, who reminds the Pharisees that healings like this do not come from evil, but from good. The Pharisees simply cannot hear it. “You would teach us?” they sneer. And that closes them off from Christ, from God.

Which leads us to a third point. Who in this gospel story is really blind? The devout religious leaders are blinded by their own rigid thinking and exclusivity. The light of Christ is forever opening up new truths for us to see. And the new truths come from the most unexpected sources.

 The youngest brother is the true king. A blind man is healed and has truths to share if we can be open to those truths. Perhaps we have some things in common with the blind man. Perhaps we have at one time or another felt powerless. Perhaps we have felt in need of help and healing, for ourselves, or for someone close to us. As we have said, God does not send suffering. God wants for us wholeness and health. In a broken world, however, there is illness and death and other tragedy. Christ is with us in the midst of all that. He is with us to bring comfort and strength. In some way, each of us has met Christ and has gone and washed in our own pool of Siloam and been healed.

It is that inexpressible love and hope and healing of Christ that draws us together in community in Him. And in the face of the light and love of Christ, all brokenness has the potential to become wholeness and health.

                                                 Amen

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