Oct 14, 2012: When the Blind Can See and the Sighted Can’t

Posted on : Oct 11th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

The next three Sundays we’re going to be looking at how we may “see things more clearly” both in stories from the Bible and in our lives.  I just returned from a week with my nephew, Josh, so I’ve got enough sermon material for a whole year.  Josh is to biblical literalism what Bill O’Reilly is to liberalism.  Josh delights in pointing out every contradiction in scripture, every antiquated and oppressive social custom that conflicts with our current sensibilities, every theological gaff that was written down in the name of the Holy.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love “discussing” the Bible and faith with Josh, and he loves trying to prove me wrong!  However, one thing I always learn when I am with Josh is how difficult it is for us living in the 21st Century to read scripture that was written the way people thought in the first century vs. the way we “think” (or don’t!) today.   Clearly, one of the worst disasters the clergy ever created was the idea that the Bible is “literal truth” or the “literal word of God.”   That was the dumbest thing the Christian Church could have ever done.  It was done of course to “elevate” the importance of Scripture, but it was a bad idea based on faulty theology from the very beginning!

Scripture is a collection of stories about people’s faith experience with God.  Even using the word “stories” is confusing because in the 21st century our understanding of “story” is not the same as in the first century.  In our culture we expect a news story to be factual.  (Well, even that concept is changing rapidly as we now read and listen to “politically spun” news stories.)  And “children’s stories” are thought to be cute and cuddly, but not necessarily true.  And then of course we have any number of “stories” in books that are either factual or fictional.

Religious story as told in the Bible is different from any of these.  Religious stories are what we in the UCC call “testimonies of faith,” not “tests of faith.”  Religious stories tell us of a religious experience or “open us” to the power or presence of God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit in our life experience.  The “truth” in religious story is not in its historical or factual accuracy, it’s in “how it connects us with God.”  See what I mean about the BIG difference between a “literal approach” to reading scripture and a “spiritual approach?”

This Sunday we’re going to begin this series with one of my favorite stories in scripture.  Sunday, I’ll tell you more about why it is one of my favorites, but here’s a clue.  When the stories of the Bible really speak to us, it’s because the story in the bible relates to our life story today.

So, traditionally, this story in the Gospel of John (John 9 – see below) has been referred to as “Jesus healing a man who was born blind.”  It’s the kind of story kids really like because it’s kind of gross.  Jesus and his disciples passed by a guy who was born blind (or blind from birth).  The disciples presumed his blindness was because of sin.  So they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, was it this individual’s sin that caused the blindness or that of his parents?”  “Neither,” Jesus answered.  “It wasn’t because of anyone’s sin, rather it was to let God’s work shine forth in this person.”

(Here comes the gross part.  Kid’s love this!  You might want to try it for Halloween.)  With that, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his spit and smeared it on the eyes of the man who was born blind.  Then Jesus told him to go wash in the public pool (kind of like a bath).  So the person went and washed and came back able to see!

The townspeople, the guy’s family, and the religious authorities were astounded.  Each of them asked, “How were your eyes opened?”  After much questioning, the man simply says, I don’t know.  All I know is, “I used to be blind, and now I can see!”

Now, if you Google this story or check out 150 sermons on this story they will go on endlessly about “how” Jesus’ spit and the mud might have healed blindness.  Sadly, every one of those theories totally misses the point of this story.  The story isn’t about “healing,” the story is about how Jesus “opens our eyes.”  In fact, towards the end of the story Jesus says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

How is it that those of us who are sighted, can’t see; and those who are blind can?  This story is a wonderful story about spiritual awakening – about “seeing” in new ways – “seeing” God in new ways.  “Seeing” Jesus in new ways.  “Seeing” ourselves in new ways.  Oh, just plain “seeing” in new ways!   You see, the point is: we can’t “see” the life Christ offers us, unless our eyes are first opened.

“See” you on Sunday.




~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

John 9:1-25

Jesus’ disciples encountered a person who was blind from birth.

As Jesus walked along, he saw a guy who had been blind from birth.  The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, was it this guy’s sin that caused the blindness, or that of the parents?”

“Neither,” answered Jesus,

“It wasn’t because of anyone’s sin-

Not this person’s, nor the parents’.

Rather, it was to let God’s works shine forth in this person.

We must do the deeds of the One who sent me while it is still day –

for night is coming, when no one can work.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

With that, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva and smeared the blind guy’s eyes with the mud.  Then Jesus said, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” – [“Siloam” means “sent.”]  So the person went off to wash, and came back able to see.

Neighbors and those who had been accustomed to seeing this person as a beggar began to ask, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”  Some said yes; others said no – the guy who had been healed simply looked like the beggar.

But the individual in question said, “No – it was me!”

The people then asked, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

The guy answered, “The one they call Jesus made mud and smeared it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash.  When I went and washed, I was able to see.”

“Where is Jesus?” they asked.

The guy replied, “I have no idea.”

They took the guy who had been born blind to the Pharisees.  It had been on a Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud paste and opened his eyes.  The Pharisees asked how the individual could see.  They were told, “Jesus put mud on my eyes.  I washed it off, and now I can see.”

This prompted some Pharisees to say, “This Jesus cannot be from God, because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”  Others argued, “But how could a sinner perform signs like these?”  They were sharply divided.

Then they addressed the blind person again:  “Since it was your eyes he opened, what do you have to say about this Jesus?”

“He’s a prophet,” the person said.

The Temple authorities refused to believe that this one had been blind and had begun to see, until they summoned his parents.  “Is this your child?” they asked, “and if so, do you attest that your child was blind at birth?  How do you account for the fact that now your child can see?”

The parents answered, “We know this is our child, and he was blind since birth.  But how our child can see now, or who opened his blind eyes, we have no idea.  But don’t ask us – ask our child.  He is old enough to speak for himself.”

The parents answered this way because they were afraid of the Temple authorities, who had already agreed among themselves that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.  That was why they said, “Our child is of age and should be asked directly.”

A second time they summoned the guy who had been born blind and said, “Give God the glory instead; we know that this Jesus is a sinner.”

“I don’t know whether he is a sinner or not,” the guy answered. All I know is that I used to be blind, and now I can see!”

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