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Monday, April 4, 2011

Sermon from April 3, 2011 + The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A)

“Do You Also Want to Become His Disciples?”
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: John 9:1-41; Ephesians 5:8-14

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

This story seems to be simple, doesn’t it? It’s all about a healing Jesus does. It’s all about seeing when you couldn’t see before. Except the story’s not about physical sight at all. Greek, like English, uses the same verb “to see” to mean both physical sight and mental or spiritual insight. In this story the man born blind gets two gifts of sight, the first physical and the second spiritual, and the second is by far more important to him. Likewise, the Pharisees, whose eyes by all we can tell were just fine, never see at all.

But what if seeing isn’t our problem? What if our problem is what we do or don’t do once we’ve seen?

So we’ll begin with the question of seeing and not seeing – but we can’t end there.

Initially, this is simply an account of a man who was born blind receiving his sight from Jesus. And the question everyone wants to know from this man is “who did this?” For the man born blind, it was very simple: once he was blind. Now he can see. He doesn’t know who Jesus is, just that he healed him. Once he finally meets Jesus at the end of the story, he becomes a believer – and a follower.

In John’s Gospel, these miracles Jesus does are called signs, signs which point to who Jesus is. And this man follows the sign. In fact, the whole story is a story of the movement for this man from him knowing nothing about Jesus except that he’s a healer, to being a follower and almost an evangelist himself with the Pharisees. And what gives him life is that he now sees, believes, that Jesus is God’s gift to him of life and salvation.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, have a different kind of blindness with which to deal. They witnessed a miracle. As the man himself said, never before had they seen a man born blind get his sight back. But they couldn’t see it. They couldn’t see who Jesus was. All they saw was a lawbreaker – a man who healed on the Sabbath.

We’re amazed that they’re so blind they can’t see God’s Son in their midst. But Jesus healed on a Sabbath. That was too much. God wouldn’t break God’s own rules, even to help someone, they thought. And they were sure they knew what God would do. They wanted a God they could control, manage, understand in their terms. They weren’t bad people as much as people who felt more comfortable when they knew the rules and could stay within them. The problem was when God moved outside the rules they were completely lost.

But what if you can see what God has done and still don’t know if you’re going to do something about that?

We have been immeasurably blessed by God. We have seen what the Pharisees could not. We’re much more in the position of the formerly blind man – we’ve been directly touched by the love of God in Jesus. We know what many people do not – that God loves us enough to die for us and give us life. That God has forgiven us and now calls us to live a new life, a life of light, a life like Christ. We know, as Paul says today in Ephesians, that we used to be in the darkness and now are in the light.

But in some ways, we’re worse off than the Pharisees – we know what God has done in Jesus. We’ve seen it for ourselves. We’re just not sure we’re ready to give Jesus our lives. We tend to live our lives for ourselves. Our number one priority is usually us. Not God. Not God’s will. We want God around when we want God, but not when God might need us. Like the Pharisees, we also tend to want to control God’s presence in the world and in our lives. We tend to feel threatened when God calls us to see things differently, to live differently, to believe differently.

Because that’s the rub, isn’t it? Jesus didn’t come to do miracles that we could see and believe and that was it. In fact, most times, Jesus tried to downplay the miracles, because he was more interested in asking people to follow him with their lives. Through Jesus God says there’s a different way to live than the self-centered ways we usually live, and calls us to look at the world differently.

To start thinking about other people in different ways, to change our lives so that justice and peace might begin to appear. Like this healed man, there are consequences to following Jesus, consequences to living lives in and under Jesus’ rule and reign. And we can become very uncomfortable with those consequences.

So the man’s question to the Pharisees is in fact our critical question today: Do you also want to become his disciples?

Do we or do we not want to believe in Jesus and follow him?

Paul clearly urges us to follow, to be what God has made us to be. He says, “You used to be in the dark, now you can see. So walk as if you can see.” Be who you are, he says. We have God within us now. We’ve seen God’s healing grace in ways the Pharisees couldn’t. The Spirit of God is ours, to open our eyes to the light. So, Paul says, live and walk as the children of light in the Lord that we are.

And that’s our invitation: to believe in what we’ve seen in Jesus, and then to follow Jesus with our lives. Like the man born blind, we once were blind, but now in Baptism we have begun to see. And we can continue to seek this gift of healing sight from the one who today calls himself the Light of the world. We can seek Jesus’ light and life in our lives – and follow him always. Not just when it’s convenient and not intruding on our lives. We can ask our Lord to shine in our hearts so we can see where we’re going in life, and alter our priorities accordingly.

And yes, our lives will change. Things will be different, as they are for all followers of Jesus. But this is life, and we’ve seen it, we’ve seen God’s grace. Do we really want another option?
Now that we know God’s answer to us and the world is found in this Jesus, we can see how it will change our lives.

But instead of fearing that change, we can also see that following Jesus is the only way to real life. Even though it will mean changes for us, we know what we have seen God do, and we want that. And even though much of our life will still be mystery, at least we’ll know where we’re going. And even more, we’ll know who’s going with us, beside us, ahead of us, guiding and leading and showing us the way. When we stumble, Jesus will pick us up. When we sin, and walk away from him, Jesus will bring us back and set us on the right path again.

We were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. Let’s walk as children of light – and let Jesus lead us in all our ways. Because we know it’s the only way to real life.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

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