The Fourth Sunday in Lent: March 22, 2020
Year A: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
At the time of this posting, there was no audio recording of this sermon.
I want to welcome you all to this celebration of Morning Prayer. I welcome all of Beckford Parish, Emmanuel and St. Andrew’s who are able to gather with us virtually, and to all our friends who may be joining us. This is a different way of worshiping together, but I want to assure you of what Bishop Goff has said repeatedly over the last two weeks. While we may not be able to be for in-person worship, God is and will be worshiped. We continue to be the Body of Christ in the world around us. It may be different for a season in our lives than what we are used to, but we are God’s people and we will adapt as we must.
Think about how a blind man had to adapt. A man unable to see since birth. The disciples look at this blind man and ask an age-old theological question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Their vision is distorted by the popular belief that suffering is caused by sin and you get what you deserve. How is it then that this man is healed they wonder. They ask him, “how were your eyes opened?” Two times the religious leaders call him in. Two times they interrogate him. Two times he gives glory to God. They cannot see the prophet, the man from God, that this formerly blind man now sees. They cannot see the new life, the new man, the new creation that bears testimony to the man from God. At times they turn a blind eye to this man and God.
Three years ago, on this Sunday in Lent, I preached about the fear felt by the blind man, the fear felt by those around him because his world had changed. I asked folks to think about a time when they were scared, really scared. I said “maybe then it was about your marriage, your job, the illness of a loved one. That fear had a way of blinding you.” I know that for me three years ago, I was in the midst of a search process that resulted in my move to Virginia. My fears were very different then.
And here we are today, all of us with probably pretty much the same fear. The coronavirus occupies all our attention and has dramatically changed the way we can interact with one another.
Some people want to label this virus as a punishment from God, or someone’s fault, a reason to blame or be angry at someone. Some even see it as proof that God is either cruel or doesn’t exist. I do suspect that many faithful Christians are interrogating God right now: “Why? How? What do you mean we won’t celebrate Easter?! Isn’t that your Son’s day?”
But just like what Jesus said of the man in today’s lesson: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, he was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him.” What Jesus if referring to, what he means, is evidenced by what he immediately set about doing: he healed the man, gave him his sight, allowed him to see, allowed his insight and dignity to flourish.
The works of God are healing, not spreading disease or blindness. People want to snap their fingers and have all problems and challenges disappear. “Why couldn’t God do this or that? Why didn’t God make everything automatically just the way I always wanted?” But notice, when Jesus heals this man, it is not instantaneous: he takes time; he makes mud; he spreads it on the man’s eyes; he talks to him; gives him instructions of where to go and how to wash.
We must turn to God in these times of fear. We have to acknowledge the fears that live within us and how they blur our vision because fear narrows our world view and our vision becomes myopic, nearsighted to the point of exclusion.
Nobody is particularly happy about not being able to tend to their day-to-day lives. But healing and coming to see the truth about what is happening in our world is a process that takes time.
Being God’s people in this world, especially right now at this very moment, is a process that takes time. Nothing is more important than living a life full of compassion. And I have seen the compassion in the last two weeks. Neighbors helping neighbors. Parishioners offering to shop for others, offering to take food to their homes. Offering to “be” in the world when others are not able to be. Opening our food pantry even in the most difficult of circumstances so the most vulnerable among us has food.
We live our lives at this difficult time. I assure you that it is not a punishment from God. Yet it is a time when God’s work of healing can and does work in our lives. We pray for others, reach out on the phone, we are thankful for those who work so that others may be safe, fed or healed. In this time, our compassion can grow. Christ is here to heal and save us—there is nothing to fear because we live in God’s compassion.
Don’t just look around. Look within. What do you see? How do you see? Where is the mud of darkness in your life? How are you blind? Name it. Acknowledge it and then go wash. Because when we wash the darkness away, we give way to the light of Christ.
As St. Paul says in today’s Epistle:
Once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord, you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true… but everything exposed by the light becomes visible for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Christ will shine on you. Amen.
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