Fourth Sunday in Lent
19 March 2023
Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa
St. Edward’s Church, Mount Dora
St. Paul’s Church, New Smyrna Beach
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Jesus enters into our suffering to heal and transform us.
When our daughter, Kami, was born she kept her little eyes shut because of the bright delivery room lights but when a nurse cupped her hand gently over Kami’s little brow her blue eyes opened widely for the first time to say hello to her new world.
Instinctively, you and I have a visual reflex for self-preservation when we judge light to be too bright and dangerous for us to see we tend to squint or partially shut or even close our eyes.
Perhaps you have experienced this when you have forgotten your sunglasses or tried to transition too quickly outside in our brilliant Florida sunshine and your eyes squinted or closed and you may even have gone back inside again! When the light is bright, we may be afraid to see and narrow our vision.
Just like with our physical eyes God created us to have spiritual vision, spiritual eyes, opened at our baptism, led by the Holy Spirit through our life’s journey who guides us to undo the inequities of spiritual eye dis-ease, spiritual cataracts, macular degeneration, myopia, and even “lazy eye” which keep us from seeing our world with the eyes of Christ.
The Holy Spirit guides us to develop our spiritual eyesight to see divine revelation, Jesus Christ in and at work among us, understand Holy Scripture’s spiritual truth, recognize our own true spiritual condition and to trust as St. Paul wrote... while now we know in part, now... in heaven we will know fully and see fully as we have been fully known. (1 Cor 13: 12)
Jesus Christ wants to fully know, heal, and, transform us. In this morning’s Gospel we hear and see Jesus, the light of the world heal both the physical and spiritual eyesight of a man blind since birth. The man grows into a true disciple trusting Jesus to enter into his physical and spiritual suffering to be transformed while the disciples, the community, the Pharisees and even the man’s family reflexively close their eyes to the truth, demonstrating resistances we ourselves may have to overcome before we can invite Jesus to fully enter into our suffering heal and transform us. (366)
This morning, Jesus is once again walking down the road when he sees HIM....a man in need, an unnamed beggar among beggars, blind from birth, a member of the local synagogue. And just as the Lord teaches Samuel as he chooses a new King among Jesse’s sons Jesus looks upon the man’s heart and senses his openness to healing. Even before Jesus heals the man, making mud with his own life-giving spittle, reminding us of God creating Adam out of Eden’s mud the disciples demonstrate the first resistance to receiving Jesus’ healing, they focus on the man is blind. Focusing on the cause of a person’s illness or disability tends to make the disciples, and us, depersonalize the sufferer. We feel less vulnerable, more in control but the person becomes more a “case” than a human being. And back in those days and from time to time I hear today people’s illnesses or diseases are seen as a result of their own or their parent’s sin.
But as you and I know there are also elements beyond we ourselves environmental factors, relationship dynamics, and the times and chapters of our lives which factor into choices we make and their outcomes. Suffering, as Jesus affirms, is not always related to sinful behavior. Tragedies like the deaths of innocent children, wild fire or floods ravaging the earth happen to good people who do no wrong AND injustices occur when people who act in sinful ways to wiggle out of their responsibilities due to their race, status, power, or privilege.
But we do know sinful behavior eventually results in suffering for the sinner, his or her family, and community. But Jesus says don’t get distracted in the trap of judging other for you never know the battles others are fighting silently or alone rather shift your focus from looking at the cause: WHY to the purpose of suffering: WHO
Shift your focus to God, God can and Jesus will enter into human suffering to heal and transform us, to show mercy and love if we are open and receptive. And just like Jesus we too are to see human need and work to alleviate suffering while it is light!!
After the man, his sightless eyes, smeared with earthy and holy spittle obediently washes in the Pool of Siloam he is ABLE to see!! His neighbors, especially the skeptical ones resist Jesus’ healing with their excessive focus on HOW the miracle happened. Understandably, the neighbors are confused about the man’s sudden change his eyes full of life and wide open, his ability to talk and interact with them after such a simple cleansing.
When we haven’t seen someone for a while and they undergo a change or someone changes suddenly we may be confused for a while too. Some of the man’s neighbors are surprised but look more closely at the man himself and celebrate the miracle.
Others, more skeptical distrust that this is truly the man who was born blind perhaps they doubt that the man could ever be healed or maybe they doubted Jesus’s power but they got caught up in a closed loop, repeatedly asking HOW the miracle occurred.
One thing I know about miracles is that you and I cannot explain them, miracles are mysteries of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit. What we do know, like this man. Testified, is the before and after story, before we welcomed Christ into our hearts through prayer afterwards, we were healed and transformed in ways we could never imagine; we were blind but now we see
The man tells his story repeatedly about how he was before, about how he obeyed Jesus and how he was changed afterwards. He refocuses us back to WHO - WHO heals and wants to KNOW us to let him live in us and we in him.
The Neighbors, out of tradition and to resolve their conflicted views, bring the healed man to the Pharisees who alert us to a third resistance to receiving Christ’ s healing: our focus on WHEN healing occurs.
The Pharisees had clear evidence before them, this man who was blind since birth could now see. Jesus was gaining popularity and traction among the people for he had healed a man ill for 38 years on the Sabbath. Before Jesus, taking and kneading the clay and healing the man had broken the Sabbath and violated a simple rabbinic interpretation if the actions violated God’s law, the actions could not be from God.
While it is difficulty for you and me to face there are times in which we too act like the Pharisees, we think we have the light and cannot hear others’ perspectives, know the answers and avoid opportunities to study and reflect upon the Bible, insist on doing things “our way” and
cannot consider other possibilities. Yet again Jesus reminds us that it is not WHEN a miracle happens. WHEN is both up to God’s perfect timing and our willingness to receive God’s gift
but WHO is the source is the focus.
Jesus’ message is that we are always called to put compassion for others’ needs over the letter of the Law and to put people over their peculiarities.
Lastly, the Pharisees turn to the healed man’s parents. How is it he now sees? The parents step out of the triangle set up by the Pharisees and defer to their son himself he is an adult after all
but the parents real focus is on staying WHERE they are, respected members of the synagogue who risk excommunication if they were to testify to Jesus’s healing power.
How often do you and I defer witnessing to Jesus’ s work in our lives for fear of being seen “Out there” to our neighbors, friends, and community? Overlying focusing on WHERE we stand in society can disconnect us from WHO is to be the foundation of our lives.
And so we come to the man blind from birth he does not asked to be healed but opens his heart to the possibilities first hearing, then seeing his world and Jesus for the first time with new eyes.
He does not focus on HOW or WHAT or WHERE he is. He zooms in on WHO has done the healing and the DIFFERENCE Jesus’s touch has made upon his life. Withstanding inquisitions from his neighbors and the Pharisees again and again the man sticks to his guns witnessing to the saving grace in Jesus Christ opening his eyes and his heart more fully to see Jesus as a man, a prophet, and believe in and worship Jesus as Lord in response to Jesus’s own revelation to his true identity as the Son of Man.
The man, once a blind beggar on the side of the road, on the margins willing to be physically healed grows into a believer who witnesses to Jesus’s power and compassion trusting that Jesus, and only Jesus, stands with him in the end. Jesus stood with him and he stood with Jesus. He was blind but then he could see.
And so this week, I invite you to take a look at your focus on the WHERE, WHAT, HOW that distract you from focusing on WHO... Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior and confess, repent, and return to Jesus so He can enter into your suffering and in His time and way bring you peace and spiritual healing.