Sunday, March 26, 2017
In seminary, our preaching professor was legally blind. When we talked about preaching this passage and others where Jesus heals the blind, his perspective was that physical blindness is not the real problem. As John tells us, the culture of the day blamed any disability on sin – this man or his parents must have done something wrong. Instead, we hear Jesus say from the start of this passage that this man “was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” It’s as if Jesus is suggesting that the blind man, while limited by not being able to physically see, is able to “see” in a spiritual sense in a way others around him cannot. They are limited by their physical sight. Jesus tells us God is using blindness as a gift to help people see God in a new way. So, yes, Jesus gives this man physical sight, but Jesus opens the man’s eyes in a different, spiritual sense to see Jesus as the Son of Man.
Last week we talked about living water – that while the Samaritan woman can offer Jesus a drink at the well to quench his physical thirst, Jesus offers us water for our spiritual thirst – water where we never will be thirsty again. Today, we are again not just talking about physical blindness, but spiritual blindness. How does Jesus heal us spiritually so that we can see God and ourselves in a new light? The Pharisees are confused by Jesus’ explanation of spiritual blindness. They ask, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” and Jesus says, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Where are we spiritually blind like the Pharisees, unable to see how God is at work? Maybe we become overconfident in thinking we know the right answer, or have the solution to the problems we’re facing. Maybe we think we know the direction God’s leading us, but we’ve encountered closed doors, or that the way we thought God was leading us wasn’t actually the right way. In the show Silicon Valley, one of the computer programmers, Dinesh, is a stereotypically very nerdy guy who constantly has trouble finding a girlfriend. He is excited to get to know a new employee working in another part of the country through a video chat. He’s attracted to her, and she seems to like talking with him, too. The picture on the video chat, however, is blurry. Being the smart computer programmer he is, he designs a better video chat program to make the video picture clearer so he can better see this woman. When they try the new clearer video program, he’s delighted that his program works, and he can see that she is even more physically attractive than he thought. What he didn’t account for, however, is that she can see him more clearly, too. Suddenly she makes it known that she already has a boyfriend and isn’t able to chat with him anymore – It’s pretty clear she is NOT physically attracted to him in the same way.
Sometimes our physical sight gets in the way of seeing how God sees. We judge people based on our sight as not good enough for us to be friends with, or for God to love, whether we realize this consciously or not. Because of our sight, we might mislabel others as “poor,” “attractive,” “sinful” or “dangerous.” We’re reminded however, that our physical sight can get in the way at times like these, from our first reading’s story of David’s anointing in 1 Samuel: “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God wants to heal our spiritual blindness, and we can start by confessing all the ways that we are blind – blind to those who may be unattractive or fit our distasteful stereotypes but are close to the heart of God. We are blind to doing God’s will rather than our own and trusting where God leads instead of forging ahead based on what we think we see. We are blind to the ways that God is at work.
The good news is that Jesus comes to heal us from our spiritual blindness so that we can sing confidently those words in the hymn Amazing Grace: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see!” At our baptisms, we were given a candle by a representative of the congregation who says, “Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life.’” Light of life, living water. Water to quench our spiritual thirst for God by connecting us to God creator of us all. Light of life to guide us all our days and lead us from spiritual blindness to sight. These are the amazing gifts God gives us so that we can live the life that truly is life in Christ.
Do any of you know if you still have your baptismal candle at home? I know mine is long gone. During Advent, you might already light candles at home on a wreath to mark the weeks leading up until Christmas. Perhaps now you might either light your baptismal candle or another candle from time to time to remind yourself and your family that God gives us new eyes to see – eyes of faith to look at the world differently, eyes to trust God’s leading instead of our own, light to give us hope that shines even in the darkest moments of our lives. This light can remind us of the new life we receive through baptism: that we were lost and now found, thirsty for God, but the thirst is quenched, blind, but now we see.
The last piece that the baptismal candle can remind us of is how we are sent to show others God’s works, too, so that others might see God in Jesus Christ, too, and want to follow him. The pool that the blind man goes to wash away the mud so that he might see is called Siloam. Do you remember what that means in English? “Sent.” Jesus sends the blind man healed from his physical and spiritual blindness to tell others that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Son of God. Jesus sends the man to help show others God in Jesus Christ. Jesus sends us, too, anointed with the cross of Christ, washed in the waters of baptism, with light for the world. Just like the blind man, God created us to be born so that God’s works might be revealed in us. What particular gifts has God given you that you might have to share with the world? What special abilities or disabilities do you have that can help others see God in a new way, or help others see God at work in their lives? God is sending us out, too, to share what we have, use what we have, for God’s glory. Amen.