March 26, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

John 9:1-41

Audio available by clicking on the microphone, upper right.

Romper.  Romper. Stomper Boo.  Tell Me.  Tell Me. Tell Me, Do.  Magic Mirror, Tell Me Today.  Did all my friends have fun at play?  All my friends had fun today.  I see Julie .  I see Timothy.  I see Andrew.  I see Javier.  I see Odin.

You have to be a certain age to remember that. It was a regular part of Romper Room, a television series that ran for forty years, starting in 1953. Miss Nancy or a later host looked into the camera and named all the kids that she could see having fun.  It was magic.

For a long time, I believed that people on television could see me.  I also believed that other pictures might be able to see me, too.  I sometimes wondered if the picture of my grandma on my dresser meant that she could see what was happening in my room. This was both comforting and eventually quite disturbing to me.

Seeing or not-seeing, being seen or being missed, is how today’s gospel lesson turns. John does this throughout his whole gospel.  The people who should see don’t, often willfully.  And people that wouldn’t be expected to see the deepest truths end up with eyes wide open.

The whole story starts with the disciples, “seeing” a man born blind.  They want to have a theological discussion about sin and its effects.  They’re willing to talk about him, but they don’t see him.  You almost expect him to say, “I’m right here.  I can hear you.”

Jesus sees that God’s power can work through this man.  Of course, healing his eyesight isn’t the miracle.  The miracle is that this man who is disabled, and judged as a product of sin, could see the deepest spiritual truths.  By the end of the story, the man sees Jesus for who he is:  the presence of God’s light on earth.  He saw the truth of the incarnation, God dwelling right in front of our eyes.

Thank goodness we’re not the kind of people who miss this kind of thing.

Thank goodness that we never talk about people, as if they aren’t in the room.

Thank goodness that we never focus on the sins of other people, or speculate on what they might have done to end up in the circumstances that they do.

Thank goodness, we never see the disability before we see the person, the skin color before the character.

Thank goodness, like those bad parents in the story, we are so afraid that they won’t stand up for their child.

Thank goodness we never focus on the extenuating circumstances when evaluating ourselves or our friends, and then hold others to a rigid standard for the law.

Thank goodness that we never think we’re better than those in different countries, or other religions, or who speak a different kind of English.

And, thanks be to God, we can see better than every referee in professional sports.

Give glory to God, Gloria Dei!,we can see.

Some think that the issue in the gospel of John was not that the Jewish leaders totally missed the point, but instead the Pharisees represent Christians, within the Christian community, that missed the glory of God, right in front of them because the categories of the world were more visible, more prominent, than the incarnation of Christ.

If light has come into the world through Jesus Christ, through the glory of the cross, in the light of Easter morning, and the breathing of the Spirit into the whole church, John invites us to open our eyes.  The announcement of the church is that the light of God dwells in the world, especially in those we’re not inclined to see, the outsider, the ones that we’re inclined to walk past.

In these days of Lent, John is asking, “Do you really see the truth that’s in the world?”  Do you see the truth about your neighbor?

In these days of deep partisan division, we have to ask ourselves, “Are we seeing one another through the eyes of Christ?”  We’ve wondered even here at Gloria Dei, so proud of being inclusive and welcoming, whether those on the more conservative end of the political spectrum feel the same welcome, the same embrace.  Or are some of us just ready to pounce, to pontificate about what we’re sure is right, eliding our politics and our morality in such a way that we are the most righteous in the room.  The most Lutheran view of politics is that God is at work in our political process, regardless of party.  AND that every proposal, regardless of party, contains sin.

The general spiritual rule by all the wise saints down through the centuries, seems to be that the more clarity we have about what’s right, the more humility we need in expressing ourselves, the more openness we need in hearing another’s truth. Listening is usually a better strategy than pontificating. Assuming we’re different is generally better than assuming we all believe the same thing. Inviting different ideas is much better than winning the argument. The risk for any household of faith is that we become religious leaders like the ones Jesus’ encounters, the blind leading the blind.

The world doesn’t need more tone-deaf, eyes tightly shut, religious people.

The world needs light, grace, love, forgiveness.

Which, of course, is exactly what Jesus offers.  And, miraculous, gives us the eyes to see it.  There very last story we will read before Easter morning is John’s account of the resurrection at the Easter Vigil.  In the garden, Mary doesn’t see that the gardener is Jesus, until he says her name.

I see Mary, and I Mohammed, and I see Paul, and I you, all of you.