4th Sunday in Lent, 2017 26 March 2017 I like going out in the winter when there is fresh snow and when the sun is shining, but I know that if I don’t wear my “shades” I will be soon blinded by the intense light. I also love to look at those 3D puzzles where you must look at it just right to see the 3D image pop out. And if I am bored I like to try my hand at games where you must find something hidden on a page, or in real life go geocaching, which in the end depends entirely on your eyes to see the cache that is hidden. I know, I know. I must not have much to do with my time.
My parents liked to go sightseeing in their car. Sometimes we would go for a Sunday drive on back roads just so we could go slowly and “see the sights.” My mother gave up driving in her mid 70’s after she tried to drive the car out the far end of their garage. My father became blind in his right eye and my mother became the source of vision for anything on the right side of the car. It worked quite well until it became clear father should not be driving at all.
So it is with the scripture readings today: there are altogether too many ways of seeing. It is as if the people who put the lectionary together wanted everything possible about how both God and humanity see placed in one lectionary reading.
There is a lot to be said about the unnamed (yes, another anonymous but ironically extremely well known) figure in John. We can add him to the list along with the woman at the well. If she was Everywoman, our friend today is Everyman, meaning you and I are the blind man and the woman at the well. Because I am a physician, the man born blind intrigues me. There are a few reasons a baby may be born blind: certain infections (of which rubella used to be a more common cause so don’t get me started on why you should immunize everyone for that disease), congenital cataracts, and glaucoma. Now only the latter two can be treated so that sight may be restored and it needs to be done early to allow a child to develop any reasonable vision. So, lest you have any doubts, I do not take this story literally. It is a true story but it is not scientifically factual. This story is true, very true in many ways.
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Do you believe that sin causes people to be born blind? Well, I do not. Parents can do things that will affect the fetus, but to call that sin?? Jesus flatly says, no. Unfortunately, he makes is sound as though God decided this man should be born blind so that Jesus could show off his power as an adult. If that is the character of God, count me out. Have you thought that perhaps, as Everyman and Everywoman, we are all born in the image of God but so imperfect. It is not until we meet the Christ and accept Jesus as the child of God that we can begin to see.
6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
So Jesus took dirt, the stuff out of which we and all of humanity were made and added water, saliva, the living water that comes from Jesus and tells him to wash in the place where water is poured in honor of God. Thus he, and we, become new creations and join in the community of God.
30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Everyman and Everywoman has been given sight. He now is able to address the Pharisees. How is it that you have learned to see and how is it that you become a witness? John was writing at a time when his community had been expelled from the synagogues and were groping to find a way of their own. We all have those times in our own lives where certainty gives way to fear and uncertainty. Yet here is an answer for us: life is about following Jesus, and that way will be different for you and for me and for evangelicals and mainline Protestants and Orthodox. Following God with be different for Jews and Muslims and Christians.
As Christians, and more particularly as Anglican Christians, we “see” ourselves as following Christ’s incarnation, as people who believe that God is with us even as we are in the very place at this very moment. We see a faith that is to be lived, day in and day out. And if asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” our answer would be “I believe”. Amen