Monday, March 3, 2008

Sermon for Year A Lent 4

B-L-A-M-E

That is quite a long gospel reading we just heard this morning.
Gospel readings in Lent tend to be longer.
I don’t know if that is to test our endurance, our patience,
or just the congregation’s ability to stand up for a long time.

I do know
this is a wonderful narrative story
in this morning’s gospel reading from John.
The story of Jesus healing a blind man.

It is indeed a story about healing.
It is story about God’s glory being revealed in Jesus.
It is about the Pharisees missing the point.
It is about the fear of losing one’s community.
It is a story about belief.

This is truly one of the great point by point stories told in the New Testament.
The writer of John’s gospel wants to be sure twe understand
that it was Jesus
who took spit and mud and sent the blind man to wash
and the man could then see.

I once was blind but now I see.

This morning’s gospel is also about another element.

I don’t know if other countries have songs where words are spelled out,
but I know we very much like those songs here in America.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T
sings Aretha.

D-I-V-O-R-C-E
sings Tammy.

B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his name-O!
sing children around the campfire.

Well, today in our gospel reading we have a whole cast of characters
and they are singing out B-L-A-M-E.

Blame.
Life doesn’t just happen.
Grace doesn’t just come.
It’s got to be somebody’s fault.
Who’s to B-L-A-M-E?

There is a whole chorus of characters asking the blame question in this story.
There are the disciples:
Who has sinned? they ask Jesus?
Is the blind man a sinner
or can we blame his blindness on his parents?

The disciples’ questions reflect the theology of their time—
a theology which still lingers today:
Bad things—like blindness—don’t happen to good people.
Somebody did something to deserve this bad thing.
Somebody must have done something to deserve it.

Is this man himself to blame for his blindness—
or are his parents to blame?

Jesus says, Neither are to blame.
Jesus says, Here are the facts.
This man was born blind.
It happens.
No one is to blame.

Then Jesus heals the man.
No big fanfare.
Jesus takes a little mud, a little spit,
and rubs it on the man’s eyes.
He sends the man to wash
and now the man can see.

The once-blind man’s neighbors are confused.

This can’t be right, they mutter.
This can’t be the same man we have known all these years.
That man was blind. He deserved to be blind.
He or his parents were sinners in some way—
they deserved what they got.

The neighbors are not happy that the man can see.
This healing, this miracle
does not fit with their view of the world.

The once blind man tries to tell them
about this wonderful thing that has happened to him,
about Jesus.
The once-blind man wants to share the good news.

But the neighbors are not in a good news hearing frame of mind.
They don’t want to meet this Jesus.
They want someone to blame.
They want an answer about how something good
can happen to someone they have judged to be bad all these years.

They grab the once blind man
and rush him off to the Pharisees.


The Pharisees are on top of it.
(or at least they think they are)


They begin to sing at the top of their lungs,
B-L-A-M-E.
We are not believing that this good thing happened to you.
If God made you blind you were meant to stay that way.
Whose payroll are you on?
Who set you up to spread these lies?

And the once-blind man tells the story of his healing all over again.

And the Pharisees completely miss the point.
The Pharisees are blinded by the details.
So Jesus healed you on the Sabbath?!!?
That’s against the law.
Jesus is to blame.

But how can they blame someone who made a blind man see?

It must be a hoax. This man was never really blind.

The Pharisees drag the once-blind man off to his parents.

The once blind man’s parents confirm:
Yes, this is our son.
Yes, he was born blind.

But then even the man’s parents join the ranks of fear.
They don’t want to get in trouble.

Ask our son, they say.
He’s old enough to be responsible.
Don’t blame us.

So the Pharisees call the once blind man once more.
They want the man to say that Jesus is evil.
They want the man to declare that Jesus is a sinner.
They want the man to be as blind as they are.

But the once-blind man answers honestly.
I don’t know if Jesus is a sinner or not.
Can any of us judge who is a sinner?
But here is what I do know:
I was blind. Now I’m not.
I can see.

This is a story about people looking for someone to blame.

What really strikes me about this story is that no one
celebrates that this blind man can see.

There is not one moment of joy shared with the once-blind man.
No one slaps him on the back and says,
Buddy! We are so happy for you. You can see.
What incredibly wonderful news!

Even the man’s own parents do not celebrate that their son can now see.
There is not one moment of joy.
Those who have surrounded the once-blind man all his life
only want to find someone to blame.
They have no interest in healing—not the blind man’s healing,
Not their own healing.

When we look around for someone to blame,
someone to fault, someone to scapegoat,
it is a clear indicator we are not acting out of love
but out of fear.

If we can find someone to blame,
we won’t have to face the truth of our own lives.
The only problem here is that our eyes will remain closed
and so will our hearts.

The song is ours to choose:
We can join the multitude that still sings that age-old refrain today:
B-L-A-M-E.

Or…

Or we can step out of line from the crowd
and take a step toward Jesus.
We can start to hum a tune that moves us toward our own healing
and the healing of the world.

F-A-I-T-H.

H-O-P-E.

L-O-V-E.

Faith. Hope. Love.
These three.

God has given us the words.
It’s up to us to write the music.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Jeanne
Right on the mark as usual--it is so much easier to be blind and blame someone else than to see and take responsibility for our lives; personally I'm working on faith!