(rough draft of my sermon for this week, enjoy)
In 3rd grade we had a day when we were attempted to live the school day like a person with has a physical disability. Some kids had to wear ear phones all day that drowned out sound. Some lucky kids got to ride around in a wheel chair all day. Others had to have one of their hands tied behind their backs and others had to wear blindfolds that made them blind. I got to push around a walker all day. I was jealous of the wheel chair kids and I was relieved I didn’t have to be blind for the day. Although that experiment is long past I still remembering wondering what it would be like to be blind, but then again as I have grown up I have learned that in some respects I already am.
The man that Jesus and his disciples stumbled upon had been blind all his life. He knew no other life but one that was in darkness. For his entire life he had to be helped around his town to buy food, pull up the bucket to get water, and begging in the streets and at the gates. He was dependent on the world around him. He was pushed aside because of some sort of sin he or his parents had committed. He was simply sitting around when Jesus and the Disciples come walking by. When the disciples see him they ask Jesus a question, probably for clarification purposes. They asked whether he or his parents sinned to cause his blindness. They wanted to know the juicy details that make our mouths water and our hearts stop for a second. They wanted to know…….why?
We are fascinated with this question, why? If we know why then we can name it, own it, or fix it. If we know why our parents did something when we were children then we can name it as the source of our current struggles. If we know why we do the things we do then we can own them as who we are. If we know why a car is leaking oil, then we can go in and fix that problem. Knowing the answer to the question, why, gives us power and control over the situation and we love us some power and control.
The media is the quickest group of people to do this. Now instead of simply reporting the news they have to fill 24 hours a day with details. It does not take them long to go from what happened to why it happened. When covering a shooting like the one at Fort Hood or Virginia Tech people wanted to know what was happening but they also wanted to know why a person would do such a thing. Why would someone simply snap and shoot people. Now in Japan and in Libya we are asking the same thing. We want to know why we are helping out the UN or why we would help the rebels in Libya. Why do would we help those people and not those in the Sudan who have been suffering for years? We know that plates shift under the earth and cause earthquakes which cause Tsunamis but why wouldn’t the nuclear reactors be protected better?
If we know all the answers to the question, why, then we can sit back and feel comfortable about the situation. Then we are comfortable because we can wrap our heads around it. We can place it in a box and say that happened because of ______. Then we can close the box and move on. Now before you roll your eyes at me we do know people or maybe you are one of them that can never know the answer to the question, why. Because of this they are haunted by this event and it bothers them daily. Why did that car accident happen? Why did my wife get cancer? Why couldn’t my baby live outside my womb? Why can’t I forget what happened? Why didn’t I just say no? Why? Why? Why? We need the answer to this question because we need to place the blame somewhere.
The disciples asked Jesus to place the blame on someone, either the blind man or his parents. When we ask why we are asking who or what is to blame and man do we love the blame game. But just think about the blind man and his parents. For his whole life he has heard from everyone in his village that either he had to commit a horrible sin to go blind form birth or something his parents did caused it. I’m not sure what sin a baby could commit that would cause him to go blind so most of the fault had to lie on the parents. They had to carry this around for years that something they did caused him to be blind. But when asked the question Jesus tells them that “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” God takes away our need to ask the question, why?
Why doesn’t really matter. What matters is that something happened and what is it that we are going to do about it. We can’t keep stuff in boxes. We can’t keep God in a box and we can’t keep the people we come in contact with in a box either. People change and God does stuff that shocks us every day. But that doesn’t satisfy us. We still think we need to know.
We can see that in the other people in this story. The community around the blind man doesn’t recognize him when he can see. After he has washed the dirt and spit out of his eyes he can see the world around him but still no one can see him. They only reason people knew of him in this village was that he was the blind man. But now he is just the man and they don’t recognize him.
They take him to the Pharisees to verify that this really happened. It was a Sabbath day so could it really have happened on a day of rest? They debated whether Jesus was a sinner or not. The argument continued and they eventually brought in the man’s parents and asked them if their son was blind but now sees and how it happened. They look at him and give verification that this man is their son who was born blind but they don’t have a clue how it happened, and nor do they want to even think about asking because they were scared of the repercussions. The Pharisees continue to argue and come back at him once again and ask him to tell the truth. He does but they are still not satisfied and they send him away.
A blind man can see. It is a miracle but no one cares. The pillars of his society that should celebrate this glorious event all let the man down. His neighbors don’t believe he is the same guy because they only saw his blindness. The church doesn’t believe him because stuff like this doesn’t happen. If it did it wouldn’t have happened on a Sabbath or by some guy from Nazareth. His parents come in and claim him as their son but then push then leave him to fight his own battle. They leave him to answer the Pharisee’s questions. The people who should be celebrating, his family, his church, his neighbors all fail him and he is left alone.
There in his loneliness Jesus finds him again and comes to him. He reveals to this once blind man that he is the Son of Man. He is the Lord and the blind man believes. We get no verse in this story that the man even asked to see again but Jesus spits in the dirt and rubs away the years of pain and suffering, freeing the man from his darkened prison. The man comes back from the Pool seeing the world for the first time and realizes how lonely it can truly be.
I made it a point to read all 41 verses to us today because what is interesting is that the miracle only takes two verses to explain and happen but the discussion and reaction takes 39. Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” For those who see the world they are blind to the moments in which God is at work in it. For those who try and keep God in a box that only follows certain rules on certain days, they will be blind to the reality that God is at work once a need is noticed not after the question why is answered.
Too many times we are blind to the work of God because we are too consumed with getting the facts right first. We have a bad habit in the United Methodist Church. Because we are organized to beat the devil and extremely methodical we have to find away to measure everything. In January of every year we have to fill out Year End Reports which tells the denomination our progress for the previous year. We report on Sunday School class attendance, worship attendance, deaths, small groups, youth and children, money given for capital projects, and a ton of other numbers. But a lot happens in the church that cannot be written down and place a number by it. How do you explain with a number that a person as gotten closer to God this past year because of a Lenten Discipline she decided to continue. Or that a person is wrestling with tough questions and is seeking answers that will pull him closer to God. How do you put a number by the fact that our children are learning about God and the Bible and how to pray? When we caught up in the numbers, in the testing and verifying, in the questioning and arguments we miss out on the opportunities to see God at work.
I had a parishioner who loved the phrase, “I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission.” He used this phrase to give himself cart blanch to do whatever he wanted which made him really look like the rear end of a donkey. Yet we are reminded here in the 9th chapter of John that sometimes waiting for permission is waiting too long. If we wait until we have all the answers to the why questions and when we have all the money and all the resources we need we may be too late. We can feel defeated even before we begin when the rational side of our brain kicks in or when we listen to the media or our neighbors. But God did not call us to a lost cause.
We have to be willing to go into action when the need is seen not when the questions are answered. Jesus doesn’t even ask, he spits, mixes, rubs and commands and a blind man can see. He doesn’t think about the day of the week and if it would be better to do this healing on a Monday. He doesn’t think about the dynamics that will shift when the blind man is not begging at his usual spot. He sees a man in need. A man who has the weight of guilt on his shoulders and is holding his hands out to be fed. Jesus sees a need and fulfills it.
How many others simply walk by? How many times do we rationalize ourselves out of doing God’s work? How many times do we miss out on a miracle because it doesn’t make any rational sense to us? How many times do we ignore the people around us who were transformed by God’s love because if we are honest we have no idea what that even looks like? We think too much. We ask too many questions. We rationalize, intellectualize, and are too concerned with the material side of things to see. We go through the world blind to the work God is doing and the work God is asking us to do.
Today, our prayer is that God will stop in front of us, spit on the ground, and open our eyes to see the world has he does.
And all God’s people said…Amen.