Grace Episcopal Church
The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A)
1 Samuel 16.1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5.8-14 John 9.1-41
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” That’s what Jesus’ disciples ask Him, calling Him “Rabbi,” teacher, and expecting a straightforward answer to a straightforward question. What about the blind man? He doesn’t say anything at this first encounter. He simply does what Jesus tells him to do. When he does this and receives his sight, he’s questioned about Jesus, and answers, “He is a prophet.” He says that Jesus is one by whom and in whom the power of God is at work. That’s after his first encounter. Later on he says more.
There are other blind men in the Gospels. Some are brought to Jesus and some seek Him out, calling on Him as “Son of David,” that He might have mercy on them. In the case of the man born blind we don’t have a record of a conversation with Jesus at the time that they first meet. But Jesus does speak. He says, “... I am the light of the world.” Jesus uses the Holy name of God, I AM, for Himself. “I am the light of the world.” The use of this Name is enough to make the Pharisees want to stone Jesus later in the Gospel. The blind man hears this Name, does what Jesus tells him to do, and receives his sight.
And then what happens? People don’t want to leave the man alone. They want to draw him into their debate about who Jesus is, and he gives his answer: “He is a prophet.” But that’s not good enough. Now the authorities have to drag in the man’s parents, and they are scared enough that they basically punt, point to their son and say, “Ask him.”
And so the man is questioned again; this man who has been described as a beggar, and who is therefore unlikely to have any learning. Despite a lack of learning he’s perceptive, and says:
“I do not know whether [Jesus] is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
[He continues] “We know that ... [God] does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
The blind man gets it. He sees. He gets it; he understands clearly his experience of God, so that when he next meets Jesus he says, “Lord, I believe” and worships Jesus. The disciples call Jesus “Rabbi”. The man born blind now calls Him “Lord”. The disciples follow Jesus. The man born blind worships Him, and is the only person described in all of John’s Gospel as worshipping Jesus. He’s described as completing the faith journey to which we are all called, from recognizing Jesus as teacher, to feeling that He is of God, to knowing that He is God; that Jesus is the Lord to be worshipped.
We are all called to a faith journey, but many people never make this journey. In your life, every day you encounter people who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This may be because they don’t know much about Jesus at all; they don’t know the testimony of Scripture; they’ve never experienced Christian fellowship and worship. It may be because they once did experience a life in the Church and have lapsed from that life to follow the call of the world, a call which bombards each of us daily with the message that life is about here and now, that life is about me. People may not know much about Jesus, but more commonly they know something. They remember a parable, or the idea of love for neighbor, or they once saw a bloody movie in which everyone spoke Latin and Hebrew and a man died on a cross. They may think they know something about Jesus from what they know about Christians, but if they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus they will at best think of Him as some kind of wise philosopher, as a teacher.
If we focus in from the world and look at the Church, we can also find many people who may think of Jesus as more than a teacher, and may even call Him “Lord,” but who act as if He was just a very special man who had a very special relationship with God, a sort of “super-prophet”. But calling Jesus “Lord” and worshipping Him as Lord are two different things. Speaking about who He was and who He is are two different things, and as Christians our testimony must be about the risen, living Lord of our lives.
Like the man born blind we are each called to testimony and to worship. When we speak of “testimony” in the Episcopal Church many people start getting nervous, wondering if an “altar call” is next. But testimony is no more (and no less) than sharing with someone else your own experience of God. In the Baptismal Covenant we each promise to “... proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” Word and example: in other words we testify by who we are and how we live–that’s what our lesson from Ephesians is getting at–as well as through words. We testify by who we are when people see that we are different, when they experience God’s love because we have shared it with them. But we do testify also using words, and one of the easiest and least threatening ways to do this is to tell a story.
Tell a story. Tell someone about a time in your life when you experienced God and when you came to know Him. Or tell the story of when you were tempted to turn your back on God, and you didn’t. You don’t have to say your story is about faith. Just tell the story; share your experience of God. That experience will rarely be as miraculous as that described by the man born blind, “... though I was blind, now I see.” But like the man’s testimony it will be about something the Lord has done.
What has the Lord done in your life? How have you come to know Him, that you may worship Him? Have you experienced forgiveness or healing, reconciliation or guidance, the strength to bear suffering, or the love of another who has reached out to you in your own suffering? Like the man born blind we each experience God in some way when we meet Him. Like the man born blind we may not have knowledge of God but we can acknowledge Him.
“And who is [the Son of Man], sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.”
The man acknowledges Jesus and worships Him. What he says is “Lord, I believe.” His words are those of acknowledgement; his action is that of testimony to all others.
What has the Lord done in your life, what does He do, and how can you share this with others? In Lent we focus on our faith journey, but we journey on at all times. A story is just another way of describing our progress in this journey, and of testifying in faith that we know to where we are heading. We also know we have a guide. After the man born blind has testified about Jesus, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing,” the authorities drive him out. And then what happens? We’re told that Jesus heard that the man had been driven out, and came and found him. The man’s faith journey was completed because God came and found him when the world had rejected him because of his faith. Because of your faith God is always looking for you. Always be ready to tell the stories of all those moments in life when He found you, and you recognized Him, that others too may join in the journey and may too be found. Invite them to join in this journey here. Invite them to services during Holy Week, that if they do not yet know God they may come to open their eyes and meet Him.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
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