Archive for April 2011

Being Seen

April 4, 2011

John 9:1-7, 39-41
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see… Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Children’s Time: Fortune-tellers look at your hands (or into a crystal ball) to see what your future holds. Some people pay money for people to just stop and look at them – and tell them something about themselves. We don’t need money – we have each other to remind us of who we are – and of what God is doing in our lives. When I look at your hands – I see God’s fingerprints! Let’s thank God for the many ways God is working through these hands – and helping us to see.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

One of my favorite Ziggy cartoons has him visiting Madame Zsa Zsa, a fortune teller. As she gazes into her crystal ball she says, “I see you having dinner with an attractive woman – in a fine Italian restaurant! Ooooh, you sly fox (hehe). The lights are down low. Now I see thousands of people cheering you two on… waitaminute, that’s not right. Bonk! (She whacks the crystal ball) OK, I see you in front of the TV, eating cold pizza, watching Michelle Pfeifer on Letterman.”

Poor Ziggy just can’t get a break! Have you ever felt that way? Trapped in a humdrum existence? Blind to the possibilities your life might hold? Or worse, captive to the thoughts and opinions of others?

There are a people we see each day – that we really never “see” – people we’ve made our minds up about – people who are easier to poke fun at than to ever really take seriously.

That’s when we fall into the act of ‘gawking’ rather than truly ‘seeing.’ When we see an accident on the roadside, we tend to slow down and take our eyes off the road – all to get a glimpse of another’s demise. Most of the time we have not intention of stopping. Or, we make glib generalizations based on outward appearances. “What a looney!” “Probably some kids’ fault!” Or, “Must’ve been some old codger who couldn’t see over the steering wheel!”

Like the disciples in our lesson today, (and everyone else in town for that matter) we want to affix blame: “Who sinned, that this man was born blind, him or his parents?”

What if the real miracle here was not that the blind man saw… but that Jesus saw him – I mean really saw him – unlike anyone else had his whole life. And saw in his future an opportunity to glorify God!

Take a moment and look at your hands… what do you see? Or, if you’re really daring, show your hands to the person next to you. Maybe this is why people pay fortune-tellers – just so someone will pay attention to them – to look into their eyes and tell you what they see. As the church, we can do this for one another. Just look at your friend’s hands. Don’t say anything about a particular scar or worry that your skin is dried out or that you haven’t done your nails. Just look and imagine what these hands will do. What they’ll hold fast to – or let go of this week. What if the key to our seeing in a new way… is in having been seen for the first time by another? Jesus shows us how to do this. All throughout John’s gospel we hear of these encounters where he met people and saw something no one else did.

Jesus saw Nathaniel under the fig tree: “Behold, here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” It was enough to convince him to follow this rabbi.
Jesus saw the woman at the well and offered her living water, rather than judging her for a checkered past, which included 5 husbands (move over Elizabeth Taylor!).
Jesus asked Nicodemus, as he questioned in his heart about being born again… “Are you a teacher of Israel and still you do not see?”

And today, Jesus saw the blind man – in a way like no one had ever before – with POTENTIAL to do good and to glorify God!

There is an old saying: God loves you just as you are, not as you should be. Which implies that there’s a life we are called to “grow into” to – a life in which God is changing us into a new creation. I love that hymn: “Love Divine All Loves Excelling” especially how it ends with this verse:

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heav’n we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise!

As we are changed from glory into glory – it’s not for our own sakes. We throw down any rank, status or crown we might acquire this side of life when we stand in God’s presence. And, seeing in a new way means we, ourselves, might be the only ones who “get it.” What happens when we see for the first time and no one else can celebrate?

That’s what happens in our lesson today. David Albert Farmer (pastor of University Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland) reminds us of how no one is celebrating with the man who received his sight:
“Nobody is celebrating with or speaking in favor of this man, not even his parents. The parents desperately want to avoid all trouble with the Pharisees. They confirm that the man is their son. They assure the Pharisees that from the moment they first saw him, their son could not see and never has been able to see until now. “That is it. Anything more you want to know about him, you have to ask him. He’s a grown man.” The parents were petrified that the family could be excommunicated from the synagogue if their son admitted to the wrong thing.

The Pharisees turn again to the man to whom sight has now been given. In the face of their inquisition he finally bursts out, ‘You’re asking for information from me rather than being pleased that God has made a way for me to see.” He explodes, finally, with the word, “marvel.” The man had the Pharisees’ attention: “This is a miracle. Only God could have done it. God does not listen to the requests of those who are God’s enemies. God did this through Jesus.”

Have you experienced a new beginning in your life only to be misunderstood and rejected by others? I still remember the day my dad quit drinking. It was when my brother was incarcerated for an alcohol-related offense. That was the day dad said, “No more.” His eyes were opened and many of his friends would have nothing to do with him after that. I got my dad back. But many didn’t understand and rejected him. Thankfully, there were a few close friends who stood by him through it all.

The man born blind had no one to celebrate with until he ran into Jesus later that day. When he realized who he is, he worshiped him and together they celebrated his healing.

Jesus said, “I came that the blind might see.” Let us pray for open eyes from the one who sees us best, that we too might see others with the eyes of Christ. Amen.