Exploring the Word | Spreaker

Monday, April 18, 2011

healing our blindness (4.3.11)

1 Samuel 16:1-13
1The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” 7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
Intro: Pharisees role as defenders of faith/tradition in a hostile environment
            Risk of assimilation
John 9:1-41
1As 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.” 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.

8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 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.

35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39Jesus 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.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

The Pharisees are confronted with a dilemma here. On the one hand they have witnessed a miraculous healing that they can’t deny. On the other hand the healing violates their understanding of how God is supposed to work in the world. In responding to this challenge unfortunately the Pharisees fall back on their power instead of on openness to God doing a new thing in the world.

The church is tempted sometimes to follow the Pharisees path. We’ve often rejected the findings of science and archeology when we’ve felt threatened by their discoveries. Too often people in the church, especially kids, have heard things like: “Don’t ask questions; just have faith.”

That kind of power has no place in the church, instead we are called to follow the main character’s example of openness and conviction as we seek to follow Jesus together. The man received his sight and trusted that experience even though he didn’t understand it. He didn’t pretend to know more than he did, but he also didn’t let threats from others silence his witness to Christ’s healing. His courage and openness make him a great model for us.

Ultimately, the church is a community not an institution. That means we seek to support each other as we follow Jesus together. We are open to each other’s experience and we make decisions through discussion and love, not power.

We follow Jesus in community and the world. Scripture teaches that the church is the body of Christ, so we get to know Jesus in community through each other’s experiences, through prayer, through sacrament, and through worship. Jesus also teaches us that we serve or ignore him in the faces of those who are most insignificant in society: the sick, the prisoners, the poor and the homeless. In other words, when we seek to serve our neighbors we will meet Christ in the world as well. Those encounters with God open our eyes to Christ and to our calling.

            We go into the world to share our experiences and our love with others. People don’t come to Jesus or come to church because we threaten them with doctrine. People listen when we share stories of how our encounter with Jesus has changed us. The man didn’t tell people he had the answers; he simply told his story: I was blind and now I see. Our story might not seem as dramatic, but it is our witness to others about what Jesus is still doing in the world. We’re called to hold firmly to our testimony even when it seems unpopular or even unsafe.

            We know that we don’t know everything. We know that there are still things we are blind about. Sometimes we try to preserve our traditions and our comfort against what God might be doing right in front of us. We don’t understand where God is leading us all the time. But in spite of all that, we seek to follow and we ask God to give us the light we need to follow faithfully. We don’t have to understand everything; after all, God is in charge, not us. Our calling is to follow Jesus and to tell our story with boldness and humility. When we do that we will find our eyes and our hearts more open every day.

I’d like you to take a minute and reflect. How has God healed you and opened your eyes in the past?

How do you think you might still be spiritually blind?

How can you open yourself to Christ’s healing of that blindness?

Christ promises his presence in the church. In the Old Testament people were often anointed with oil to symbolize God’s calling on their lives, as we read this morning. Since the first century Christians have anointed people with oil for healing. If you would like to be anointed with oil for healing of some kind of spiritual blindness or to symbolize starting a new step in your calling you are welcome to come forward down the center aisle now and Sharon and I will anoint you and lay hands on you for prayer. If you want us to come to you, just raise your hand as the line finishes up.

Jesus is still in the business of healing the blind and calling disciples. As we share our loving witness with each other and with the world around us we will find healing for ourselves and be part of Christ’s healing in the world.

Thanks be to God.

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