First I would like thank Lynn for replacing the scheduled reading of Samuel’s call this morning with the female prophet Huldah. I appreciate hearing of another hidden figure in the history of our faith.
Today’s Gospel story is set in a culture ruled by the sin police
Jesus chose to enlighten both the blind man and all who would listen not on the origins of disability, but on the life available to those who join in his new creation. Jesus meets this man as he is, accepting him into the full mercy of God, and the community of disciples.
This he did, using my own mothers’ last-resort: spit, made a mud mask over the man’s useless eyes, then shooed him to wash his face in a pool called Sent.
Can you imagine being touched with that intimate motherly gesture? What might one be thinking as they follow these directions?
When the man, transformed, returns, no one recognizes him. “Blind Guy?” “I’m the man.” “Is it really you??”
Can you imagine how overwhelming these first visuals were? Seeing the sun, colors, the sky, faces, for the first time? What could he make of Jesus’ kindness, let alone his power?
Then the questions: “Who did this to you?” “How did he do it?”
Whoever he was, this powerful encounter with Jesus must be tainted by sin somehow. “Aha! He did it on the Sabbath”. “Gottcha”.
Sad that the Pharisees hear of an astonishing healing of a man born blind … and all they want to do is assign blame. ‘What gives? How dare the new guy pull a trick like that? This is our territory.”
Can you remember a time when a new person come into your class or workplace and just blew everyone out of the water? How did that feel? Were you excited or maybe feel threatened?
Three times they interrogate the man, then his parents. While the parents acknowledge their son and his condition of birth, they distance themselves from Jesus and his works. It’s getting dangerous, tensions rising. ‘Our son can see now, maybe he should just keep quiet about this Jesus. They’ll put us all out.’
Have you ever been afraid to speak the truth? Did you back away, or discover a courage you never knew? Are you in situations that demand difficult truth very often?
The heart of each of these scriptures is being Speakers of Truth to Power.
In chronicles, Huldah spoke bold truth to the king and people of Judah. She shared God’s fierce judgment of their infidelities, and God’s eager mercy when they changed their ways.
The man who was given sight by Jesus repeatedly and under oath (“Give glory to God!”) states the truth and source of his healing. Having lacked sight until this moment, the seer has been made anew into a world infinitely larger and more beautiful than he could have imagined. He has no need to remain confined to a circle or religion that doesn’t know him, doesn’t care about this life changing event, or accept his new faith in Jesus. Some of you may identify with him on this account.
His new faith brings courage. Sighted Man now follows the One sent by a liberating God without fear. He is restored as well by a community that welcomes him. These are gifts of baptism.
The author of Ephesians couldn’t be clearer: Once you were IN darkness, but now you ARE Light. For Ephesians’ contemporaries the Essenes, this light was to be examined at a safe and private distance, protected from the darkness of the world.
Not us! Rather than hiding in caves to discern the mysteries for our own edification…we are sent into the world, to transform it.
Truth is brought to light in varied ways, but in our community many were blindsided by the publication of Race to Equity in 2013. It unveiled and enumerated the gross inequities for persons of color living in Dane County. Its damning statistics validate the frustrating experiences that people of color often could not find an audience for, and about which Ed Steichen tried for years to educate us.
This report revealed our blindness to our deep failure to support, include, educate, and protect a growing population of children in poverty from the womb, with preschool, through our schools and from our prisons.
It illuminates an unconscionable disregard for the needs of persons with mental illness, and spells out what we don’t want to own: our pervasive fear and apparent hatred of black males. What else could account for our becoming the world leader in the lifetime shunning and banishment – of men of color?
There is sin involved, and now that we see, as people of faith we are obligated to repent, listen, pray, learn, and shine light wherever we can on the dark practices that make it so.
I invite all of you who are available this Thursday to join with MOSES and WISDOM affiliates around the state to address the impact of the new state budget on the most vulnerable. Information is in the lobby.
Yet even in Madison, small miracles happen!
Last Monday I stepped into a coffee shop and was greeted by a woman I met this winter. While I waited in line she told me a story. For months she had been relegated to sleeping on a cot in the hall of the Salvation Army, where I met her. Her face lit up when she shared that she had finally been invited by the 44 other single women who sleep in the gym to join them. “They all said I should join them, and it meant so much to be in that space – and in the girl talk.” she said. She told me that this was the first time she had felt accepted as a transgendered woman and that it was the high point of her adult life, a life that like too many included suicide attempts.
It’s not all roses at the moment, but this woman is transformed. She is known and embraced by however transient a community of women, and she steps more confidently into her precarious world because she is free.
As Christians we are sent to insist that all the voices of the poor and oppressed are heard, that just acts follow to meet their basic needs, and that our communities change so that all can be included in their protection. Oscar Romero is one who became a shining witness to the people of El Salvador and the world in just this way. He continues to inspire his beloved people now 37 years past his assassination.
And this circle, around this table is where we practice hospitality to one another, supporting one another’s needs, hopes, and efforts to build up the love we are given to share.
This is who we are! Graced to be alive in a new creation yet unfolding, yet with growing pains.
It is Lent, a season of truth and prayer. In the quiet of each morning we wake into the presence of a living and merciful God, so that in trust we can wash our face and see clearly as we step into the world to shine our light.
To the man once blind, Jesus offered mercy, and a path to liberation and life in a world made new.
To each of us, his offer is the same. May the spirit of God continue to accompany all of us with wisdom, courage, strength – and with surprises of joy on the way.