Sermon for Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sermon for Lent 4, Year A

March 26, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-13                     Psalm 23                      Ephesians 5:8-14                     John 9:1-41

“Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  So ends our reading from Ephesians this morning.  And perhaps I should end my sermon with this as well.  “Sleeper, awake!”  The author of Ephesians is quoting an unknown source, here.  It may have been from an early Christian hymn and it likely refers to a passage from Isaiah which speaks to God’s promise to raise the faithful from the dead.  Regardless, the message is empathic.  It is time for us to open our eyes and see Christ who is before us.  We need to step out of the darkness and into the light, and be, as we heard in Ephesians, “children of the light.”

Today’s readings use the metaphors of light and darkness, sight and blindness, to help us understand the differences between the world as God sees it – and wants us to see it, and how we see it.  In 1st Samuel, we have the great prophet Samuel caught in a dilemma.  He anointed Saul the king, only to see him fail. Now God tells him to quit grieving and move on.  Samuel is to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehemite and anoint the one God has selected to be king.  Of course, to do so will be considered treason – and no doubt the people in that village want to have no part in drawing such attention to themselves.  They ask, “do you come peacefully?”

No one in this drama is comfortable with what is happening.  Yet, Samuel does as God commands.  The sons of Jesse are brought before him, and by appearance, he assumes God has chosen Eliab.  God, says, however, “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.”  This is what distinguishes the Lord’s vision from our own.

We cannot see into the heart of others, but God can.  This is only one of the reasons it is not our place to pass judgment on others.  Many of us like to think we are a good judge of character, but all of us can be fooled.  Some people are capable of putting on an excellent front.  And then, there are the times when our judgment is clouded by our past experiences with people.  We make wrong assumptions based on appearance, and see only that which supports our point of view.

To be children of the light, we need to learn to see as the blind man did in our gospel reading from John.  Notice, he does not come to Jesus.  Rather, as Jesus is walking by him, the disciples ask Jesus whose sin caused the man’s blindness.  Jesus answers them by saying that no one’s sin caused his blindness – not his parents and not his own.  Then, Jesus heals him.

The man is brought to the Pharisees and asked who healed him.  It is the Sabbath and healing on the Sabbath is considered work – so whoever healed him, they conclude, was a sinner.  At first the man only knows that it was a man named Jesus who healed him, but as he responds to their questions he begins to see what the Pharisees cannot see.  He is asked what he has to say about Jesus, to which he responds, “He is a prophet.”

The next day the man is called back before the Pharisees.  After being told Jesus is a sinner and asked questions about how Jesus healed him, the Pharisees tell the man they do not know where Jesus comes from.  Which is to say, they do not know what to make of this man Jesus who openly disobeys the Law.  The man says to the Pharisees, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he 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.”  For this, the man is thrown out of the synagogue.  The Pharisees cannot see past the fact that Jesus healed on the Sabbath.

Jesus hears what has happened and goes to the man and reveals himself as the “Son of Man,” the messiah.  The man who had been blind since birth says, “Lord, I believe.”  His eyes were opened a second time and he now sees with eyes of faith and knows the true identity of Jesus.  In other healing stories, the people who are healed know immediately Jesus is the messiah.  But here, it takes the man a couple of days to come to this understanding.  I can relate to his need to process what happened to him.  I, too, have been helped by someone and needed time to reflect on what happened before I was able to understand that it was Christ working through that person that helped me.

One of the reflections last week from the Society of St. John the Evangelist was by Br. Mark Brown.  He challenged us to ask ourselves, how has God worked through us, used our hands to help others?  Instead of confessing all our failures, he suggests that we confess the good that we have done.  I think this is a wonderful Lenten exercise and one that helps us recognize that we are the hands and feet of Christ in the world when we practice loving our neighbors as ourselves.  It helps us to see the times when we, ourselves, allow Christ to work through us.  It may also help us to see Christ at work through others.

Being children of the light means we understand that God is the source of all love and our expressions of love to others is simply an outpouring of Christ’s love for us.  By confessing the good we have done, we can also see where we need to concentrate our energy in order to continue living as children of the light.

Let us pray.

O God, you are the source of light and love, help us, we pray, to see through the eyes of faith and act as children of light by sharing your love with others.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.