Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/03/11 Sermon

John 9: 1-41

 
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts……
 
In the summer of 1990, one of my favorite music performers, Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed in a helicopter crash between Wisconsin and Chicago. Their helicopter pilot, unable to see because of dense fog, flew into a 300 ft. hill which killed all on board. At the funeral, the family requested the singing of Amazing Grace. And they asked Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder to sing the famous hymn. 
 
Dr. Barry Bailey was the minister at the funeral that day and he spoke about the power of watching and listening to the performance.  He was especially touched and moved when Stevie Wonder who is blind sang separately the verse-----“I once was blind but now I see”.  Bailey said “That hymn rang true even for the blind performer because the song speaks of the universal blindness of our hearts and our spirits, not our individual eyes.” 
 
Our scripture today is pointing to that kind of blindness.  It‘s about a physically blind man who Jesus miraculously heals. That should be the central part of the story.  Unfortunately what we see is that the real story is about the blindness of the people on the peripheral; people who were blind in their hearts and their spirits. In this scripture we see that the disciples and the crowd and the Pharisees were all blind when it came to their understanding of sin.
 
It begins when Jesus and the disciples happen upon this blind man.  And it leads to a theological discussion. The disciples ask: "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?"  Now in that culture the disciples asked this question because they had a theology that believed when bad things happen to people it’s because they were a victim of circumstance. The man was blind (disabled) because somebody had sinned—either the man or his parents had sinned. This man’s fate had been determined because of something that had happened in the past. And nothing was going to change that because of what he or his family was guilty of.
 
Now before we dismiss this as some silly, old way of thinking there are still many people who believe this way.
 
I can still recall when Hurricane Katrina came along and people were quick to say that God sent that hurricane because of all the casinos and gambling. Even a state senator in Alabama blamed it on people’s sin. However a preacher in Alabama who heard the senator’s explanation responded by saying, “If the Lord was aiming at those casinos, he needs to improve his aim. The hurricane took out 8 casinos and nearly a hundred Methodist churches”. (Willimon)
 
You know many people today have this kind of theological blindness. And it’s unfortunate because they condemn and judge others. Not only that, but they also condemn and judge themselves too. They live in regret and guilt and shame.
 
And along this same kind of theology there are many who have a belief that God sends a sickness on people in order to make you stronger. It’s the theology of cross bearing.
 
In other words God sends us cancer or other health issues or financial problems or relationship problems because God is lovingly chastising us and testing us.
 
You’ve probably heard or used the Bible verse: “Well God doesn’t send us more than we can handle”.  But did you know that that saying is not in the Bible? The only thing that comes close to it is in 1 Corinthians 10 verse 13 that talks about temptation; it says God won’t allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.
 
Sicknesses and disabilities and tragedies that happen are not sent by a wrathful God.
 
The reality is that bad things happen in this world. People are born disabled, they get diseases, there is war and tragedy. (friends, dying IS more than we can handle!) Tragedies and disabilities and illness and death are the result of the kingdom of evil that exists in this fallen world.
 
As Jesus said, Rain falls on the just and the unjust. (Matthew)
 
Jesus is opening the eyes of the disciples by teaching them that God is on our side; God cares.
 
Now another form of blindness we see is the blindness of the crowd. After Jesus heals the man they are struggling in believing that this man had been healed. After all, this man was a sinner. (In verse 9---People are saying, that’s not even the same dude)
 
Sinners don’t get good treatment. This was heresy to their belief system. This really threw them off. They were used to seeing themselves as favored ones and now they weren’t so sure of anything.
 
Jesus had exposed a blindness of self-righteousness in this crowd by healing this blind man. To the crowd the blind man didn’t deserve to be healed. He wasn’t good enough; wasn’t deserving like they were.
 
Now we today can also have this same kind of blindness by our own pride and self-righteousness.
 
Will Willimon, a pastor and author spoke about a time he visited a penitentiary and the chaplain made a profound comment to him.  He said we think that most of the time criminals turn to a life of crime due to a poor self-image. He said the real reason is just the opposite. Too many people think too much of themselves.  They think they are brilliant; that rules are for lesser people. They’re so smart that they’ve figured out how to get around the rules. But that’s why they are in prison---they think too much of themselves. Willimon went on to ask, “Can’t this be our root problem too? We think too much of ourselves?”
 
We Christians can sometimes look down on people who are living lives that we see as sinful. We are really good at seeing people’s sinfulness and not seeing our own. But God calls us to be in relationship with all people; to not look down on others but rather see that all of us are in the same boat. We’re all in need of God’s amazing grace.
 
Now the last form of blindness I want to look at is the blindness of the Pharisees
 
When we look thru the eyes of the Pharisees what we see is that they were blinded by their obsession of turning God into a bunch of rules and do’s and don’ts.  They were so concerned (heaven forbid) that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. They were so inward focused that they couldn’t see that compassion for people outside their church buildings was where Jesus was calling us. The Pharisees had turned the Sabbath into a legalistic day to observe as opposed to way of life.  And in doing so, they had become blind to the people around them who were in need.
 
Now today some of us can also be blinded to those around us in need. Our faith can be limited to simply coming to church on Sunday. We can be so inward focused that we believe that God only exists inside a church building.  But Jesus opens our eyes to see that to follow him means we go to those who are in need of healing.
 
Whether it’s our youth or children or their parents or the elderly or those struggling with addictions or illnesses or disabilities or divorce, we are called to go to show compassion and offer ways of healing.  Our churches today are declining in numbers because we expect people to just come to our church building.  But the message is clear to us today that God is calling us out of our buildings to be in relationships with people.  He wants us to offer healing to others so that they might trust us enough that we can then share the entirety of the good news. That’s what Jesus did with the healed blind man. Thru Jesus’ genuine care and compassion, he was then able to speak to him about opening his eyes to believe in him as his Lord and Savior.
 
In closing today, Jesus is calling us to see our own blindness. While it’s often easy to see the blindness in others, the message that Jesus wants us to hear is that we’re all blind.
 
We’re all in need of God’s amazing grace.
 
While the disciples and the crowd and the Pharisees were so bent on condemning and judging this blind man as well as Jesus, their eyes were closed to the great celebration of what had happened. They missed out on witnessing that God is a God who loves us (not a punisher) and wants to heal us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
 
Today as we make the journey ever closer to the cross in this season of Lent, ask yourself where you need your eyes to be opened.
 
Where do you need Jesus to heal you?
 
Jesus wants to open your eyes, let us come to him that we might receive sight in our hearts and our spirits----- by being blind.
 

 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen…