Grace and peace to you as we people of faith, journey throughout this season of Lent, towards the one whom God has sent, Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord. Amen.
The birth of another morning should stir excitement and joy at the prospect of another leg of our journey.
Yet, some mornings, my heart is troubled.
And echoing in my soul is Ms Mahalia’s song, Troubles of the World
Because there is so much trouble, Mahalia is done with the world,
Done with weeping and wailing
Going to go home to be with the Lord.
(pause and begin to point out that there are no proflic stories that could be told or any heart moving song that could be song to highlight the troubles of this world. Unfortunately there are so many real, stark examples that are oozing out of every social media page and blasting from every television set.
Begin with talking about the word immigrant:
How that word alone conjures up images of suspicious, shifty, dirty, lazy people coming over the border into our country, taking up space, bringing with them guns and drugs and more criminal activity. How that through seeing their “sins” does a huge injustice to who they are and not seeing the good in people, not seeing Christ reflected a single mother who took up residence in a North Side Chicago church because she was attempting to escape some of the horrors that fall upon poor or working class people by the Cartels and even by the government
Continue with the word of homosexual:
Especially in Uganda where the use of this word for many Ugandans is vile, predatory, evil, criminal; that these people are only here to pollute our pure environment and the culture instead of recognizing that these, their fellow brothers and sisters in Faith love as their heart and soul directs them, and who continue the brave road as freedom fighters, sometimes not only for their right but for others who do not have a voice against political pundits and governmental agents who are only interested in keeping the status quo by any deadly means.
The use of the word inner city:
The images that are evoked echo in Marvin Gaye’s inner city blues song, those that struggle with getting through basic daily living, through poor conditions in housing, in food, in jobs, with drugs and alcoholism, lack of medical care because they have been forgotten, discarded, misused and abused and too are seen as shiftless, criminal, fatherless, uneducated, unteachable; that they are not seen as brothers and sisters in Christ, in Faith through the eyes of politicians like Paul Ryan whose hurtful and hateful comments about those economically suffering and only seeing them for their “sins”; It should be noted that Paul Rand and others who wear their Christianity on their sleeve are immersed in the philosophy of Ayn Rand, whose focus is on individualism and capitalism and therefore can not fathom seeing those who are poor as anything else but expendable.
Finally the word mentally ill/disabled. Those words spark images of burden, of useless, of lifeless, of embarrassment. Those words easily flow into our other examples: of someone who loves differently must have some sort of disease; of those living in poverty must have some sort of disease; or those who were not born into a certain class, a certain status, that the fault lies with them for not burrowing themselves out of it. Equally disturbing is the conclusion that some people in this world state when they are stricken with autism, with ADHD, with cancer, with leukemia, with bipolar syndrome obviously it is because something they have done, some sins of their parents as the disciples as Jesus “Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” )
This is the trouble in our world; being blind with ignorance, hate, self-indulgence, jealousy, suspicion that human beings can not see the good, can not see Christ in one another.
We see this echoed in the accusations of the Pharisees in our Gospel text this morning. The Pharisees could arguably be seen as an ancient, devout people;
dedicated to preserving these ancient laws of their ancestors, preserving the practice of daily prayer
and sacred rituals and rites to be passed down from generation to generation.
One could argue that the Pharisees cradled the traditions so carefully in their hands, as precious as the blessed land itself.
Yet one could say that the Pharisees were dedicated to a fault because of the rigorous application of these man made laws
instead of continuing to remain fluid and connected to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Everything had to be a certain way,
confirmed by certain people who were elevated
to bless any and everything that was prescribed by law.
So imagine the mass confusion when a forgotten man,
who was only known by blindness,
supposedly one of their fellow brothers
was not anyone else’s concern
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”
….is healed by this strange man called Jesus.
and the Pharisees protest saying “How can a man who is such a sinner perform signs?”
The Pharisees rejected this healing, Why?
This man had not been recognized by his given name, but his situation was painted with an ugly, broad stroke;
his so called and named “sin” of blindness
These illnesses that people suffered
That apathy was the norm
They were abandoned
Not worthy of their consideration
Or God’s Mercy.
So, then nothing could be more embarrassing than to have a stranger who perhaps does not know or understand the rules or rituals of a community,
come in and extend his hand cradling mud and water,
taking the time to bring comfort and healing to a nobody,
redeeming this nobody to the world;
giving this nobody back who they are,
what they are to this community,
even when the community ignored this man,
who they considered to be worthless because of his illness-his sin.
There’s a camp song (and we just sang this yesterday at the Lenten retreat) where the line about the Pharisees is mocking-
It goes, “I don’t want to be a Pharisee” and the response is “Why not?”
No one wants to be like a Pharisee, because they’re not fair, you see (pause for small laughter)
and yet, as people of faith we unfortunately repeat these same mistakes with those that we do not know,
and only call them by their weakness
A homeless man who is also an alcoholic
A wayward youth who has fallen into prostitution
An undocumented Mexican father forced into being a drug mule
An African American woman forced into purchasing guns illegally
We have tossed them aside,
deemed them unredeemable
….and then are beside ourselves, resenting the attention when someone who does not know who we are,
comes into the community and although they can not lay hands and heal their wounds, their afflictions,
they lay hands on them to share God’s Love and give them hope, giving them a sense that their lives do matter to someone in this world and they are not alone.
This is what Jesus Christ gives to this blind man, for Jesus taught His disciples “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
And that is Good News.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that God sees how are weaknesses, how our “sins” blind the world from seeing whom we truly are, beloved children of the Creator God!
That we have been reborn through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon that cross, reborn, renewed, healed;
Hear Jesus’s words about this blind man, this blind man that could be any of us “this man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
That doesn’t mean that the Creator God who loves us so much that He sent His Son among us, deliberately afflicts us with illness and disease for our discomfort
but when the world counts us out because of these perceived weaknesses,
God turns them into strengths by allowing who we are as called children of God to shine through.
Hear what Jesus says to us, hear his powerful words of freedom that release us from the shackles of this world. “I came to this world for judgment so that those who do not see, may see!”
(pause then sing the first stanza of Amazing Grace)
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I am found
But know I see
Thanks Be To God.