Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
March 10, 2002
The story we heard John tell us about Jesus and a blind man is a story of life for us.
When I first knew this passage was coming, the image which came to my mind was that of the famous eye-chart that has the huge letter "E" at the top and increasingly smaller letters underneath.
I've been wearing glasses since elementary school and can't remember how many I've broken or outgrown. As I look ahead I expect I will have to deal with cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration. Unless death intervenes sooner, I will not be exempt from the reality of aging.
So I took my glasses off to prepare this sermon to help me see this story beyond simply a story of keen eyesight. I'm going to take them off to preach the rest of this sermon and run the risk of saying more than I'm prepared to say when I can't quite make out the words on the pages I've prepared.
I like a great healing story as much as anything. It reminds me that life is not carved in stone. There are all manner of strange and wonderful aspects of life. I and you, and us together, are not stuck simply continuing to be who we have been. A healing story is usually a story of conversion.
In this particular incident we hear a lot of blame going on. Becoming blind to blame is high on the Jesus eye-chart.
As you listen in on conversations at home or work or on talk shows or news, or even in your own heart, how much time is spent in blaming or avoiding being blamed.
The story we have heard begins with a question from Jesus' disciples, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?"
In the Gospels the disciples are most frequently caught being blind to the real point of life. They keep trying to turn Jesus' presence into a technical rule-book--just do things this way and you can be in control of others and GOD.
Jesus is quite clear that the issues of cause-and-effect, the issues of who's to blame, are not where real life is going to be found.
Another way of saying that becoming blind to blame is high on Jesus' eye-chart, is to put it the way Jesus put it, "Look for what GOD can do."
GOD can do more than turn a pig's ear into a purse. An entrepreneur can make a good living selling pigs ears to pet owners as a chew toy. GOD can do more than that.
GOD can light up your life and my life and our life with meaning and purpose.
We are looking at how to shape a Mission Statement to focus on what GOD can do with St. Luke's for the rest of this year and for the next 3 years before we get to our 150th anniversary.
As you have heard me say since I came here. We have been on a 40-year, 45-degree slope of decline. It hasn't mattered who the pastor has been or what programs have been tried, nothing has gotten us off this pattern. It has continued while I have been here.
I expect there is more than enough blame to go around.
In my weaker moments I blame it on a pastor 40 years ago who left his wife and ran off with a church employee and that never really having been dealt with and the unhealed part of that event being a big ghost or secret in the congregation.
In my weaker moments I blame it on a culture that has shifted from rural to urban values around issues of entertainment and individualism.
In my weaker moments I blame it on increasing knowledge of how the world works and how we no longer believe in a perfect creation that has fallen and can only be restored to perfection through a bloody sacrifice of "God's Son," but now must wrestle with what it means to have evolved from simple cells to complex, self-aware, beings who know the earth is not the center of the universe, and that the cause-and-effect physics of Newtonian machines needs to be looked at through the lens of stellar relativity and quantum indeterminacy.
The reality is that GOD's people are always messing-up, if you and me, are any example. Just this past week I let what to me was an overly busy schedule get in the way of visiting with Daisy before she died. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior, even if it wouldn't have fixed our issues of decline nor been a major cause of further decline.
The reality is that the world is always at a different place than GOD. It is either much more rigid than GOD or much more independent than GOD. Cause-and-effect works well in the world, even if it doesn't work well with a living GOD who can make all things new.
The reality is that world views come and world views go. There is no one final answer to the way things are for the experience of GOD is larger than any explanation we can come up with.
To get caught up in our weaker moments of blame is to leave ourselves open to what Paul talked about with the people in Ephesus. He warned against the murk of smooth, religious sales-talk that leads us to think that if only we can figure out who is to blame then we are home free.
I think you all know some religious people who are more than willing to tell you who is to blame for the difficulties in your life or the life of the world. Eventually they run out of others to blame and turn their blame on their listeners. It is true that if you live by blame you will die by blame.
So, if Jesus' way of looking at the world does not entail the cause-and-effect of blame (remember him saying from the cross of his death, "GOD, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing"), what does it mean to look at the world through Jesus' eyes.
The only kind of Mission Statement that will be of help to us is that of placing ourselves in the light of Jesus so we can simply looking for what GOD can do and is doing and risk joining ourselves with GOD, no matter what. The risk is that we, too, will be crucified for doing what is right.
In the face of that risk, our life's meaning still lies with what Paul said to the Ephesians: "So no more stumbling around with the darkness of cause-and-effect blame. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true--these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it."
Let us pray:
GOD of Light,
Copyright 2002. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.