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This page is in honour of the 'pesky, perpetual, predictable and persistent return of the Sabbath'!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This Week's Sermon !

March 26, 2017, - Lent 4

1 Samuel 16: 1-13
Psalm 23
John 9: 1-41

The Gift of Sight!

Do you remember when Sunday was really a day of rest? When there was nothing open so you pretty much had to stay home? Or visit your grandparents? Are you glad Sunday is almost like any other day now? Are you glad you have another whole day to buy groceries and stock up on other essentials? Or would you like to go back to a time when you had to plan ahead to make sure you had food in your fridge and gas in your car for Sunday trips or guests?

We could argue till the cows came home (which is when they show up at the ban doors for their evening milking) about the pros and cons of Sunday shopping or Sunday anything. We are unlikely to come to any kind of agreement. If I were to call most people on a Sunday afternoon, even most church people, they would not be home. They would most likely be out doing something with family; something that required someone else to work. That is, unless they had to be at work themselves!

Some argue that part-timers get more hours with Sunday opening. However, when Sunday shopping came about in one city, the hours of the stores in the malls were cut back the other days of the week to make up for the “extra” hours and thus eliminate the need for extra wages. The stores knew that Sunday shopping was a convenience and that overall sales would not increase.

Some people argue against Sunday shopping because people need “family” time but unless the families sit at home they are going to do things that make the members of other people’s families work, who are employed in other sectors! The pros and cons come together in a never-ending circle.

I once heard a story of a farmer who was so committed to keeping Sunday as a day of rest, even at harvest time, he refused to work on Sunday. He, his family and all his employees would stop whatever piece of equipment they were operating, at exactly midnight on Saturday and be back to pick up where they left off 24 hours later!

However, even the most die hard Sunday resters would not make someone wait up to 23 hours and 59 minutes to have their broken arm set, their house-fire put out, their wood-stove fire lit or tended to, their lost child found, or their robber nabbed.

Today’s gospel story seems to centre on a violation of the Sabbath and we could go round and round on that point, but it would muddy the waters and would detract us from the point of this story. The story is about Jesus, his identity and his mission. The people who opposed Jesus were using it as just another excuse to discount the work he was doing and to try to turn the people against him. They just could not fit Jesus into their “moulds.” For them it was like putting a round peg into a square hole!

I once heard a story about a man who was convinced that he was dead. No amount of argument by his friends would convince him otherwise. Finally, a trusted friend said to him, “Hal, you know that dead people don’t bleed.”

Hal conceded that this was true.

“So prick your finger and you will find out that you are alive,” said his friend.

Hal pricked his finger with a needle and it bled. He looked in amazement at his bleeding finger for the longest time and then exclaimed, “Whadda you know! Dead people DO bleed.”

Today’s passage is the third in a series of passages which have a “misunderstanding” around which revolves the meaning point of the passage. When Nicodemus was told he had to be “born anew” he interpreted that literally, and thus as an impossibility. The woman at the well was probably so tired and thirsty from carrying water that she totally misunderstood the metaphor of “living water”. Eventually the unnamed woman understood who Jesus was, was spiritually refreshed, and became an evangelist. We know from other passages that Nicodemus eventually came to faith and is featured in some of the events around the time of Jesus crucifixion!

In today’s story, Jesus heals a man who had been blind from birth. As we heard, it was the Sabbath. Some could argue that it was not an emergency and Jesus should have made an appointment for later, when it was ok to formulate a medication and apply it. How much difference would one more day make for a man who had been blind all of his life!

It would seem though that the men who opposed Jesus would simply have found another excuse. These days the medical society or the pharmacists association might have him charged with practising their craft without a licence.

Yet, that’s not the real point! The irony is obvious to the writer of John’s gospel. This writer intends for his readers to see it as well! The men who opposed Jesus had perfect physical sight but didn’t recognize what was in front of them. They were caught in “old school” thinking. They could see but were blind. The man whose physical sight was a new thing, knew more about Jesus than they did.

They simply could not comprehend Jesus’ powr. To them, a Jewish messiah would have to follow all of the rules they thought were important in the day to day living of their faith. Someone who would dare to work on the Sabbath could not possibly be healing by God’s grace and power. They just could not see it!

As I have already said, herein lies the misunderstanding or the irony of this passage. Some people simply can’t comprehend some things. The powerful people who opposed Jesus were blind to the truth of Jesus identity and message or they refused to see it. Unlike, the man who had BEEN BORN BLIND they could see physically, but didn’t have a clue what they were looking at.

As a Canadian, I find the American debate on publically funded health care, to be missing something. I guess I take it for granted that it should be a shared cost, that health care should not be, as far as is possible, a “for-profit” enterprise. I take it for granted that a childhood illness should not make someone un-employable because they can’t be insured. Or that paying for a operation should not cost a family their life’s savings and that doctors make medical decisions, not insurance companies.

This is similar to the clashes between “old” and “new” thinking where technology is involved. I mentioned a few weeks ago about the seeming impossibility of “cordless” telephones and cell-phones. Some things that used to be standard practise in medicine are now thought to be unnecessary or even dangerous. Farmers used to think that getting fall plowing done before the snow fell to be a good thing; in some areas now it is discouraged because it increases soil erosion and runoff which harms fish.

How do you teach a child to read? How important is spelling and phonics. I hated phonics and memorizing my multiplication tables but I think both are important. Ask a new teacher and a retired teacher the questions about math and reading and expect to get a lively debate.

In the end, I suppose, it’s the results that count! On the day in question the grumblers were more concerned with the facts that Jesus should not have been healing on the Sabbath and that HE was not supposed to be healing at all - while all the man who had been blind could say with certainty was “I can see.” He could now see physically AND as the story ends, he could see spiritually as well.

As the story began, the disciples’ initial question of Jesus centred around responsibility: whose sin is responsible for this man’s blindness? I think that what Jesus is saying in his answer is that sometimes, an illness, a misfortune, a tragedy just is, and can be an opportunity for the faithful to reach out and show God’s love and power. The poverty of a particular person or family may or may not be abyone’s fault, but our response can be a temporary measure to feed hungry families or give them soap and toothbrushes. It can also be an opportunity to find solutions to the root causes of poverty.

Our lenten journey each year is not just about re-living Jesus’ last days but it is also about dying and being re-born ourselves - it is about receiving a tall glass of cold, fresh water - it is about seeing those things that we always in front of us, but seeing them in a new way. Once we have been re-born, had our thirst quenched and have new sight, we have to live a changed life.

In Lent we are called to come to our own decision about Jesus and his place in our lives and then we must live out of our truth. The truth about Jesus must make a difference to us.

Has your life been changed? If so live in the light of that change.


1995- 2017 The Rev. Beth W. Johnston.

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