Scripture: John 9:1-7
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
Sermon: (In Character of the blind man:)
I’ve seen a lot of things in the over 2000 years since I washed the mud off my eyes in pool of Siloam. I remember sitting there on the roadside that day. “Who sinned,” they questioned Jesus, “this man or his parents?” Did they think being blind meant that I could not hear? That because I couldn’t see them speak, I could not feel the bite of their words? Their’s was a question that I too asked, every morning when awakening to darkness, “God, what did I do to deserve this punishment?”
So over 2000 years have passed since that faithful day, and I’ve seen some beautiful and miraculous things, artful in their creation and divine in their truth. Close your eyes with me and take a moment to envision the amazing things has God opened your eyes to just this morning? In my years I’ve seen babies born, infants opening their own eyes to light for the first time. I’ve seen the other side of the generational spectrum as well, grandparents closing their eyes to this life and opening them to eternity. Birth and death, so natural, so beautiful, such vulnerability. I’ve basked in the majestic colors of countless sunrises and sunsets; silhouettes of mountain peaks against hues of oranges, pinks, and purples. Sunsets are my favorite… having lived so long in darkness my soul still finds comfort in the blanket that is the night. I have seen the sun set over the sea, reflecting off the crests of waves as they journey from the horizon to the shore; I’ve seen the light turned out over the Sahara and the sun sink behind the jagged rockies; I’ve traveled far and long on a mission to see them all. I love sunsets because of their beauty, indeed, but more so because my old eyes grow tired throughout the day. In my 2000 years I have seen many things… and it is the simplicity of the night, when there is little to see but the stars, which provides the peace that allows rest for my mind and soul. And as the sun sinks lower and the world grows darker, the stars grow brighter, and guide my way.
My fatigued eyes have seen 6-million Jewish brothers and sisters mercilessly killed, beaten, poisoned, and starved. Skimming the morning paper, they view the pictures of victims of natural disasters, violence, bombings, plagues and beheadings. I walk streets with rundown tent communities to my right and, to my left, a city of who closes their eyes to them. Shivering, dirty, and hopeless I see friends reach out from their battered tarps, their shelter, on a whim and a prayer, much like I did 2000 years ago. Yes, my eyes have been opened to their pain and the light I yearned to see glistens in their tears. My eyes, once crusted in mud, when washed clean serve now to produce tears of my own. I see mounds of trash, broken bottles, and tires blotting the sides of industrial highways, which are filled with swerving smoking, graffiti covered 18-wheeled monsters. On those same roads I’ve watched rage filled middle fingers fly out windows, visual showings of hatred and anger, and on occasion, when cut off, I too have participated. Yes, I’ve seen a lot of things, and in the end of it all, I am not scared of the darkness. No, I welcome the stars, and yearn for the time when I cannot see the world around me, but simply feel the existence of my lord whom walks with me, who comforts me.
“Who sinned that this man was born blind” they asked. With all I’ve seen, I now understand Jesus’ reply, … “Father nor mother,” said the Messiah in response to the accusatory crowd, “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” It sounds strange, but in retrospect, worldly blindness actually made seeing God easier, there was less distraction and I witnessed less destruction. Who sinned? The world sinned, the world sins, and I had been granted blindness so that I didn’t have to see it. Many man has sought the bliss of blindness.
Several decades back, a young man named John sung the words, “Living is easy with eyes closed,” as he dreamt of endless Strawberry fields. Sight is a great gift, but also a great test of faith, and to keep our eyes and hearts a-fixed on what brings us together and lifts us up is no easy task. We cannot close our eyes to the pollution, to the pain, to the poor; those things guide our journey, and to close our eyes to these worldly things would also mean closing it to the beauty of creation. I would love to only see the sunsets, the births, and the flowers, but despite many years of trying, I have yet to master selective blindness; and we have been given sight so that we may claim blindness. I refuse to allow myself to grow blind to the pain, for the pain is the motivation, the pain is truth, where I find my calling; but instead I blind myself to the barriers separating my life from those in pain, the barriers separating myself from my creator. We are all interconnected, united by faith, and though our eyes may be filled with different sights, our souls unite in a shared vision.
So we need to see through our eyes, not with our eyes. Jesus wasn’t concerned with my eyes that faithful day. My contemporary, John, described it well in his Gospel using the verb, paregen, simply “he passed by” to describe the scene. Jesus was none-to concerned with my lack of sight because he knew God had gifted me vision that went far deeper than my eyes. Christ was concerned with the spiritually blind, not the visually impaired. Sight comes from the eyes, connected to the brain through nerves, but vision comes from the soul, and when we see through our hearts and not our eyes, we gain a new clarity as our world is enlightened by the eternal flame.
Steven Wise stated, “Vision looks inward and becomes duty. Vision looks outward and becomes aspiration. Vision looks upward and becomes faith.” Yes there is a great distinction between sight and vision. Christ granted me sight when he came to me on the streets; however, God had granted me vision long before when he breathed life and love into my soul, and I was given a heartbeat so to fulfill it. We all see things differently, but the beauty of faith is that we all have a common vision. The Pharisees saw my healing as a threat, I saw it as proof of my savior. The disciples saw my blindness as a sign of sin, Jesus saw it as an opportunity for God to be revealed.
Switch personalities (back to ME:)
We still see everything differently. My family calls me color blind when they look at what I see as a matching outfit. Watching the football games yesterday it was evident that referees and fans see through different lenses. I’ve had the chance to run as a guide for a young man named Jamie, who has no sight, but plenty of vision. Jamie, a ladies man by nature, always has me tell him about the girls we pass in the park. I’ll give him a nudge… “Hey Jamie, we have a cute blond ahead on the right. “Hey there good looking,” he proceeds to yell mid-stride, leaving me giggling as we pass the group of women that very well may include his grandmother. How beautiful to know that everyone is beautiful! And heck, come to think of it, Jamie doesn’t even know what “cute-blond” looks like. Jamie was blessed with the gift to look into the soul of everyone he meets because he does not have to get caught up in what his eyes tell him, thus he’s able to see beauty in everyone as well… Thats vision; and helping Jamie fulfill his dreams clarifies my vision.
You might have heard of a man named Thomas Merton, who, unlike Jamie, was born with fully functioning eyes. However, after years of “sight,” God gave him vision one day on the corner of Chestnut street right here in Louisville. “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, they were mine and I was theirs.” He proclaimed. “That we could not be an alien to one another even as perfect strangers; It was like waking from a dream of separation. Liberation was the source of joy and I was so overcome that I couldn’t help but laugh. There is no way of telling the people that they are walking around shining like the sun. It is in everyone and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points coming together in the face and blaze of the sun that would make all darkness and cruelty vanish.” True vision, as Merton describes, is indescribably. I can explain a sunset, and I can describe a cute Blond to Jamie, but the shared vision of love that Merton felt that day left him only the ability to laugh with the joy. Thats the kind of vision we need… “a blaze of sun that would make all darkness and cruelty vanish.”
So Jamie and I were running around the University of Louisville campus a little while back, and my eyes were focused on every little bump and crevasse in the sidewalk (there is a lot of pressure that comes with being the eyes of another, and a lot of trust from the blinded partner.) You have a curb coming in 10 feet, a pothole to your left, a bump to the right… We made it 5 flawless miles and we were on home stretch when, bam! “Ouch” (that’s a four letter substitute word acceptable in church, but notably, not a direct quote.)
I was so focused on the ground in front, that I completely neglected the telephone pole! “I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” I mumbled in guilt. “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming, I’m so sorry! …I can carry you back” “Dude, I’m blind, not disabled… I run into stuff like three times a day. And are you crazy, there is no way you are carrying back in front of all these college girls!” (There actually weren’t any more in route, we’d made it off campus, but I wasn’t going to tell him that because I don’t think I could actually carry him.) Lesson here, when we focus on our sight, on the ground directly in front of us, fearing the inconsequential bumps, we risk losing the broader vision that God has for our lives.
Sight can enhance or clutter vision… and though we don’t all have the gift of sight, we all have been granted vision (unfortunately many have never truly opened their eyes.) For as the visionary, Helen Keller, once said, “The most pathetic person in the world is he who has sight, but has no vision.” Vision, Its simple… its messy… it was fitting that Jesus gave the beggar sight via dirt and spit… So this week ask yourself, what is God’s vision for my life, and what worldly “sights” are distracting me from it? And as we go into a time of discussion, in your groups today answer the question, “What is our vision as a community, and what roll do YOU play in making our vision come true for the world to see?”
Benediction: “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your soul. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.” ― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull