Sunday, March 22, 2020
Rev Wendy Wilkinson
Christ the King Episcopal Church
15325 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77083
Jesus is in Jerusalem and sees a man born blind; Jesus’disciples ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:2-5)
The Jews believed that illness was a sign of sin, so therefore this man’s parents must have sinned because he was born blind. Jesus says, no, it was so God’s glory might be revealed through this blind man. God’s glory as revealed through Jesus as he made people whole. Jesus mixes his saliva with the dirt of the ground and presses the mud on the man’s eyes. This actually was a healing method at that time, so the disciples wouldn’t consider this odd like we would. He then tells the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. Now the water of Siloam was very special to the Jews in Jerusalem. Each fall, Jewish men were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Thanksgiving Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkoth. It was a harvest festival. People built booths to live in for a week to remind them of the wandering in the wilderness when God provided for them. They would wave palm branches and shout hosanna as part of the services during the week. Water from the Pool of Siloam was poured into a basin on the altar at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles. The water symbolized God’s gift of rain for the crops and also the coming of God’s Spirit that would be poured out upon the people of Israel at the coming of the Messiah.
So Jesus tells the blind man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, in the water that symbolizes God’s Spirit poured out on God’s people at the coming of the Messiah. And the man is healed, he can see! God’s Spirit is poured out upon him. Jesus, the one who John the Baptist proclaimed earlier in the gospel as, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) heals the man born blind. The man who the Jews believed was blind because of the sin of the parents. Jesus rejects that view and says, no, it was to reveal the glory of God present in the world. The Spirit of God has been manifested at work in the world through Jesus Christ. The man who was physically blind now has his sight and witnesses to the glory of God manifested in the world.
Last week we heard Jesus tell the Samaritan woman that those who believed in him, who gave themselves fully to him, would have a spring of water gushing up to eternal life within them. The woman runs to tell the village about the man she has just met at Jacob’s well. The woman’s life is transformed by her seeing you Jesus truly is, the anointed one sent by God. The blind man is sent by Jesus to the pool named ‘Sent’ in Hebrew, receives his sight and sees whomJesus truly is. He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.
(John 9:38) The blind man now sees what the religious authorities refuse to see, that Jesus is sent from God to do the reconciling and healing work of God in the world.
The blind man’s life is transformed. He didn’t ask for this to happen, Jesus chose him. The man is no longer a beggar; his place in society has been changed. His interaction with others in his life has changed. People don’t believe that he is the person they knew. His relationship with Jesus has totally changed him. They say, it can’t be him. He is too different. He doesn’t fit their expectations of him any longer.
The man had accepted God’s freely given love for him and his response is to let go of his old way of life and be transformed by the healing power of God’s grace. He already was living on the margins of his society and now has the courage to be whom God is calling him to be, a witness to God’s healing presence in the world. He stands up to the religious authorities and proclaims, Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9: 32-33) He confronts the religious authorities with their own blindness.
The man who can now see, doesn’t look back, he doesn’t try to fit into the faith community’s expectations of him. He recognizes Jesus as Lord and risks everything to follow Jesus. Jesus who has given him eyes to see the world around him in new ways. God’s love flowing through Jesus gives the man a new way to be in the world. He connects with Jesus and his life is transformed.
Today we are gathering in a new way of being church, using the technology available to us to stay connected with each other and Jesus. We are trying something new and it may transform the way we gather as Christ’s church in the future. Just as the blind man didn’t look back once Jesus had given him his sight, Jesus is calling us as his church to not look back but to move forward in courage and faith. We have the light of Christ to guide us on the path; we have the Spirit’s spring of water within us giving us eternal life in Christ. As fear and anxiety fills our society during this health crisis we are called to focus on connections. How do we stay connected to each other and our Lord? How do we be Christ’s Body in our world today? The coronavirus has shown us how interconnected our world is today. We, as a society were blind, we could ignore our inter-connectedness but now we see how we are connected globally, economically and socially. How we react to the health crisis will impact the lives of those we love and the lives of total strangers.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to show God’s love to our world, to bring healing and reconciliation to those around us. Walking in the light of Christ we are to work for justice and respect the dignity of every human being. As we heard in Ephesians this morning, Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. (Eph. 5:8-9) Do what you can right now to bring healing to our world. If that means staying in self-quarantine to protect each other’s health during this time then do it. Our lives are being disrupted and changed, but God is in the midst of this and we are to give glory to God through our actions. We are to do what we can to bring healing and reconciliation to our communities. As Bishop Curry said this past week, “we need to be contagious with healing the well being of others, we need to be contagious with the love of God poured out in our world.”
We don’t know how long this health crisis will continue, but we are the Body of Christ in our world today. We live in the light of Christ empowered by God’s Spirit to give glory to God through our actions. So this week pray for the healing of our world, for those who are suffering physically, mentally and economically right now. Pray that our country uses its resources wisely for the benefit of all people. Stay connected with each other through the use of technology, even as we are physically separated for the common good. And finally as our Presiding Bishop said, be contagious with the love of God poured out in our world.