“Are We Still Blind?”

Sermon – 03-26-17 – Lent IV – Cycle A

Scripture – I Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Sermon Title – “Are We Still Blind?”

Psalm 23 is our featured Psalm for this day. How does being blind fit with Psalm 23? Let’s look. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …” Darkness, not being able to see even one day ahead, is a form of being blind. We are sometimes blind even though our eyes are okay. When the shade of being poor falls over us, we walk into darkness. When illness appears, the curtain of blackness is pulled in front of our vision. When a relationship has ended and we did not initiate the loss, light may be around us but our sad, sad heart causes a storm of vile black smoke which renders us non-functional.

Where is the light? Are we really blind, never to see again?

Way back in the years before Jesus, we find wonderful stories of how God provides light. Do you remember the little boy whose mother brings him to live in the temple under the teaching and guidance of Eli, the priest. The boy’s name is Samuel. God calls Samuel in the middle of the night. Three times the boy wakes Eli, thinking Eli is calling him. Finally, light dawns on Eli and Eli tells Samuel that it is God calling Samuel. Eli directs Samuel to say, “Lord, here I am.” Well, God takes Samuel at his word and through the years, God gives Samuel some challenging work.

One assignment for Samuel as an adult is to find and anoint a king for Israel to replace King Saul as Saul has become violently demented. Samuel heads into this task in the dark; not meaning at night, but without any instructions – blindly. God just says, “Follow me.” God takes Samuel to a family of eight sons. One by one the father, Jesse, presents seven sons to Samuel for consideration. Each one brings a “not this one” from God to Samuel. Then Samuel says to Jesse, “Are you sure I have seen each of your sons? Is there yet not another?” “Well, says Jesse, “the youngest son is out tending sheep.” Samuel says, “I will wait. Send for this youngest one, the shepherd.”

So time stops and everyone waits. Finally, this young shepherd boy is brought before Samuel. “This is the one,” God says to Samuel. “Anoint this one.” The darkness lifts from Samuel’s countenance. The light shines when God announces the chosen one. Blindness is replaced by sight. Only by God does this happen.

In our gospel lesson today from John 9, we are stepping into the account of Jesus healing a blind person. John often speaks of light. It is like a trademark of John. So a man who was blind from birth can now see. Jesus heals him, ostensibly, with mud. Jesus could have healed him without the mud but the man does not complain. He washes the mud from his eyes in the pool of Siloam. The darkness of mud releases the light of sight. Sounds wonderful. However, there are some problems for Jesus that day.

First, Jesus heals this man on the Sabbath. Second, the healed man does not know this man who removes the blindness and gives light. The man’s parents don’t know Jesus either and they were not present when their son is healed. They won’t speak without knowing the facts. The parents say, “Go ask our son who healed him.”

Third, the Pharisee watchmen are looking for any chance to discredit Jesus. This incident becomes one of the many incidents which the Pharisees are accumulating to get this man, Jesus, to STOP. Jesus is turning the religious world upside down, opening the dark blinds and bringing in the light. The Israelite religious leaders think they are doing the right thing for the Lord. They don’t realize that they are keeping themselves in the dark. They are cheating themselves of the light.

Jesus ministers to the man who now sees and the healed man believes that Jesus is truly of God and has the power to heal; to bring people to sight who are blind; AND, to close the door of understanding to the persons who think they know and see everything, but now will be left out of this new thing that is happening.

Talking of light and blindness, we think of Saul. Not King Saul in the days of David, the shepherd, but the Saul who is called to the Jesus movement after Jesus ascended to the Father following the resurrection. We have this dramatic moment when Saul is continuing his persecution of Christians. Why is he persecuting Christians? Saul thinks he is pleasing God, keeping the faith pure. As Saul is journeying to Damascus to quell the rise of Christians in that town, a bright, flashing light strikes Saul and he is knocked to the ground and is blinded. The Lord speaks from on high and tells Saul to go to Damascus. Saul’s companions are puzzled but they lead Saul to Damascus.

So far, we have met three persons called by God: Samuel is called to anoint David, the young shepherd boy to be the king of Israel. David is therefore called. Saul, whose call is to stop persecuting Christians. Now we meet a fourth person; Ananias of Damascus is called to minister to Saul.

Ananias receives the call from the Lord to go to Saul in the same town. “No,” says Ananias. “I have heard about Saul. I really don’t want to be persecuted.” But, the Lord succeeds and Ananias goes to teach Saul, whose name becomes Paul, how salvation works – the salvation Jesus earned for us.

This Paul adapts his extreme zealousness to the spread of “The Way,” the name used for followers of Jesus. The goal is to leave no one in the darkness. Paul starts many churches. Then Paul stays connected with these fledgling congregations with letters. In the letter which Paul writes to the people of Ephesus, the Ephesians, we find these wonderful words about trading light for darkness.

“Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. . . . “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (NRSV)

Swinging back to the time of King Saul, the days when young shepherd boy, David, is anointed but in waiting; back to the days when David writes many Psalms, including Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (KJV) David knows about enemies, demented King Saul being desperate to eliminate this anointed successor. Through this darkness, despite this darkness, hope fills David. “Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (KJV)

Hear also words of David in Psalm 27:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? . . . One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord. . . . I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (NRSV)

Let blindness of the heart be gone! Out of the darkness and into the light. Yes, the Lord is my light and my salvation! Praise the Lord forever and ever! Amen

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