Sunday, March 30, 2014

Come walk in the light!

"Woman at the Well" - Diego Rivera
For the last two weeks we’ve been hearing stories of light and dark; seeing and not seeing. Two weeks ago it was the story of Nicodemus who came to Jesus in the dark.  He asked Jesus a lot of questions but at the end of the story he went back into the shadows having come no further in his faith journey than when he arrived. He just couldn’t see the truth.

Last Sunday we heard about the Samaritan woman who came to see Jesus in the bright light of day.  And as she talked to Jesus she was able to see him for who he truly is;   the chosen one sent to save the world.  Having seen Jesus, she literally dropped everything to share the incredible news of the one who sees us truly and deeply. She shared with everyone she met the good news that Jesus can see it all! He knows everything we’ve done.  He is aware of every good choice and every bad step.  And he loves us just as we are!
Come and see!  She calls to her neighbors.  
Come and see!  She calls to her friends.
+ + +

In the gospel according to John, seeing is about more than just our physical sight.  It’s an important theological activity. It’s connected to faith.  If you see – you believe.  So when Jesus calls his disciples to be a part of his ministry, he says, “Come and See.”   When the woman at the well said that she could “see” that Jesus was a prophet, it was a declaration of faith.  And when Nicodemus left Jesus to go wandering in the dark, his lack of vision wasn't caused by the shadows of the night. It was a lack of faith that kept him from seeing Jesus’ true identity.

And now today, we have one more story about seeing and believing.
+ + +

It starts with the disciples wanting to know whose sin resulted in the man being born blind.  Was it his parents?  Did the guy do something before he was born?  There had to be a logical explanation.  Human beings crave logical explanations when things go wrong.  And in those days any kind of illness or disability was seen as being a punishment for somebody!  Jesus explained straight off that sin had nothing to do with the man’s blindness.  Instead, he said that it was an opportunity to see God at work.

Now that may sound kind of odd.  Was Jesus saying that the man’s blindness was some kind of elaborate set up so that God could do something amazing in just the right time and in just the right place? 

I don’t think so.   The God I know isn’t that manipulative or mean spirited. So maybe the truth is this.  That man was no better or worse than anyone else.  God knew him inside and out and loved him just as he was.  And like all of us, this guy had limitations.  We all do.  None of us are fit together perfectly or without flaws.  But despite our frailties and imperfections, we are called to be in relationship with God and because of that connection to God, things happen.  Good things.
+ + +
"Blind Man's Family" - Pablo Picasso

My husband was treated for cancer a few years ago.  It was awful.  He had chemo and radiation and surgery.  He was out of work for a year.  It changed his life in so many ways, but in the midst of all of that, good things happened.  Because of his relationship to God, his faith became stronger that year.  We experienced the love of our God and the care of God's people.  It wasn't an easy time, but God made good use of that time in our lives. Other people could see that God was at work in our lives.

And so it was, that God did something unexpected and rather miraculous for a man who was born blind.  Jesus used mud, spit and a quick bath so that the man could have his sight and so that the wonder of God would be revealed to anyone who would choose to see.
                                          + + +
Unfortunately,  as soon as the guy could see, people started questioning the truth that was right in front of them.   The truth just wasn’t to be trusted.
It must be a trick.

What happens next is like something out of an Abbot and Costello routine.
Are you the man born blind?  Yes, I am.
No, you can't be.    Yes, it's me.
No, you like like him, but you're not him.   Really, it's me!
But really, how can you see now?        This man told me to put mud on my eyes and wash and now I see.

Aw, that’s not him.  Where are his parents? Let's ask them.
Is that your son?    Yes, that's him.
But your son was born blind.  That's right.    
But this guy can see.  What happened?                                        Don't ask us! 
We didn't do anything.  Talk to him.  He's an adult!

The people who knew the man suddenly couldn't recognize someone they saw day after day.  They dragged the Pharisees into the whole thing and eventually even his own parents wouldn't stick up for him.  Everyone there could see the change that had taken place, but that didn’t mean that they believed what they could see.

Even the experts were blind to what was happening.  The Pharisees are sighted people but they had limited vision.  They were so committed to keeping all the rules and regulations, that Jesus just confused them.  Why wasn't this new rabbi ignoring the law that they held to be so very, very important.  The Messiah was standing right in front of them, but they couldn’t see him.  The Light of the World was shining bright, but their lack of faith left them in the dark. This story is chock full of people who can see, but don’t.  They are so spiritually blind that they toss the man out on his ear.  Ultimately, the man is the only person who can see AND believe what he sees.
 + + +

He has been transformed and being able to see isn’t the most important thing that happened to him that day. He saw Jesus for who he was and began a whole new journey of faith.  And life was never going to be the same again.
+ + +
That’s how it is when you’re in a relationship with Jesus.  Things change.  Which sounds good.  Except that, change is disruptive. Change means letting go of the life we know so that we can live into the unknown.

The man could see, but now what was he going to do? His whole life was going to be different.  He had been a beggar all his life.  Now he was going to have to learn a trade.  Find some place to live.  Make a living.  He was going to have to figure out what to do about his relationship with his parents  And then there was all that business with the Pharisees.  Would they let him come back to worship?  The synagogue was the center of community life? If they kicked him out, then what!  He might be better off just leaving town. His day with Jesus was going to impact every facet of his life.
+ + +
That’s how it is with Jesus.  When you get involved with him, he changes things. And those changes aren't always easy or simple.  New decisions.  New choices. New places. New people.  But, the changes are also life giving. For what Jesus wants for us is a life that is full and rich and abundant.  By which I don’t mean rich with money and abundant with stuff.   Our lives are full and rich because we know that we are precious in the eyes of God.  Our lives are abundant because we believe that when God sees us-  he always sees a beloved child.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul put it like this.
For 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. ..
     "Sleeper, awake!
     Rise from the dead,
     and Christ will shine on you."

Sometimes we resist the transformation that comes from following Jesus.  It’s almost always a disruption and it can be hard work to walk in the Light. 
But our lives are designed for this.  We were made to reveal the love of God.  We have seen and we believe, and so we are called to let our lives show Christ’s love to the world.   We get to follow the example of the man in our story.  We should keep asking questions.  Keep looking for God’s work in our lives.  Keep striving to be the person God wants us to be.

Some days, we’re going to get it right.  You go to bed and you think, "That was such a great day!  I could see God at work in my life and the lives of the people around me.  It was such a good day.  A day to be remembered!"

And some days, not so much.  "God that was a hard day.  I'm worn out and weary and I'm just not seeing the point right now.  Please help me."

It's not always easy, but if we keep walking in the light-  if we keep looking for God's work in our lives, Christ will shine in us and shine bright. It's what we were built for.  It's what we do best!

Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to God.

+ for Katie because she asked.