Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What do you see?

Sermon for Lent 4A, preached on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

    Everyday we make choices.  Our lives are filled with questions that expect, even demand, answers and choices that expect, even demand, decisions.  We weigh the evidence and come to some conclusion.  We do it about the news we watch on TV, the rumors we hear at work, the stories from the internet.  Usually the judgements we make are not objective – it is not a matter of what we know but what w2e think.  These subjective judgements are how we see things right now.  Others may disagree and usually do.
    We are not so different from the people who went before us. They found a man born blind and tried to figure out why this had happened.  They used their best judgment to offer an explanation.  We have the best medical technology available to us and when we hear the words cancer we want to know "why me?"  That is the same question the people in the Gospel for today asked about a man born blind.  "Why?"  It may have been framed a little differently than we would, "who sinned?" but it is essentially the same question.
    To us sick means cancer, silence means guilt, and suffering is the result of doing the wrong thing.  We are not quite so enlightened as we might think.  In the Gospel for today the people asked "Who sinned?"  They knew somebody must have screwed up because surely God would not have let this happen.  That somebody sinned is a safe enough answer.  Though we know we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we still wonder if you can tie the ills of life to one specific wrong and blame on specific person.
    As interesting as the blame game is, it does not solve the problem.  It is wonderful to know who to blame about it, but it does not remove the blindness.  So what do we do about it?  Blame offers us the lamest of explanations but no real consolation.  We want more.  How do you fix it?
    Here is where God enters into the conversation.  We have fabulous medical technology but people still go blind, people still get cancer, people still die.  What we cannot fix, surely God can.  So what does God do about it?  Does He fix the symptom (eliminate the blindness) or does he fix the cause (the sin)?  We wish we did not have to choose.  We want both.  We want blindness healed and we want to make sure no one ever goes blind again.  God wants the same thing but His intervention still surprises us.
    God wants the blind to see and blindness never to afflict His people again.  But God's concern is greater than repairing the eye.  His healing work bestows new eyes of faith to see what the old eyes can never see and the forgiveness of sins to remove all guilt and satisfy all punishment.  We think physical problems like blindness are our greatest maladies but God points to the blindness of unbelief which effectively removes the sinner from the pale of grace, the benefit of the cross, and forgiveness. 
    Connect this event to Jesus' words about how much better it is to enter heaven without your eye than to go to hell with 20/20 vision.  All through His ministry, Jesus shows us God's compassion upon our need and His wisdom to heal not simply the symptom but the cause.  It is no different here.  The Pharisees who watched the whole thing knew Jesus was talking about them but they did not see it.  They figured if their eyes worked, their hearts did also.  It is always the other way around. Only when we see with faith is our blindness really gone.
    This is a hard thing for us.  Even Christians have come to regard the ills of this world as the greatest problems we face.  We are tempted to believe that everything that is wrong can be fixed with more money, more medicine, more technology, more time.  These are all dead ends.  What we need is Christ and His righteousness, Christ and His forgiveness, Christ and His life. And this is the sight of faith, the sight imparted by the Holy Spirit to hardened and frustrated hearts.  This is His gift to us.  If we have this, we have all things.  If we have Christ, we have all we need and more than we can imagine.
    We love to sing Amazing Grace, what has become our national hymn.  But as we sing how we were blind we often forget the judgment inherent in those words.  Blindness here has nothing to do with the eye and everything to do with the heart.  But now we see refers not to the repair of the eye but the intervention of the Spirit in bestowing us the sight of the heart we call faith.  Singing it is not enough.  The hard work is believing it.  Trusting in it.  That is what we need.  If we see Jesus, then we see everything.  If we do not see Jesus, we see nothing at all.
    Scripture is filled with stories of blindness that has nothing to do with the eyes.  Joseph saw Mary pregnant and knew the child was not his and in blindness decided to walk away.  God intervened and He saw with faith what his eyes could not behold.   His is but one example.  We come to God assuming that things we do not like are the real wrongs that need to be fixed.   Too often we are content to assign blame more than repent.  Jesus offers to us the radical choice of faith.  The vision of the heart that sees all things because we see Christ and the answers we have in Christ are the only ones we need.  We come here today confessing the blindness that allows us to see all things but our own sin and God’s grace.  With that comes the prayer that God will open the eyes of our hearts, help us to see Jesus in trouble, in trial, in suffering, in pain, in life, and in death.  Then we will see all things clearly.  Amen.

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