Sunday, March 22, 2020

The real blindness. . .

Sermon for Lent 4A, preached on Saturday evening, March 21, 2020.

   The great temptation is always to trivialize sin.  Sins are mistakes, intentions left undone, opportunities not taken, and misunderstandings.  Sins are not real.  Sins are simply things that end up wrong.  Sins can sometimes be fixed – by apologies or by making up for the mistake.  But sin is never something that holds us all captive, never something that covers us in blindness and darkness, and never something that stains us right down to the soul.  Even the disciples were not immune from trivializing sin and making it small.  Okay, there is a man born blind.  So, who sinned?  Did he sin or did his parents?

    The reality is that everyone is blind and blind from birth.  There are no exceptions or immunities to this blindness.  It is not because the eyes don’t work but because the eyes cannot see God.  God must reveal Himself.  He must open the eyes of the blind and show Himself and this is exactly what He does in Christ.  Our Lord Jesus Christ enters into the dark and blind world of sin and shines with the one true light.  The darkness cannot stop His light nor can the darkness cover His light.  Not even a man born blind is immune to the power of this light to enable the man to see – to see beyond himself or his surroundings and into the face of God.

    You added to this darkness of sin but you did not cause it.  Your parents added to sin’s darkness as well but neither did they cause it.  You must go back to Adam in the Garden to find where blindness begins, where God becomes a mystery, where faith turns into fear, and where the heart of man becomes corrupt.  Blindness to God and to His purpose and to His will is the creeping effect of sin that began long ago and far away in a garden where trust was traded away for knowledge, where innocence was exchanged for guilt and shame, and where life was surrendered for death. Because of this we do the works we were trained to do.  Sinners sin.  The blind do not see.  The deaf do not hear.  The lame do not walk.  The fearful do not hope.  The dead do not live.

    We are all blind because we cannot see God.  Yet God is determined to be seen.  Even if it means He must open the eyes of the blind, God wills Himself to be seen and known.  The curse once proudly taken upon ourselves in earth that must be worked and will eventually claim us, is now undone by earth into which Jesus spits and eyes that are packed with this mud.  In the pool of Siloam the mud is washed away and the curse of Adam is replaced with the grace of God. 
The blind man sees God because He has seen Jesus.  It is imperfect faith that must be catechized and it is halting faith that must be strengthened but it is faith, planted by the Spirit, working through the Word of the Lord and the healing mud pack and the cleansing water.  Lord, I believe.  Lord, I see.

    The man born blind sees but the others around him are still blind.  “He cannot be from God,” they say, “because he does not keep the Sabbath.”  His parents were still blind.  “Yes, he is our sin, he was blind, but how he sees we do not know and who made him to see we do not know.  Leave us alone and ask him.”  And the blind leading the blind go back to the man who sees.  “He must be a sinner, tell us who he is and what he has done.”  The man who sees catechizes the blind.  “He must be from God because God does not listen to sinners and God listens to Him and never before in the history of the world has a man born blind been given the grace to see so He must be from God.”  The blind continue in their blindness.  “Who do you think you are to teach us?”

    It is an amazing story.  What is so incredible is not that God can give sight to the blind but how deep the blindness is and how dark the darkness is and how dead the death is because of sin.  That is what is amazing.  We marvel at those who can give sight to eyes that do not work and we do not marvel at the God who makes Himself known to us so that we might see His mercy, rejoice in His love, trust in His salvation, and be granted eternal life.  There are no people more blind than those who will not see.

    To know God and to see Him by faith is not some little added benefit to an already good life but that which transforms life from a brief day that turns into an eternal night to a brief night that becomes an eternal day.  No matter how great this life, it is but a brief moment from birth to death.  Ask anyone who is old how fast their life passed by. What God has done in giving us the sight of faith is to give us perspective on this life and the gift of eternal life.  It comes from seeing Christ, the Lord who fulfills all righteousness for you and who dies upon the cross that you might live forevermore.  It comes from seeing Christ, the God who has come as one of us that we might dwell with Him eternally.  It comes from seeing Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, your sin and mine.

    We presume that we see things very clearly on our own.  That is the blindness Jesus came to confront.  We do not see things clearly. 
We see a blur that is life from beginning until its end.  We see a blur of change that comes at us so quickly we can hardly breathe.  We see a blur of fear that make us panic.  We see a blur of wrongs that suddenly are called right and rights that are called wrong.  We see a blur of illnesses we never heard of yesterday that become the scourges to us today.  We see a blur of things that were once considered valuable and are not deemed to be cheap and things that were once called bargains that now cost us everything.  We see nothing until we see Christ and in Him we see all things clearly.

    This is the message of the Gospel: when you see Christ, you not only see God, you see who you are, where your life fits, what your purpose is and where your destiny leads.  For the light of Christ not only shows us what is good and right and true but what is evil and wrong and a lie.  The Light of Christ exposes what only darkness can hide – foolishness that parades as wisdom, falsehoods that parade as truth, death that parades as life.  The works of darkness are exposed in Christ just as the works of God are revealed in Christ.  That is the blindness Christ has come to confront and that is the gift given us when we see Christ by faith.

    Today God calls us to repentance.  Do not be like those who said they see but are blind.  Come as the blind rejoicing in the work of God that opens your heart to faith and opens your life to hope.  Come as the blind who rejoice to know the Word of God and be taught that Word.  Come as the blind who rejoice to see Christ for in Christ all things worth seeing are seen and all that is not worthy of us is revealed.  Come as the blind who fearful who plead to God to make them strong.  Come as the doubting who plead to God to give them faith.  Come as the dying who plead to God to give them the one life death cannot steal away.  Come as the despairing who plead to God for hope.  For this God whom we know in Christ will never disappoint us.  He will give us sight that we may see Him as Savior and Redeemer and through Him all things worth our attention.  And He will give us sight to see the emptiness of a world apart from Him and all those things unworthy of our attention.

    Now more than ever, we need the Lord’s light.  We have been blinded by our fears and have forgotten to hope.  We have judged the threat to this life greater than the threat to eternal life.  We have panicked instead of trusted and given into hysteria instead of living in the peace that passes understanding.  This too shall pass. 

    Once you were in darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord.  Walk as the children of Light.  Do not let fear steal your hope.  Do not let panic reign where God has given faith a home.  Give attention to His Word and rejoice in the Sacraments that deliver His kingdom to us.  Live in the day of His grace now, refusing evil and rejoicing in what is good, showing forth the good works of Him who called you from darkness into His marvelous light.  Walk in the light of Christ for in Him is no darkness at all.    Amen.

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