Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Remain in Light": A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Preached at Grace Church, Ilderton, 2 March, 2008

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

“Remain in Light”

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 1They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” (John 9:11-12)

Medical science can do so much for us today that the miraculous can seem quite ordinary. When people in this congregation and community tell me that they are going for cataract surgery, as they often do, it seems routine. In our grandparent’s generation, cataracts meant being condemned to a slowly darkening world. Today, it’s a simple fix. You go in as a day patient, spend a day or two recovering, and then you’re good to go, but with better eyes. My wife Kay had both eyes done last fall, and discovered to her joy and amazement that colours were brighter and suddenly she could read billboards and street signs.

Imagine Kay’s joy, or your own experience if you’ve had this surgery, and then multiply it by, oh, a thousand or so, to imagine what it must have been like for the blind man in today’s gospel when he washed that mud out of his eyes. I can picture him trying to make sense his reflection in the pool of Siloam, and slowly understanding that it was him. Imagine how bright the sun must have been, how overwhelming the colours must have been. It must have taken his brain a while to process his newfound sight.

As John tells the story, he is more interested in how the blind man recovers his spiritual sight, and that also takes a while. At first he can’t see Jesus. He doesn’t know what Jesus looks like and he doesn’t know where Jesus is (Jn 9:12). However, when he’s questioned by the Pharisees, we see the light starting to dawn. At first he tells his interrogators that the man who healed him must be a prophet, and later he goes further and says that Jesus must be from God (Jn 9:33). After the Pharisees drive him out, he meets Jesus and he’s prepared to believe in “the Son of Man” (Jn 9:36) if only he could meet him. Finally, when he realize who Jesus is, he worships him. At this point the man can see physically and spiritually. He can see the light, and he knows that the light comes from God.

“Where’s the person who gave you your sight and where is he now?” If I asked this question to all the people here who have had cataract surgery, I’m sure you could answer me easily enough. “It was Dr. Smith and he’s at St. Joes”, or “It was Dr. Jones at the Ivey Clinic”. If I asked you what difference it made in your life, I’m sure you could say “I don’t need my old glasses”, or “I can see signs better”. But if someone came along to all of us here in church this morning, and said “Who brought you from darkness into light, and where is he in your life now?”, what would we say? How many of us could say clearly and confidently that we know where Jesus is in our lives, or could say what he’s done for us?

The prophet Isaiah spoke of how the Messiah would come and bring God’s people out of their darkness. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined” (Isa 9:2). If you were in church on Sunday, January 29th, or on Christmas Eve, you heard that verse. The prophet Isaiah said of the Messiah that “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa 49:6). If you were in church on Sunday, January 20th, you heard that verse. The prophet Isaiah said to God’s people “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isa 60:1). If you were in church on Epiphany Sunday, January 6th, you heard that verse. All those verses are talking about us and how God’s light shines on us. All those verses are talking about who Jesus is and what he’s done for us.

At our baptism, a priest gave us or gave our parents a candle to show that we have passed from darkness into light, just as Paul describes in our second lesson from Ephesians. For most of us, our faith life is a slow adjustment to seeing the world in bright light of Christ. It’s not an easy thing to do. Our eyes are weak. They prefer to see in shadows rather than in the bright sunshine. Most of us are like the sleepers in Ephesians who need to be dragged into a new day.

Once our eyes begin to adjust to the light of Christ, wonderful things start to happen. We begin to see the people that no one else wants to see. We start to see the losers, the no-accounts, with new eyes of compassion. We stop asking what bad things people did to deserve their misfortune, like the disciples ask when they first see the blind man. Instead, we start seeing the people around us as brothers and sisters in Christ, infinitely precious and loved in the eyes of God. We start seeing our blessings and our possessions and our talents as gifts that can make a difference in the world around us. We start seeing what we can do with God’s help.

We started this season of Lent with a story of how Christ was tempted in the wilderness. I think we always need to remember that Satan is trying to block the light of Christ and keep it from shining on us. Sometimes he tries to convince us that the world makes more sense in shades of gray, and that the light of Christ is too harsh, too simplistic for a complicated day and age. Sometimes he tries to convince us that our past sins are too horrible, that we aren’t fit to be seen in the light of Christ, that we’re never really forgiven. Sometimes he tries to convince us that our addictions and burdens aren’t really problems at all, and that they don’t need to be exposed to the light of Christ.

The best way to resist these temptations is to stay in the light. You know where to find your optometrist and your eye doctor. You know where to get your physical vision fixed. Make sure you know where to find Christ the healer, Christ your spiritual eye doctor. Keep close to him. See yourself as a beloved son and daughter of God whose sins are taken away. Be thankful to him. Worship him and say “thank you, Lord, for though I was blind, now I see”. Then go out into that wonderful bright world, and see the things God wants you to see. After all, it’s a beautiful day. Why stay in bed and miss it?


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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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