Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

Katy Kuhn, Mistaken Identity, mixed media

A sermon preached on Easter Day at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Acts 10:34-43Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24Colossians 3:1-4, and John 20:1-18.

Some of you may know the story of the elderly woman who arrived in church and was greeted kindly by an usher. He handed her a bulletin and offered to take her to a seat.

“Thank you,” she responded. “I’d like to sit in the front row.”

The usher replied, “Oh, Ma’am, you really don’t want to do that. Unfortunately, our preacher is excitable and prone to spitting during the sermon. We try and leave those seats open for the choir, who are hardened to it.”

The woman responded, “Young man, do you have any idea who I am?”

To which the usher replied, “No, Ma’am, I don’t.”

“I’m the preacher’s mother!” she said.

And after an awkward moment of silence, the usher said to the woman, “Ma’am, do you have any idea who I am?”

“No, I don’t,” she replied.

“Good,” he said. “Let me show you to your seat.”

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At the heart of the Easter story, in one account after another, there is a case of mistaken identity. People just don’t know who they’re talking to.

  • Mary finds the tomb empty and stands weeping outside. She turns and sees Jesus, but she doesn’t realize who he is and mistakes him for the gardener.
  • In another account two disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus and are joined by someone whom they take to be a complete stranger. They walk and talk with him for hours, and still they don’t know that the stranger is Jesus.

On that first Easter Day, people just didn’t know who they were talking to.

But isn’t that the way it is with all of us? I mean, we have glimmers of recognition about what a miracle a human being is.

  • When a baby is born,
  • when a couple is getting married,
  • when an artist creates something beautiful
  • or when someone does something heroic….

Sometimes the miraculous shines through, and we can see the truth about each other, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

But day in and day out, …

  • we greet our spouses after work (“what’s for supper?”),
  • you pick up your child after school (“what took you so long?”),
  • when you speak to your neighbor in the driveway
    • or the clerk in the market,
    • or the usher at the church door,
    • do we really know who it is we are talking to?

One way of thinking about the mistaken identities on Easter Day is that this was God’s clever way of inviting us to care for each other with the deepest reverence and kindness…because you never know.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” the Letter to the Hebrews says, “because thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Jesus himself, in one of his last parables, says that the King will welcome the blessed by saying,

  • “You fed me when I was hungry,
  • you gave me something to drink when I was thirsty,
  • you visited me when I was in prison,
  • you clothed me when I was naked,
  • you cared for me when I was sick….”

And the blessed will be dumbfounded and say, “We don’t remember any of this. When did we feed you, and clothe you, and care for you, and visit you, give you something to drink…?”

And the King will simply say, “As you did it to the least, you did it to me.” In other words, you never know who you’re talking to.

Theologians say that Christianity is an incarnational religion. That’s just a fancy way of saying that Christians believe God has imbedded Godself in ourselves and in the people all around us.

Episcopalians have a habit of bowing to the cross when it comes by, but the point of Christianity is that we should be bowing to each other.

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A friend of mine recently told me about being late to one of the most important meetings of his life. It was a meeting that would determine, literally, the future of his career. But he’d gotten a late start, traffic was bad, and when he arrived, the parking lot was packed. He drove round and round but all the spots, even the illegal ones were taken. And he started to panic.

So, he looked up to heaven and he said, “God, if you’ll just find me a parking place, I promise, I’ll go to church every Sunday, I’ll give up whisky.” And just then, a parking place opened up right in front of him, and my friend said, “Never mind, I found one.”

Isn’t that the story of our lives? Day in and day out, there are all sorts of possible explanations for the way things turn out the way they do. But sometimes it seems we are so focused on the rational explanations that we overlook the possibility of the miraculous.

When the sun comes up in the morning, we lose sight of the stars. But that doesn’t mean the stars have gone away. They’re still out there – stars, planets, and entire galaxies; we just can’t see them.

I think something like that is going on in the spiritual life. Most of the time, we are attuned to only a very small portion of our total life, and the task of faith is to become opened and sensitized to a much greater reality, and a much larger life that God invites us to begin living right now.

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In a couple of weeks Kathy is going to visit her grandmother in California. This is the beloved, adored grandmother who raised her. Everyone says that Ruby is 94 years old, but by my count she’s been 94 for almost 10 years, so if you told me she’s over 100, I’d believe it. So, this is an important visit. Anyway, as we were looking to book flights for her, and banners kept floating by on the screen:

Attention, passengers. Please keep a close eye on your baggage. Do not accept anything from strangers. And report any suspicious activity to the nearest airport security personnel…

And in some ways, the modern airport, with it’s continuous loop of warnings about danger and people who might be out to harm us, could be a metaphor for much of our daily experience. No wonder we can become anxious.

Easter reminds us there is another, more important reality going on. Easter invites us to attune ourselves to that deeper truth:

  • that it’s not necessary to live our lives small
  • to be trapped by relationships and behaviors that are harmful to us and to those around us
  • It is possible now, in this moment, to be made new

We all know about the continuous loop that plays in airports, but the message of Easter is that there is another continuous loop playing from a spiritual dimension, one playing from our much larger life in God. You may have to do some things to change the frequency on your dial in order to hear it clearly (churches help with that). But can you hear it?

“May I have your attention, please. You are all passing through this place for only a short time.

  • Most of you are carrying a lot more baggage than you need.
  • Don’t worry about keeping such a close eye on your luggage;
  • it’s more important to keep an eye out for each other.
  • The truth is, you often don’t know who you are talking to.
  • So, love each other, as I love you, as I love you.

Look for the face of Christ in one another. Listen for that continuous loop this Easter season.  And you may discover that you, too, have been raised.

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Bending Down to Earth

A sermon preached on Maundy Thursday at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14Psalm 116:1, 10-171 Corinthians 11:23-26, and John 13:1-17, 31b-35.

If you go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, you’ll notice that the holiest of holy places in both churches have something in common.  The entrance to the shrine, to the heart of the holy (the place marking where Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the place symbolizing where he was crucified in Jerusalem)—that place is low. And just to enter in, most people have to stoop a little.  You’ve got to lower your head, to bend down in order to enter in.

It’s appropriate, I think, that we need to bend down in order to get close to the holiest truths of our faith because “bending down” is exactly what God is doing in the Incarnation.

In one of his Christmas sermons, St. Bonaventure, that medieval franciscan scholar, was reflecting on the phrase “And the Word became flesh” said this.  “These words give expression to that heavenly mystery… that the eternal God has humbly bent down and lifted the dust of our nature into unity with his own person.”

Ilia Delio recalls how this image of God’s bending down reminds her of what she used to feel when she would see her baby nephew in his crib.  The humility of God is like that, she says, “God is at once the small helpless infant who lies quietly in the crib of the universe, and also the strong one who can raise up a fragile human being and draw that person into the embrace of infinite love.  God is Most High and Most Humble.”

We get an up-close look at that graceful gesture of God to bend down to us in tonight’s liturgy.

Think about this for a moment….

Running like a golden thread through legend and saga is the story of the king who walks in the guise of servant or slave. On this night we see the king of kings among us a servant.

  • It is Thursday.
  • There are now less than 24 hours of freedom remaining to Jesus.
  • He has already decided how the last hours will be spent.
  • Whatever is done on this evening must be so powerful and universal in its images that it will be inexhaustible in its meaning for generation after generation.

There would be supper. That would be normal and tradition. But there would be something more, something at once utterly simple and utterly profound.

All his life since childhood Jesus had known the story of the king’s feast. He had used it himself to communicate a vision of God’s kingdom that was so central to his whole ministry.

I imagine his mother telling him the story, about how a great king had decided to give a feast. What he had remembered was that the feast was boundless. There was food and drink for all. No one was turned away. All were accepted at the royal table. “Antwone Fisher”, one of my very favorite movies, opens and closes with a beautiful sequence of a table set for all in the middle of our ordinary life.

  • That table, more than any other symbol, spoke of the kingdom of God.
  • That table with its feast was a symbol of what all human beings and every human society dreams and hopes for –
    • a world which is itself such a table
    • where all human beings, cherished for their uniqueness and difference are yet completely at one
    • where there is justice in the distribution of what is available
    • where there is peace.

That night they gathered at a table. The atmosphere was tense. The recent PBS “Last Days of Jesus” depicts it as a challenging strategy meeting. Whatever else was said, everyone in the room knew that events were moving to some ghastly climax. Jesus himself was obviously intensely involved in every word and action of the evening. It was if he knew this opportunity for fellowship would not come again. Years later they would remember this night. Every moment of it engraved on their memories.

  • They would remember the strangely ambiguous moment when Judas left.
  • They would remember forever the moment he broke the bread and passed it around, and the cup too that followed it.
    • There was something deeply reassuring about even the act itself. It seemed to bond them for a brief moment against the darkness beyond.
    • They struggled with the possible meaning of what he had said as he began the journey of the loaf and the cup around the table.
      • They did not know what it could mean to have the bread as his body and the wine as his blood.
    • But for some reason this act was desperately important to him, and he obviously wished it to become of immense significance for them.
  • But there was one more thing they would see vividly in their minds eye for the rest of their lives.

At a particular point in the meal Jesus rose, took the rough towel and the water container set by the entrance, and returned to the table. Instead of sitting down, he stripped as if for work and, turning to Peter, bent down and kneeled before him to wash his feet.

Peter’s confusion of emotions was total:

  • astonishment, anger
  • embarrassment, mingled with and focused in his absolute refusal to allow Jesus to touch him
  • Peter’s words were almost angry: You will never wash my feet!

Jesus’ reply was quietly but totally authoritative: “if I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon accepted the foot-washing, as they all did. (There’s something important there about accepting love as well as giving it, but that’s for another sermon.)

The image of our Lord bent over his task in the shadowed upper room has come down the centuries.

“Do you know what I have done to you?” he asks them.  And they must have been in shock.

  • A rabbi doesn’t sit on the floor.
  • A great teacher doesn’t get on her knees.
  • And as for God, God is high and mighty,
    • demanding and judging,
    • all-powerful,
    • all-holy,
    • untouchable and removed.

“Not true,” Jesus says with his whole being.  Not true, at all.  That’s not who God is.

  • God is humble.
  • God comes close.

Jesus shows us, over and over, how God bends down to us no matter how far down we may be

  • whether the world has pushed us down,
  • whether we’ve fallen,
  • or whether perhaps we’ve chosen some way that debases or degrades and takes us under…
  • Nevertheless and no matter what, God bends down and meets us.
    • God touches, holds,
    • soothes, and loves,
    • all so that we might be raised with love
    • and learn to love – from that experience – how to love one another.

The experience is derived from recognizing our need, our common and equal need for God. But we don’t get that heart stretching (like the Grinch whose heart grew 3 sizes that day) on our own. It is not about our capacity but about God’s bending to us. Teaching us to bend toward one another. Or, as Jesus puts it, to love one another.

That is how we become a community where all men and women, rich and poor, brilliant and mediocre, practical and intellectual, so-called successful and so-called failures, may be at one. What makes us one is our common and equal need for Christ.

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Palm Sunday Time Travel

A reflection offered on Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Isaiah 50:4-9aPsalm 31:9-16Philippians 2:5-11, and Passion Gospel according to Matthew.

When I was in my mid-20s, at that time not having really been to church for 10 – 15 years, I attended a Palm Sunday service. It was one of the first church services I had ever been to when I was not with my parents, when no one was making me go or inviting me to join them as a member of the family. It was only some inner impulse that I did not understand. Indeed, the only thing I knew was that I did not fully appreciate why I was going. What a re-entry into the life of faith! Palm Sunday. With its sweeping, breath-taking narrative of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem only to be completed by a long, slow reading that ends in the crucifixion.

I remember now walking in, being handed a huge bundle of things: bulletin, a prayer book, a hymnal and a palm. I went to my seat, hands full, wondering where to put the palm – on the pew ledge? In the hymn book? In my hand?

Then the Passion Narrative was read with the congregation shouting out at key moments. It all had a timeless and dreamlike quality.

  • It wasn’t just a long-ago city but was happening now. Both.
  • They had been shouting “Hosanna” and I was shouting “Hosanna”.
  • They and we shouted “Crucify!”
  • And as I was in it, I was reminded of the many times as a child, when I had come to shout praise and condemnation. And those shouts along with those now and those long ago seemed to echo along the corridors of time.

There is a device used in story telling, especially in fantasy, fairy tales and science fiction. The hero or heroine will have certain adventures. Then they wake from sleep and realize it was a dream. But, as they do, they see near them, in the place of waking, an object that was also in the dream. And the haunting question comes, Which is the dream; which is reality? Dream and reality become interwoven….

I’ve come to think of the palm as that object – it functions as a time machine to dissolve away the gulfs which separate the illusions we call the past, the present and the future. The palm, the one you hold in your hand or tucked in your hymnal in front of you, makes all of them one, a single reality, an integrated vision.

That’s how religious symbols work. We are meant to make that leap of imagination. It’s the only way we can begin to apprehend the mystery of God’s action.

But the Passion Narrative is so big, so sweeping. The American poet Mary Oliver said that hearing the Passion Narrative was like hoping to get a cup of water from the foot of Niagara Falls. The force of it just knocks the cup from your hand.

Well, the Church has a couple of really good strategies.

  • One is to slow the whole thing down, recognize its enormity and take it bit by bit.
    • It helps to attend one or more Holy Week services.
    • Each one seeks to take one part of the story and help us just sit with it, be in it, let it do its work on us.
  • Another strategy (esp. for those who can only get to church on Sundays) is to focus on a character or phrase.
    • Write down which ones struck you as you heard them this morning.
    • Don’t try and figure out why. Just jot them down.
    • Then take time to think about each one at some point this week. Something from God is there for you.

This week, I invite you to time travel. Go through the looking glass, over the rainbow, step into the wardrobe, leap through the wall to the train, hold up your palm. Let God’s story live in you and through you.

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De Profundis: Eternal Life Now

Giotto, 1306-1308

A sermon preached on the Fifth Sunday in Lent at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: Ezekiel 37:1-14Psalm 130Romans 8:6-11, and John 11:1-45.

He was a bright young man, 27 years old, and full of passion for just about everything. He was handsome

  • well-educated
  • he’d done well in school
  • He had a wide circle of friends who shared an athletic life with him –
    • kayaking, sailing, skiing, mountain-climbing.
    • He loved taking risks and going off on rugged adventures, the sort Maine is famous for.

Until the fateful day.

  • Why did he decide that day to hop on his motorcycle,
  • Why are some lives snuffed out before they have burned with the brightness they were made for?
  • Out of the depths we all cried – Why? Isn’t that the natural cry of grief?

Lazarus was ill, and his sisters Mary and Martha sent for their good friend Jesus. But when Jesus arrived, Lazarus was dead, and so Jesus got an earful from Martha: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Out of the depths they cried,

  • ‘Lord, where were you when we needed you?’
  • It’s the cry of the heart in the face of the world’s pain.

We don’t like death. And death comes in plenty of forms. I know people whose daily lives are a battle against the death of mental illness, or alcoholism, or cancer.

  • Or there is the death of someone who’s had the door slammed in his face at work.
  • Or the death of the one looking for work but finds all doors closed against her.
  • Or people living constantly inside the tomb of prejudice,
  • or are the objects of fear because they are from another country.
  • Or death comes as we sense in ourselves a long drift into a life that has lost its purpose and meaning.

Over the past weeks the Gospel of John has been telling the story of Jesus’ own battle against the power of death.

  • Nicodemus, a prosperous man who nevertheless feels dead, comes to Jesus in the night searching for a more authentic life.
  • A woman living in the death of scandal for her promiscuity meets Jesus at a well and finds the acceptance she has long been searching for.
  • And a blind man after a lifetime of social and religious ostracism reaches out to Jesus for healing.
  • And then in today’s lesson Jesus faces death head-on when he learns Lazarus is dead.

And so here, just before Jesus faces his own death, he stares the great enemy in the face.  What has been a series of skirmishes between life and death turns into a full-blown confrontation. Is there a power that can overcome even the worst that death can throw at us?

It’s a strange question to be asking before we get to Holy Week and Easter. (That’s where the full war, the greatest struggle will be engaged.) But I think John is saying that God’s answer to death isn’t just an Easter thing.

  • It’s happening every day.
  • New life
  • resurrection
  • eternal life,
  • it’s something we can receive right now.

Do you remember what happens in the story? Martha in despair runs out to meet Jesus as he arrives in Bethany. Jesus tries to reassure her. “Your brother will rise again.”

  • “I know he will rise again,” replies Martha. But somehow that hope in the bye and bye future doesn’t help when you’ve lost someone you love.
  • And so Jesus throws Martha a curve: “I am the resurrection and the life,” he says. “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

“Do you believe this?” he asks Martha. The Greek word we translate “believe” also means “trust.” And that’s what Jesus is really after. Do you trust me that there is more life yet for Lazarus?

He’s talking about new life now.

  • New life for Lazarus,
  • for Nicodemus who came in the night,
  • for the Samaritan woman at the well
  • and the man born blind.

When all these came to Jesus their mind wasn’t on eternal life.

  • The blind man wanted to see,
  • the Samaritan woman wanted to find her own place of dignity.
  • Lazarus’s sisters wanted their brother back.

And in each case what Jesus gave them was new life right then and there –

  • healing
  • forgiveness
  • acceptance
  • a new start on their lives.

Eternal life, resurrection, it’s something happening now. It’s the thing Jesus offers. Again and again.

Nowhere is it more dramatic, though, than with Lazarus. Jesus finally comes to the tomb and orders the tombstone rolled away. And then he shouts – our text suggests he is calling from the depths, it is a verb used only in two other places:

  • it’s the sound of the call that demons make when they are exorcized
  • it’s the verb Mark uses when Jesus is on the cross and the last thing he does is cry out before he dies
  • It’s the cry out of the depths
  • and out of the depths Jesus cries “Lazarus, come out!”

And of all things, the dead man rises and emerges. “Unbind him, and let him go,” Jesus says. And there he is, alive again.

Scholars will argue that this isn’t a resurrection; it’s a resuscitation, because, after all, Lazarus will still face a final death. But it’s a story about God’s power to meet us in our tombs, when we feel there is no way out.

In Jesus, the Creator of the universe, the Source of everything that ever has been and will be, is at work,

  • and those who trust him,
  • who take that life into their lives,
  • can experience healing and eternal life here and now.

And to lay claim to that, to trust it, to let God’s resurrection energy live inside you, is to live in the Spirit

  • to be born again in the Spirit
  • to drink from Jesus’ spiritual well and never thirst
  • to leave our blindness behind and see the Spirit at work in our friends, our neighbors, one another
  • to taste now the peace and healing that we will know beyond death.

Eugene O’Neill once wrote a play called Lazarus Laughed about what happened when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. From the first time Lazarus’ friends see him after he has been raised, he is full of joy and laughter.

“What did you see on the other side of death?” they ask. And Lazarus answers, “There is no death! There is no death! There is only life!” And he bursts into a laugh that O’Neill describes as full of acceptance of life and a profound joy. Everything about his manner of life from that point on expresses deep joy and delight – as if everything has a new luster because of what he has learned – including the climax of the play when he faces the Emperor Caligula who is about to torture and kill him, and Lazarus just smiles, unafraid.

Next week, on Palm Sunday, it will be Jesus himself making his own way into the tomb of death, and as his own prayer in Gethsemane shows, it’s the last thing he wants. But watch next week how Jesus does it.

Our of the depths Jesus calls YOU: “I am resurrection and I am life,” he says. “Those who believe in me, though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and trusts in me will never die.”

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Visioning

A sermon preached on the Fourth Sunday in Lent at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rockland, ME. Lections: 1 Samuel 16:1-13Psalm 23Ephesians 5:8-14, and John 9:1-41.

There’s a proverb from the Bible that appears on the wall of many a church retreat — whether it’s a vestry, the diocesan council, or some national meeting of the Church, the phrase is often written on a banner, put on a white board, or printed on a the official meeting’s tee shirt: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Where there is no vision, the group loses its focus,

  • the goals get fuzzy,
  • and in place of THE vision,
  • there spring up countless visions with energy, creativity, and passion all getting dispersed, and then frustrated.

At St. Peter’s, the Vestry has been working on a vision for our lives that is related to our mission statement:

St. Peter’s initiates and nurtures lives of Christian discipleship. We are followers of Jesus and seek spiritual transformation through prayer, worship, and acts of compassion that build relationships of love, joy, and hope.

Okay, now if every one of our ministries really worked to fulfill this mission what would its impact be? What is the vision that results from this mission being done well. We’ve been working on this but we wanted your input, too. So you’ll see in your bulletin an insert with that very question. When we do our mission well, what do you see? What is the impact on us, on our neighbors of our doing our mission? Can you describe it? Think about it and offer what you see?

  • It needn’t be global.
  • Maybe think about the ministry you are engaged in, and when you do it so that our mission is fulfilled, what’s the result? Describe that result.

Today’s scriptures invite us to shift our gaze and deepen our vision. (So you’ll be primed for this exercise from the Vestry). In all three readings we follow characters whose encounter with God presents an expanded vision of God’s purposes that are often a threat to religious convention. You have to love it when God intervenes to reveal that our vision of God is too small. That is what the spiritual journey is always about, btw. But these stories are pretty good at describing this.

Our OT reading opens with God’s frustration with the holy man Samuel. This is the fellow whom God called even when he was a boy and who has always been especially attuned to divine insight – seeing not as humans see with the eyes but with the spirit’s leading of his heart.

When our story opens, God cries out in frustration: “how long will you grieve over Saul?” Saul was then King of Israel; Samuel had anointed him king. He had been a great military leader but lately he had grown full of himself, unwilling to follow the command of God, or other sections of the story suggest he was growing mad.

Whatever the cause, Samuel felt Saul had turned out to be a disappointment. He was moping about, unable to either help Saul or do anything but endure this dreadful king.

  • because there’s nothing you CAN do, right
  • Samuel anointed him king, so that’s it
  • can’t unanoint someone
  • can’t undo what God had done

So, it’s more than a little beautiful that it’s God who says to Samuel, shaking him out of his torpor: “how long will you grieve over Saul?” We do that, don’t we, when we’re stuck. Being stuck can feel like grieving:

  • the vision is always back to when it was better
  • the focus is on our mistakes, back then, which we can’t now undo – which doesn’t stop us from replaying them with altered effect in our mind
  • and so we sit, spinning

How long will you grieve over Saul? How long will you grieve for the church of the 1950s and 60s? See what I mean?

It may seem obvious to say so, but it is worth noting that when Samuel did break out of his immobility and fear, once he does that, he becomes a man capable of things he never dreamed of

  • he takes considerable risks (going to Jesse’s family under cover of worship)
  • it makes no religious sense to anoint a new king when the current one is still around, but God’s vision is not ours
  • He goes to Bethlehem as God instructs
    • lines up all of Jesse’s sons
      • Jesse’s eldest, Eliab is tall and strong, surely this is the one. Nope, says God. Keep looking
      • And so through all the sons Jesse presents. None are the one God has chosen.
      • Well, crikey. Now what? Is there another?
      • The youngest, a boy, out tending the sheep
    • This is the one. David. David, the one who is credited with this most beloved of psalms from today and many others.
    • David, the greatest king
    • David’s who we know about.
    • We don’t even remember Saul
  • Samuel becomes an important instrument in God’s working in the world

And this is often the forgotten real tragedy when WE cease to be growing, functioning, creative people – people stuck

  • always only looking backwards
  • and not open to God’s promptings for a creative future
  • we cease to be engaged in God’s purposes

In the Gospel, we learn of a man whom Jesus heals of his blindness. For me, there’s such a sense of John’s immediate actual memory of this incident because the rush of different voices – astonished, challenged, or horrified by this healing. A cacophony of voices – just like in real life.

The disciples knew, just like everybody, that one born blind is a punishment from God. So their question is: who sinned – this fellow or one of his parents?

  • And Jesus just demolishes the thing everyone knows to be true: neither one
  • Blindness is not a punishment from God
  • And the disciples are standing there with their mouths agape

The villagers take one look at the fellow and wonder, “Is this the guy who used to beg on the corner, or is it someone else?” They can’t tell.

The Pharisees are in a froth about how and when the man’s sight was given. Can healing happen on the Sabbath? How did this happen?

The parents, who are just as bumfuzzled as the disciples and now are hauled before the religious authorities, say they’d just as soon not get involved. “Ask him, he is of age,” they say.

The man healed is conscious of only one thing. The rabbi Jesus has given him his sight. And our gospel contrasts that certainty, that seeing, with the confusion and blindness of all the others.

Like the man who received his sight, the evangelist is inviting us (all who follow Jesus) to possess a crystal clear, joyous vision of reality.

  • what barriers to imagining a new future need to come down?
  • if we follow Christ, what will that mean for us collectively? for each of us individually?
  • are we letting religious convention get in the way of seeing and living into God’s joyous purposes?

We all live in the healing power of God in Christ. Cast your eyes forward, my friends, to God’s good future. What do you see?

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