As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 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.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah[d] would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
Who sinned? This man, or his parents, that this man was born blind? The disciples ask a question that all of us want to know when we see or experience something that makes us feel helpless, and vulnerable, and unsettled... we want to know... who's fault is it? It's human nature to want to blame someone. The state of dis-ease, or witnessing someone not in a state of 'wholeness' for whatever that means, makes us uncomfortable. The blind man represents not just the marginalized of society, but anyone who is less than 'normal' - anyone who has had calamity fall upon them, or been the victim of violence or disaster which has left them damaged, or, unlike the rest of us. Seeing the blind man makes us feel uncomfortable- there but for the grace of God go I, right? Seeing the blind man makes us feel vulnerable, even fearful of how very fragile we are, and how in the blink of an eye, life can change- without our permission, without us having time to prepare, and without certainty the life will ever be "normal" again. Seeing the blind man makes us conscious of the way we have nearly missed blindness ourselves, which on the one hand makes us feel sorry for him, but on the other, angers us. So we become proficient at keeping him at arms length- at finding reasons to not have him in our midst-of finding the one to blame- and quite often we blame the victim- in order to escape this fate ourselves. If we can hold someone responsible, if we can find the one thing the victim did that caused this calamity, we might be able to avid the same misstep- and escape dis-ease ourselves.
The Coronavirus has shifted life as we know it. We all are walking around a little bit in shock, a little panicked, a little in denial or a mix of all three. And a lot of people are looking for who is to blame- whether countries or politicians or political parties or even blaming people groups that God might have been punishing- really? This fixation with scapegoating- finding a common enemy in order to have an us and a them, my friends, it's as old as time... but now is not the time. Now is not the time for finger pointing and blame... Perhaps later when this is all over we can figure it out, or perhaps that time has passed, but all we have is this present moment- and in this moment in this global crisis, there is no time for blaming and definitely no time for an us and a them.
Jesus answers the disciples question- no one sinned- this man was born blind so the works of Gods works could be revealed in him. Now this made the Pharisees angry. Jesus had just named the works of God, and that meant that God works on the sabbath. For you and I, it's no big deal, but to the Pharisees, the people who had staked their lives on understanding how and where and why and when God works so they could stay within God's law, this was out and out blasphemy. To the Pharisees, God commanded, work 6 days and on the sabbath, you rest- its right in the commandments- God rests on the sabbath! Jesus was revealing that God acted differently than the Pharisees had believed and what they had been teaching the people to believe... But as much as they are angry at Jesus, they can't discount the man was healed, so what do they do? They turn their anger to the man who was born blind- they drive him out!!!
We might look at the Pharisees and roll our eyes- but lets check ourselves a second... don't we all have a framework for how we think God works? For how we think God loves, or heals, or judges or forgives? And when something happens to threaten that framework, or that system, we dig in our heals... And listen, Jesus gets it... he understands it is no easy thing to broaden or even change the things you believe about God, or about God's people. In fact he uses the metaphor of blindness to do it. One does not choose to be born blind- and when we are taught things about God being exclusive and discriminating, and wrathful, or that we can do things to make God love us, we are blind to the truth of God's radical and inclusive love. It's good news, but to believe in an all inclusive God means the end of us and them thinking...
I'm talking to you this morning, uneasy about a whole bunch of things. I'm uneasy with the video sermon and not even sure it's going to come out well, I'm uneasy about the stay at home order and being isolated in my house for the foreseeable future with Pep, I'm uneasy about the virus and the possibility of getting sick, or one of you getting sick- I'm uneasy feeling helpless to know that there is little I can do to protect anyone, or help end CoVid19s spread- I'm uneasy about what life will be like after the pandemic is over, and we begin living a new normal and what that means for us as a society and us as a community of faith.
But there are also things I am NOT uneasy about- things in fact that I am sure about. I am sure that no matter how I feel, or what blindness I still carry about the how and where and why and when of God's ability to act, that God is working in this crisis. I am sure that even though I may be fearful, God calls me to be faithful, and so that makes me seek out God's presence instead of looking for someone to blame- I am sure that because God is with us, that I will be looking for signs of God's spirit and God's presence and God's power. And I am sure that no matter what, God will open our eyes to the possibility of something new after this has passed. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, for I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future! My friends, this is not the end- and no matter how it looks or what you are looking at- or what we go through in the months to come, God will be with us... calling us to look deeper- to see the works of the one who gathers us as a people of faith, to do the work of healing and reconciliation we are called to do- together!