Rev. Heather Blais
In today’s gospel lesson, we encounter a community struggling with their own fear and anxiety as they face the unimaginable.
While out walking, Jesus observed a blind man. What question was burning on the disciples’ hearts, you ask? They wanted to know whether God caused the man to be blind because of his own sinfulness, or whether it was a consequence of his parents' sinfulness.
This question is rooted in fear. It assumes:
If we follow God and do everything just right, we will be okay.
If we choose ourselves over God and neighbor, there will be dire consequences.
Maybe even, eternal consequences.
This fear is the driving force behind the words and actions of nearly everyone in this story: from the disciples, to the religious leaders, the former blind man’s neighbors and parents.
However, Jesus does not get sucked into the whirlpool of fear, and instead reframes the question for the disciples. In The Message translation, Jesus said,
“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”
Jesus then spat on the ground, mixing saliva with dirt to make a thick mud. Jesus then scoops the mud into his hands and approaches the blind man. Spreading the mud over the blind man’s eyes, Jesus instructs him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.
Then the unimaginable happened. The man who was once blind could now see.
His neighbors and religious leaders met this news with shock, fear, and anxiety. They were indignant that someone would break the laws surrounding the Sabbath, even to heal (because, come on, why couldn’t it wait a day?)
Yet what we know from witnessing the interrogation of the former blind man in today’s gospel, is that he regains much more than just his physical sight. The former blind man has encountered the Son of God, and it has awoken a much wider, a much more hopeful sense of God’s love and purpose in the world.
This story is not about who has sinned, and who is righteous. Nor is it about who has broken the law, and who has kept it. It is not even about who is to blame. This story is about Jesus calling us to wake up.
We are so attached to the fear, anxiety, scarcity and anger that is familiar. Our culture begs us to embrace this way of being. Yet when we choose to follow Jesus, we are choosing to be light in the world. We are choosing to be part of Jesus’ movement; to be a beacon of hope and love in an uncertain world. It is a calling that will lead to our transformation again, and again, and again. The kind of transformation that will turn our lives upside down and right back up. Just as it did for the blind man.
Much like the folks we encounter in today’s gospel lesson, we too are a community struggling with our own fear and anxiety as we face the unimaginable. None of us has ever lived through a global pandemic before. When we stare at it in the face, it is completely overwhelming. We are grappling with our grief, somersaulting from denial to anger, to bargaining, to depression, to acceptance; and often beginning the cycle all over again the next day.
We are beginning to grieve the missed birthday parties, book groups, Sunday brunches, art shows, concerts, anniversary celebrations, and weddings. Our hearts ache when we let ourselves fully feel the physical absence of our best friends, children, grandchildren, siblings, neighbors, and fellow church goers. This is particularly acute if you live alone.
We are now throwing our boundaries out the window as we juggle any variety of hats all at once: an employee who works from home, parent, teacher, caregiver, housekeeper, and more. Some are unsure if they still have a job, or whether there is enough money to pay the bills. The most marginalized members of our wider community find the resources they count on are closing left and right.
We are also grieving the traditions of our communal worship, the anticipation of journeying through holy week together, and the overwhelming joy of the empty tomb at Easter. We are postponing funerals, and we are facing the reality that there will be loss of life in our wider community as a result of COVID-19.
It is devastating. And it is crucial that we acknowledge and feel each of these feelings fully.
There is so much we do not know about what the days ahead will look like.
Let me tell you what we do know.
Today, we are all the blind man. Jesus has spat in the dirt, made mud, and holds us as he spreads the mud over the eyes of our hearts. Together, as the Church, we wash in the pool of Siloam, and the eyes of our hearts are opened. Church, we will continue to energetically embrace Jesus’ call to be the beacon of light, hope, and love of God in this world. We will keep being the Church virtually, for as long as it takes. We are in this together. Dear ones, we have long known that we are better together.
May the God which passeth all understanding keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, this day, and every day. Amen.
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