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God Is With Us In the Mess

March 22, 2020

 

Following Jesus is Messy

Sermon: 3-22-20

Carmen Retzlaff

New Life Lutheran Church of Dripping Springs, Texas

John 9:1-41 

9 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 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, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 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?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 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.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

 

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 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.” 16 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. 17 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.”

18 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 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 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.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 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.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

 

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 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.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

 

—-

 

There is a lot in this long and wonderful story for us. I wonder what stands out for you? I hope you’ll read this story in John, chapter 9, on your own this week and ponder what it means for you, now. That is the wonder and joy of scripture - each time we revisit these stories they speak to us in a new way. They mean something different, or we see something different wherever we are in our lives, even in strange times such as these, with the uncertainty and fear around the COVID-19 - corona virus - epidemic. These stories, which Christians have told over and over for over two thousand years, continue to help us make meaning of our lives, and our world, even in a time such as this. They have helped people for so many years in so many situations face existential questions, and they are tools our ancestors have given us to make sense and meaning of our lives today. They are our inheritance as Christian people. 

 

So what stands out to me today in this story is the mud. And the spit. The mess of the healing — and the mess of the conversations that follow. In other miracles, or signs as they are called in the Gospel of John, Jesus just speaks words, and the thing is done. Why here is there the touching, the spit and mud, the washing in a particular pool? It is so complicated and odd. I’ve been told by many parents that this is the most commonly acted out story by their children - putting spit and mud on their siblings’ eyes - just like Jesus! 

 

And then he is not even healed, the blind man. He has to go wash in a particular pool. The pool of Siloam, which means “sent.” There, finally, he is healed, and, sure enough, he is sent out into the world, changed, made new. 

 

Sent out to share the story - but, in pretty messy way. 

 

Everyone is talking about him - 

“Isn’t that the man who was blind?!” 

“No, that’s just some one who looks like him.” 

“No - it is me!” 

“How can you see?” 

“Some one named Jesus put mud on my eyes and told me to wash in the pool at Siloam and now I can see.” 

“Where is this Jesus” 

“I have no idea.”

 

It is chaotic. 

 

As is the next conversation, when he is taken to the Pharisees, the teachers of the people - 

“How can you see?” 

“He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”

“He’s not keeping the sabbath, then, this Jesus, he’s healing people!” 

“But how can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”

“What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” 

“He is a prophet.”

 

And it just keeps going, these chaotic conversations, this messy story. 

They call the parents - 

“Is this your son, who was born blind? How then does he now see?” 

“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.” 

 

They call the man back - 

“Tell the truth. We know that this man is a sinner.” 

“I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 

“What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 

“I’ve told you already, and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 

“You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. As for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 

“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.” 

“Are you trying to teach us?”

 

Finally, still kind of confused, he speaks again with Jesus, who seeks him out, and says- 

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 

“And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 

“You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 

“Lord, I believe.” 

Jesus says:

“I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 

 

It is, of course, the man born blind who sees. In the chaos, he says, “I don’t know who he is, where he is now, whether he’s a sinner. 

 

“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 

And finally, to Jesus: “I believe.” 

 

And that is where we are. Always, and especially now. We are boiling things down, getting down to basics. We are determining what is essential. And when things are uncertain, we have to get down to what we know. 

 

“One thing I know, I was blind, now I see.”

 

That’s how he gets to faith: “I believe.” 

 

That’s what we do, always, and especially in times like these. When we have messy conversations with others - or in our own heads. 

 

Conversations like - 

“Why is this bad stuff happening?” 

“I don’t know. A message from God?” 

“I don’t believe that; why would God hurt us?” 

“I don’t know why bad things happen. One thing I do know: I find moments joy even in times of great sadness.” 

“Another thing I know: I have people who love me.”

“And another: this beautiful creation is all around us, working to sustain me and all life.” 

“How do you know that goodness is God?” 

“I see God in it, in all of it. I feel God with me:

“I believe.”  

 

Jesus came to live with us, here, in all the messiness, to show that God is in all of this. Jesus showed up in Jerusalem in this messy healing story and debunked the idea that God had punished a family by taking a child’s sight. Jesus didn’t explain why the man was blind. He came and healed him. He came to be with people who others cast aside, and said they were the ones that really get it. He didn’t explain God in words, but in deeds. Let us be sent from the pool of Siloam, from this land, this place of being washed in the waters of baptism, let us be sent out to do likewise. 

 

This  story shows how messy it was, even for Jesus, to be helping those on the margins. How messy it was to be in debates with those who are fearful and want to be in control and be right. If Jesus’ own work on earth was messy, we can expect following him to be a mess, really. And so we lean into what we see and experience. We show others Jesus by doing the messy work of helping, healing, and fixing the things that are broken. Because we have been shown kindness and love. Because we have seen beauty here and in so many parts of God’s creation. Because we have breathed the oxygen these trees are pumping out. Because of those real things, we believe that God is real, even when things are messy. And God is with us, especially when things are messy. 

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