Washing off the Mud of Jesus

March 30, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The Fourth Sunday in Lent – Year A RCL

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

 

Last year, as part of my World Religion class at seminary we went to the Al-Farooq Mosque, on 14th Street in Midtown Atlanta, for Friday afternoon prayers. One of our guides was an active lay-minister and often preached the English-language sermon on Friday’s, which he did that day.

At one point he mentioned that whatever condition a person is born into, whether into poverty or into wealth, for example, it has its own burden to navigate. It is incumbent on each person to spend their life in prayer to God, seeking the proper use of their wealth, or seeking a way to overcome or endure their poverty.

In this same way, I believe, we are each born into circumstances of life that we must navigate. For the man in today’s gospel reading, he was born blind. Others, like my friend Claire, have been born deaf; still others are born with a predisposition for addiction; others with chemical imbalances in the brain that cause depression or anxiety; some with learning challenges, like dyslexia; and the list goes on and on.

In ancient times, being born with blindness or other debilitating conditions was believed to be a judgment by God for having sinned. But, we see in his conversation with the disciples, that Jesus dispels this notion.

I contend that in the same way that these physical conditions aren’t caused by sin, sin also doesn’t cause someone to be born into poverty any more than a lack of sin causes someone to be born into wealth. And while both have their challenges, if given the choice, I’m sure we’d much rather struggle with the burden of WEALTH.

But returning to the story of the man born blind, Jesus says that he “was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Similarly, each condition into which we are born can also provide an opportunity for God’s work to be revealed in us.

But, just as with this man, it isn’t automatic, and it isn’t without risk and consequence.

healing-jesus-155Jesus approaches the man born blind, makes some mud with his own saliva, and smears the mud on the man’s eyes. But then Jesus tells the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam, and the author tells the audience that this means “Sent”.

So, Jesus SENDS the man to go do something to complete this healing. But, Jesus isn’t the one that took him there, so the man would have needed someone to guide him.

Can you imagine what that conversation was like?

  • Blind Guy says: “Excuse me, can someone please take me to the pool of Siloam?”
  • Bystander: “Hey, aren’t you the blind guy that begs by the side of the road? Why do you have all that mud on your face? Let me help you get that off?”
  • Blind Guy: “No, no! I’m supposed to wash it off in the pool of Siloam, and when I do, my sight will be restored. Will you take me there?”
  • Bystander: You gotta be kiddin’ me! Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind… someone’s messin’ with you, Pal…

So, at the outset, this blind man has to step out and take a risk to reveal his belief that God has a hand in his life; that this kind of transformation is possible, even though it’s never happened before!

Many of us struggle to take that kind of risk – remaining in the comfort of darkness. For many of us, staying in our original state of being, remaining blind, or keeping our condition hidden, is far more appealing.

And although we don’t really know how it happened, we know that the man got to the pool and did the work of washing off the mud of Jesus. And when he did, the man came back able to see. His life was transformed.

Yet, right off the bat, instead of being embraced like the lost sheep now found, this man faced challenge after challenge: first from the people who don’t recognize him; then by his own parents, who aren’t sure what happened, but don’t want to create trouble for themselves; and finally, an interrogation by the Pharisees – who hold this man’s religious fate in their hands – or so it seems.

Yet, the man, having been thrown out of the synagogue, comes face to face with Jesus – for the first time with eyes wide open. The man’s life had been transformed forever, both physically AND spiritually. He has seen truth – how the world truly is – and now it cannot be unseen.

This man’s willingness to embody the healing power of Christ, and demonstrate this belief by responding to Jesus’ instruction, to be SENT – THIS is what a transformed life looks like!

Picture3Similarly, when someone travels from their comfortable home in Norcross, Georgia, to a small village in Haiti, like the one Terry and Steve Franzen recently went to, one’s eyes are opened in ways that cannot be erased. That which is seen cannot be unseen, and a response to God’s call to action cannot be ignored.

Picture2So now, I invite you to have your eyes opened in new ways, through the words and images of Steve and Terry’s mission trip to Haiti. Through their testimony, you will see God’s work revealed in them, and perhaps you will be transformed to new action in your own walk with Christ.

Haiti Classroom

Photos by Terry Franzen

I invite your thoughts and insights.

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