19 March 2023

This week’s Gospel reading could offer a year’s worth of sermons! The story of the blind man who is healed by Jesus, and the subsequent investigation by the Pharisees is so rich in detail, so filled with metaphor and symbol, so compelling in its narrative that preaching it is both easy and very, very difficult. The problem is not so much what to say, as what not to include. I hope you have fun with it!

Of course, you may not be using the Gospel reading. But even if this is the case, the focus on seeing, perception and whether we live in ‘light’ or ‘darkness’ flows throughout.

May our eyes be opened in new ways to God’s glory, God’s light and our place in God’s purposes as we worship this week.

1 Samuel 16:1-13: God instructs Samuel to stop mourning for Saul and to anoint a new king for Israel in Bethlehem. After examining seven of Jesse’s sons and rejecting them, Samuel finally anoints the youngest boy, David, and God’s Spirit comes upon him.

Psalm 23: David’s Psalm of praise for the God who cares for him like a shepherd, providing nurture, peace, care, protection and an eternal place of belonging.

Ephesians 5:8-14: Paul encourages the believers to live as people of the light, doing what pleases God.

John 9:1-41: Jesus heals a man who was born blind, and, because this was done on the Sabbath, the religious leaders start an investigation, calling in the man’s parents and ultimately throwing the man out of the synagogue. Then, Jesus teaches that he came to bring sight to the blind and to reveal the blindness of those who think they see.

Blindness and sight, light and darkness, rejection of those in power and anointing of those who are unknown – these are the threads in the Lectionary readings of this week. The heart of the theme is this: how do we choose to see? Samuel is tempted to look at Jesse’s sons in an ordinary human way – outward strength and primacy in the family hierarchy – but God commands him to look differently, ultimately choosing the son who is the least. Paul encourages believers to walk in God’s light, avoiding the “deeds of darkness” that cause brokenness, stumbling and pain, but rather seeking to live in the light – seeing clearly and moving securely through the world because we can see. David’s famous psalm gives a picture of what this “living in the light” looks like – being shepherded by God in grace and nurture. Finally, and most importantly, the Gospel uses a dramatic story to show the difference between those who claim to see but don’t, and those who truly can see. The corruption, power-grabbing and judgmental condemnation of anything new and different is a mark of those who cannot see – although they always protest that they see clearly. On the other hand, the acceptance, healing and grace that Jesus shows – and the response in worship of those who have been made to see by Christ’s touch – is the mark of those who “live in the light”. Our choice, then, as individuals and as Church, is whether we will allow God’s light to change how we see, or whether we will go through the motions and continue to see as the rest of society does, while claiming falsely that we see as God does.

GLOBAL APPLICATION: Perception is everything. It’s not just what we see or don’t see, but how we interpret what we see that determines our actions, our responses and our beliefs. We can look at the poor and see unfortunate victims of circumstance, or lazy people who refuse to work, or dignified human beings making the most of a tough situation. We can look at climate science and see a natural cycle which has just happened to hit us now, or human actions putting our planet under pressure. We can look at issues of sexuality, consumption, energy, immigration, health care, abortion, and capital punishment and see every issue from different perspectives. Ultimately, how we determine what we see and what it means must flow from Christ’s example. How did Christ address poverty? How did Christ view the natural world, sexuality, power, violence, sickness, and human dignity? Of course, even when it comes to Christ there are problems of perspective, but if we are to follow Christ into a world of justice, we will have to wrestle with these questions and not see them as outside of the realm of faith. Of course, once we have seen, we also have the task of helping others – our leaders, our neighbours, our children – to see as well. We can do this through coercion (like the religious leaders tried with the man Jesus healed) or we can do it through simple gracious action that opens eyes, as Jesus did. Of one thing we can be certain, though, if we are to learn from this week’s readings: we do not see, in our natural human capacity, as God does, and so if we are beginning to see clearly, it will almost certainly lead us to see the world and its systems differently from the dominant view. And this seeing, will inevitably work itself out in a new way of navigating the world as well, as we recognise the need and the calling for us to act on what we see.

LOCAL APPLICATION: In our daily lives we all make choices (consciously or subconsciously) about what we will see and what we won’t. It’s tempting to choose not to see the suffering and injustice in our world – to switch off the news, and to ignore reports of grief, war and trauma. It’s tempting to avoid seeing certain people and to allow them to just blend in with the landscape, removing their need and struggle from our vision. It’s tempting to avoid seeing God’s truth and grace in those with whom we disagree, and whom we would rather see as “all bad”. It’s tempting to avoid seeing the brokenness in those we support and with whom we agree and to see them as “all good”. It’s tempting to avoid seeing the resources, the opportunities and the capacity we have for making a difference, and to rather believe we can do nothing. But, if we have really seen Jesus, and if we have truly seen God’s reign proclaimed and manifest in Christ, then we have to confront how we see things, and allow God’s grace and mercy, God’s truth and justice to change our seeing and shed light on our world, our relationships and our neighbourhoods. And, once again, our seeing must be informed by God’s different perspective where the greatest are the least, and where everyone – even a young shepherd boy, or a carpenter from the countryside – can make significant differences in the world.

Seeing The Signs
God, You Are Enough (A paraphrase of Psalm 23)
New Eyes

Hymn Suggestions:
The Lord’s My Shepherd
The King Of Love My Shepherd Is
Hail To The Lord’s Anointed
Be Thou My Vision
Here I Am To Worship (Light of the world) (Link to YouTube video)
Open The Eyes Of My Heart, Lord (Link to YouTube video)
Shine Jesus Shine (Link to YouTube video)
Shine (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Sacrament