1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
2nd Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
Gospel: John 9:1-41
This morning I invite you to sit with blindness for a bit and close your eyes. In a little bit I will tell you when to open them.
We all suffer from blindness of many kinds. We see what we expect to see and miss what is right in front of us. Like Samuel, we see value and kingliness in the eldest and strongest son. Like the townspeople in the Gospel, we place blame for an illness or injury and avoid people with different abilities, refusing to see them and treat them as people. Like the Pharisees, we are so attached to our traditions that we are blind to a miracle. Every day, we miss those in need right in front of us as we put our needs and our family’s needs before others. Every day, we refuse to see people for who they are, but instead judge them on previous experience or their reputation or how they dress or where they live. We are blind to what is within people, their story, their pain, their hunger. We are blind to miracles happening around us every day. We take that blessing and question it and refuse to accept it. We are blinded by our expectations and limited imagination. We are blinded by greed and sin.
“The LORD does not see as mortals see,” It says in the first reading for today. “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord,” it says in the second reading.
The message for today is that we’re not seeing too well folks. We haven’t for a long time. At first Samuel, it seems so clear who will become the next king. Saul had been king and he had some sons. However, Saul had disobeyed God and allowed his soldiers to take the spoils of war for themselves. It is only right in the eyes of a human being that this is how you conduct war. God sees it differently and Saul’s family is passed over when it is time to crown the next king. God tells Samuel that he will crown one of the sons of Jesse from Bethlehem—this is where we get the Jesse tree and the Jesse we sing about at Advent. So Samuel reluctantly goes to Jesse’s house. Which son will be king? It will be the oldest son, right? He is big and tall. He is powerful. This is what our eyes see and our minds tell us is right. Samuel has his mind made up—it has to be him. God says, “You don’t see as I see. It isn’t him.” Surely it must be the next son. “Not him either.” Then the next and the next down the line.
“The LORD does not see as mortals see.” “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”
“Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” That was what people were told by the religious authorities, that it was somebody’s fault. He was kept out of the Temple and Synagogue because of this supposed defect in him. Yet, Jesus was clear. That isn’t what this is about. We may not blame the victim or parents of people with differing abilities, but we definitely have a hard time seeing that they have feelings just like we do. We exclude. We keep our distance. We are afraid. We are the ones who are blind.
Several teachers told a story this week of troubled kids who came into their class. They could choose whether to read the past reports and have their preconceived ideas about who was good and who was bad and what to expect. Most teachers were blinded to the value of these troubled kids and treated them as if they were going to cause trouble. Guess what, they caused trouble in those situations.
We may not be that attached to our Sabbath day, but we don’t see miracles that happen to people with tattoos, with saggy pants, who use language that might be offensive, who don’t go to church. It isn’t that those miracles aren’t happening, but that our minds are blind to see certain people as people at all and to see the value in their lives.
As you sit within this blindness of the eyes, search the blindness in your hearts. What has come between you and others? What might God being trying to show you that you haven’t been able to see yet?
The good news is that God has come into our midst, the light of the world, with a light to illumine the darkness and mud to heal blindness of the spirit. We’re going to have to humble ourselves and allow ourselves to get a little dirty. We’re going to need to admit the mud that is already there that Jesus is planning to wash away with his own saliva. We’re going to have to admit our own blindness enough to allow ourselves to be touched by Jesus. We’re going to have to be open to having new eyes.
So now I invite you to open your eyes. These are new eyes. These are the eyes of God that you have now. They are the eyes of the poor, the imprisoned, the young, the very old, the eyes of a helpless tree, an animal, an insect. God is giving us eyes to see through other perspectives. God is giving us eyes to see beyond our expectations, to be curious about what is within another person or part of creation, what drives them, what gives them life, what gets in the way of abundant life for them, how it is they give glory to God.
Our eyes begin to clear. We see with the eyes of God, kingly qualities in a shepherd, leadership qualities in a small child, that compassion, care, and a tender heart should be the first things we look for in those we admire. We begin to see every situation as an opportunity for blessing and glory for God, so we sit with those who are rejected, we listen to those who suffer addictions, we go to the bedside of the sick and dying. When we see with the eyes of God, we listen to the trees, the animals, the mountain, all those who cannot speak for themselves and we value them and care for them as God asked us to do at the very beginning in the garden when everything was in balance and harmony and God knew that it was good. When we see with the eyes of God, we are ready to see something new that defies our expectations. We give people a chance to be good. The teachers who didn’t choose to prejudge the kids in their class, found those troubled children excelling and growing like never before. When we see with the eyes of God, we give people a chance at a new start, just as Jesus did for us. We see a king born among the animals. We see God willing to give his life for the world. We see ourselves taking a different path that we did when we were blind. We find healing and relationship. We find beauty and truth. We find justice and love.
Jesus brought that healing to the blind man this morning. How do you think it must have felt to be seeing for the first time? Jesus gives him healing so that his flesh will now see as clearly as his heart. He has actually been seeing more clearly than anyone else in the Gospel all along. He has been seeing in his heart as God sees. Unfortunately, he saw a lot of cruelty and blame. But he also saw the fear and pain clearly in those around him, knowing they too could experience this difficult life. He sees so clearly that he doesn’t judge people by their looks or give greater honor to the rich and cultured or even blame those who excluded them. He has seen clearly the hearts of people and now he has physical eyes to match and is free to participate in a life of blessing in which he can be a leader in his community guiding the people in how to see anew with the eyes of the heart, the spirit, of God. Now that he has his sight restored, other people will value him as the leader he always had the potential to be, if others had not been blind to all that he had to offer.
God is opening our eyes to see. God is showing us what it is like to be born where you’re not wanted, as Jesus was, how it feels to go hungry, as we talk to those at our pantry, what it is to see strength in vulnerability as we age and face illness, what it feels to be chopped down as we take compassion on our tree and consider how Christ was taken out in the prime of life, what it feels like to stand up for what is right as we talk to our legislators about the need for food stamps. Through the eyes of God we will see incredible beauty and incredible cruelty, but we will have compassion and hope that the mud and saliva will create us anew as Adam and Eve and that the light will spread and that every day more eyes are opened like the tulips and daffodils this time of year and as each one is opened, more light will shine until the earth becomes the eye of God, full of light, seeing everything clearly, sharing life abundant, and thriving in the grace and love of God.
“The LORD does not see as mortals see.” “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.” Open our eyes Lord and help us to see as you see and to live lives pleasing to you and life-giving to our fellow creatures.