Posted on in Sermons by The Rev. David Marshall
Year A, Fourth Sunday in Lent
Are you blind?
As far as I know, no one in this room is actually physically blind, but the kind of blindness Jesus is talking about in the story we heard today has more to do with the soul, and the heart, than with the eyes.
Just look at the progression of faith and belief that the man who was born blind goes through. When Jesus and the disciples encounter him, he is truly, physically blind. Jesus makes mud, spreads it on the man’s eyes, and sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash. When the man washes away the mud, he can see!
Immediately he returns to his own neighborhood where he survived as a beggar. That is where the trouble starts. First with his neighbors, then with the Pharisees, the man who now sees finds conflict. When the neighbors ask, “Where is this Jesus?,” the man who can now see says, “I don’t know.”
So they bring the man to the Pharisees. They interrogate him, “What do you say about this Jesus?,” and the man responds, “He is a prophet.”
Eventually, after all the interrogations, the man who now sees declares about Jesus, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
Then, when the man who can now see actually sees Jesus for the first time, he says, “Lord, I believe.”
Seeing leads to belief, but seeing is about so much more than what our eyes reveal. The problem for the Pharisees in this story is that they believe they are the only ones who can see, but they are spiritually blind.
The Pharisees put their hope and faith in the Law of Moses. They are convinced that if they can get all Jews to obey the law correctly, God’s kingdom will be realized. In their zeal, they put obedience to the law above love, compassion, and generosity. The Law, which is meant to be a blessing, becomes the source of their blindness.
We suffer from the same blindness in our own lives. Our culture, with continuous advertisements and marketing messages, tells us that material things will give our lives value and meaning.
- If you buy the right smart phone you will be a winner.
- If you use the right investment broker your future will be secure and you will be able to spend the rest of your life sitting on the beach with your surfboard, enjoying the sunset after a perfect day of ripping up the waves.
- If you drive the right luxury car you will get more respect and be more powerful.
- And apparently, if you drink the right beer you will be more attractive.
These things that are meant for our enjoyment or comfort create the opposite effect. Instead of making us happy, comfortable, and fulfilled, they twist our sense of self-worth. They make us blind to the true blessing of the love of God and loving one another.
- Take my word for it, no matter how much or what kind of beer I drink, I don’t become more attractive.
But seriously, the things we struggle to own end up owning us if we allow our self-worth to be defined by them. How much debt are you willing to endure to have a beautiful car? What else could you have done with that money?
I am not saying that luxury cars are evil. Luxury cars aren’t bad any more than the Law of Moses is bad. The purpose of the law is to give the Jews a way of being in loving relationship with God and with their neighbor. The Pharisees became blind because they made obedience to the law more important than loving God or neighbor. The same kind of thing can happen with our stuff. If we allow ourselves to believe that buying a particular luxury car will make us beloved and happy people, we have become blind.
Sometimes even the small stuff can cloud our vision. How many of us have closets full of stuff that we just can’t let go? Or garages full of things we don’t really use? Or even storage units full of things we don’t have room for in our homes? We confuse the purpose of our lives with these things. We buy more stuff hoping to be happy. We hold onto the stuff we already have because we don’t feel happy or comfortable yet. Eventually we are storing our stuff to make room for more stuff, all in the futile effort to find peace and comfort. This makes us blind.
Giving to God from what we earn or receive is a powerful way of expressing our gratitude to God. That gratitude opens our hearts and our eyes, and we begin to see the abundance of living as beloved children of God.
That is why you so often hear people who tithe saying that they experience a sense of abundance, even though they are giving away 10% of what their income. Giving the first of what you receive to God changes your perspective. Instead of worrying about having enough, you find yourself seeing all that you have as a blessing. That has certainly been my experience.
Expressing our gratitude through faithful stewardship enables us to see others and ourselves as beloved and valued children of God. No matter what we own, no matter how wealthy or poor we are, no matter how much power or privilege we have, we are beloved and valuable to God.
Faithful stewardship restores our vision. The life we have, our health, our wealth, our time, our talents, even our relationships, are all gifts from God. When we care for these gifts and use them to express generosity, compassion, and love, we gain our true sight.
The Rev. David Marshall
St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline WA
March 30, 2014