It is a long read as gospel readings go but I encourage you to read it before reading this sermon. It will make more sense. Thanx!
There is a lot happening in these readings. Lets look first at the question Jesus disciples asked him about the man who had been blind from birth. Rabbi, who sinned this man or his parents, that he was born blind. It was a common belief among Jews that if someone was born with a handicapping condition that God had given this curse upon him or her for something they had done. It was considered a kind of settling of the score. Jesus said very clearly, he didn't do anything.
Too often we have the same mindset and ask similar questions like, “Lord, what did I do to deserve this?” Somewhere in our brains we believe in a balancing of the scales of Justice which of course brings back the question. Why do bad things happen to good people. We look for simple answers such as someone having sinned but the truth is we do not know. I feel that God is at work in all of our lives but that does not mean I know how God works. I see news stories of people who had their legs blown off last year at the Boston marathon and how they have bounced back and show a greater strength and will than I would have thought possible. Do I know why this happened to them. No. Do I believe it was because of some sin of theirs or others. No Again!
This payment for sin thing can be a slippery slope. Fred Phelps, the minister from Kansas, claimed that our soldiers died in combat because of our national sin of respecting the rights of gays and lesbians. He would picket the funerals of those soldiers who died in an attempt to disrupt their services. I believe that sin is bad, even evil, but my call is not to judge lest I be judged. Fred Phelps died recently and now he has faced the judgment he deserves.
Let me return to the blind man. The pharisees claimed that Jesus was not from God because he cured the blind man on the sabbath. I just want to say, Really! When that didn't work they tried to prove that the man had not been blind at all. That didn't work either. The pharisees go to the man a second time and tried to convince him that Jesus was a sinner. The now not blind man has a great response. He says, “ I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
My question is, who was blind here? On a very important level the ones who could not see were the pharisees. They had before them the messiah. The one they had all been waiting for. And yet they did not see. They tried all kinds of reasons to not believe. To not see.
My next question is what about us? Are we blind to some things in life as well? The pharisees wanted a messiah but this wasn't the messiah they were looking for. This messiah criticized them so instead of looking inward and saying maybe this Jesus has something here they lashed out.
What do we do when someone is critical of something we are doing? Do we become introspective and say, “Yes, you have a good point. I will make a change here.” Or, do we circle the wagons and go on the defensive or even the offensive? I want you to know that in my own imperfection I am more of a wagon circler. I am much better at receiving praise than I am at criticism.
Here is a story I would like to share:
A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband. Suddenly her husband burst into the kitchen. “Careful,” he said, “CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh No! Your cooking too many at once! TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter! Oh No, WHERE are we going to get more butter? They're going to STICK! Careful. CAREFUL! I SAID BE CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you are cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them! Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!!”
The wife just stared at him. “What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?”
The husband calmly replied, “I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving.”
There is a prayer in the Book of Common Prayer p. 832 Prayer 58 that I would like for you to recite with me. It is a prayer for guidance which I believe is a distant cousin to accepting criticism.
Just as a side note. If I ask any of you if you liked today's sermon.....Just say yes.