Friday, January 04, 2008

Light, Blindness, and Sight

Friday, January 4, 2008 -- Week of 1 Christmas (Year 2)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 941)
Psalms 85, 87 (morning) 89:1-29 (evening)
Joshua 3:14 - 4:7
Ephesians 5:1-20
John 9:1-12, 35-38

(At the end of our family Christmas visit, I caught a bug that has laid me up for a few days. It's good to be back to write Morning Reflections.)

Today we get the beginning and end of the story of Jesus' controversial healing of the man born blind. It is an exquisitely crafted narrative that rewards close reading and study.

For John, light is a principle metaphor. Jesus is the light of the world. When light arrives, darkness is overcome. But people did not choose the light. Jesus was rejected and crucified. Ironically, it was those who claimed to have sight -- religious vision and political insight -- who failed to see light of Jesus, or refused to do so. They tried to cast him into the darkness, but the light overcame the darkness in Jesus' resurrection.

Jesus and his disciples are walking, and they see a man born blind. In good Rabbinical tradition, the disciples ask the teacher about the origin of his condition. The conventional thought, supported by many strands of tradition in scripture (Deuteronomy, Proverbs, some Psalms), is that God blesses righteousness and God punishes sin. Therefore if someone is blind, it is a punishment for someone's sin. In the case of a baby born without sight, whose fault is it?

Jesus refuses to play the fault game. Adversity and brokenness is merely an opportunity for God's works to be active and manifest. Then he challenges his disciples -- "Go work!" While there is light, act to overcome the adversity and brokenness present in creation. There will be dark times when you will not have the opportunity. Jesus' presence is the light that energizes your efforts.

So Jesus heals the man and he can see. Now his real problems begin. He and his healing will become such a focus for controversy that he will be driven out of the synagogue. He is banished from his community. It's not like he can go to the church across the street. There is only one synagogue in his village. His expulsion will effect every relationship he has in his home town.

Jesus hears about the banishment, and seeks out the man. (That's worth a bit of reflection itself.) Jesus invites the man into relationship. The man looks at Jesus, now self-identified as the "Son of Man," and this man born blind sees more deeply than any of the disciples will until the week after the resurrection. "'Lord, I believe,' And he worshiped him." Worship is solely the prerogative of God. The blind man sees God in Jesus.

A closing conflict with the Pharisees leaves them with a stinging rebuke. Either they are blind (because they fail to recognize light) and they fail to recognize their blindness, or they are not blind (they have seen light) and their sin is willful.

It is a rebuke that can speak to each of us. In my blindness, what do I fail to recognize as God's work and presence? In my willfulness, what challenging light do I see and yet turn away from?

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (the Collect for 1 Christmas)



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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully


At 4:56 PM, Anonymous chris said...

Many thanks, Lowell!

I love your discussion of the light metaphor, which prompted some useful thinking for me. It was helpful the way you tied it back to the text from John, when Jesus says he must do God's work while there's light, because there won't always be light -- especially powerful and thought-provoking. And I liked your injunction to consider that Jesus went out of his way to connect back to the former blind man who had been shunned, as well as the mention of the rebuke to the Pharisees (are they blind so that they cannot see, or able to see and simply refusing wilfully to understand?) which "can speak to each one of us."

The reflections you provided made my day -- and inspired me to follow the links provided for the many resources that enabled me to read the service of common prayer for today's date. So, a double thank-you!


At 7:53 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


Thanks for your kind words.



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