Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Man Born Blind, Part 2

Tuesday, April 12, 2011  -- Week of 5 Lent, Year One
Adoniram Judson, Missionary to Burma, 1850
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 956)
Psalms [120], 121, 122, 123 (morning)        124, 125, 126, [127] (evening)
Jeremiah 25:8-17
Romans 10:1-13
John 9:18-41

We finish the story of the growing illumination of the man born blind.  Yesterday I mentioned that growth and enlightenment is often a process.  We have moments -- wonderful moments -- of sudden insight and understanding.  Moments when we may surrender with a deepened sense of willingness.  Then, as we incorporate what we have learned, we often grow in our ability to surrender, live and articulate a growing understanding.

Yesterday we watched as Jesus healed the man born blind.  As the man initially spoke with his neighbors, and then was interrogated by the officials from the Pharisees, he simply stuck to the facts.  But finally, as the Pharisees engaged the man in the debate, he declared of Jesus, "He is a prophet."

Today the investigation continues.  The officials go to the man's parents.  They are afraid.  They refuse to commit to any interpretation.  They tell the authorities to ask their son.  He's an adult. 

So the officials return for a more severe interview with the formerly blind man.  "Give glory to God!" they say of Jesus, "We know that this man is a sinner."

The man stands up to them.  "I do not know whether he is a sinner."  No the man finds his grounding, a foundation where he will make his stand.  "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."  He is still sticking to the facts, but now the facts have a deeper context. 

The officials start to go back over the details of what they have already asked him.  Now the tables turn, and the man goes on the offensive.  "I have told you already, and you would not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  Do you also want to become his disciples?"  The temperature is heating up.

The officials strike back.  "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.  We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from."  A battle of authorities.  The man born blind has grounded what he knows in the experience of his healing.  He will not deny his own experience.  The officials ground what they know in their tradition and theology.  They know Moses and the Torah.  This healing happened on the sabbath.  Their scripture, tradition and theology declare that it is a violation of the Fourth Commandment -- keep holy the sabbath day.

The man now becomes theological.  "We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 

The man makes his argument from his understanding of the nature of God as he reflects on his own experience of healing.  But he is arguing against the conventional interpretation of Torah, against centuries of interpretation and theology.  It is an uphill battle.  We've seen it over and over.  Gentiles who evidence faith and the gifts of the spirit can be admitted to God's community.  Government can be representative rather than the divine right of kings.  Science pursues truth alongside theology.  Slavery is an abomination.  Women may lead in the church.  Remarriage after divorce can be a blessed experience of resurrection and new life.  Gay people are children of God whose committed loving relationship can be a blessing.  God is present, glorified and revealed in other religions and cultures.  All of these are discoveries that come out of our reflection on the nature of God shining upon our experience of the divine.  All of these have provoked conflict with previously settled interpretations of scripture and tradition.

The blind man is excommunicated.  He is named a heretic and is banished from the community.  It is a serious thing.  To be banished from the religious community is a terrible sentence of public exile, shaming and isolation. 

Another who will be similarly banished seeks him out.  The man born blind hears a strange but familiar voice.  "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"  He has heard this voice before, when he was blind -- a voice saying "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam."  The man wants to know more.  "And who is (the Son of of Man), sir?  Tell me, so that I may believe in him."  Jesus looks at him, and the man looks back.  Jesus tells him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he."  The response is instantaneous and profound.  "Lord I believe."  Then the man takes a step that we have not seen before in the gospel.  He worships Jesus. 

For a Jew, worship can only be offered to God.  This man's veneration of Jesus is a declaration that he believes Jesus to be divine, to be equivalent to God.  This man born blind has seen something that no one else has yet seen.  He has experienced enlightenment.  He has grown in knowledge and insight; he has grown in his surrender and willingness; he has become whole and articulate.  He is a model of discipleship.

We see the contrast.  The one who formerly was presumed to be a sinner or the punishment for sin because of his blindness now sees more clearly than those who are presumed to be authorities of theology and truth.  It is a seminal story that sheds light on every disciple's journey and on the continuing journey of God's people into the fullness of truth.



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"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 missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

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 www.stpaulsfay.org

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 8:42 AM, Anonymous janet said...


At 9:16 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Lent Thirty

Where do we come from
We say I believe! I see!
Then beget more war..


At 9:16 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Lent Thirty

Where do we come from
We say I believe! I see!
Then beget more war..



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