The stories we have read from the Scriptures this morning have been pretty lengthy and pretty straightforward in their meaning. I’m tempted to let them stand on their own and just go home back to bed – but I do want to make sure we see just a couple of things before I head that way. You see, the Scriptures are teaching us that we may not always be seeing what God is seeing – especially what God is seeing in others. Remember what we read in 1 Samuel? Samuel was sure several times that he knew what was best – what should happen – but God saw things in a completely different way. It wasn’t until he allowed God's direction to guide him that Samuel did finally see what God saw. Think of it as Samuel being blind until he allowed God in and he finally saw clearly with his heart. He finally found a new way to see.
There are times in my life when I think I know what is best. Without seeking God’s will, I’m usually wrong – but I think I know what is best. I thought I knew what was best when I said no to becoming a pastor – for 20 years I said no. How blessed I have been since saying yes! Just imagine what our lives could become if we would begin… to seek God’s will in everything, to see through God’s eyes, to allow God to guide us, to live into God’s timeline, and see with our God-inspired hearts. It would be a whole new way to see!
What would have happened if Samuel had anointed one of those brothers – who appeared to be just what was needed – without discerning what God had planned? We know about David – the warrior, the righteous king of Israel, the man after God’s own heart, the slayer of Goliath, the writer of the psalms, and most of all the ancestral line of Jesus Christ! The face of our world history would be very different if we had missed that youngest son David. Samuel sought God and was given a new way to see.
My Uncle Carl was not born blind, but as an adult he lost his vision. I never knew him as a sighted person, and it was always interesting to experience things in a different way when we were with him. He would put his finger into the top of the bucket so he could tell when it was almost full. He knew how many steps it was from sink to refrigerator in the kitchen. He memorized every word of every anthem the choir sang and walked himself from the choir room, up the steps, into the choir loft every Sunday and never missed a step and never missed a note.
Even though he couldn’t see, he looked in your direction when he talked to you – and he said things like “It’s good to see you!”
When my granddaddy (from the other side of the family) met Uncle Carl for the first time, he sat in the living room and talked with him for an hour – and never knew Uncle Carl was completely blind.
Uncle Carl could tell by the sound of your voice how close you were so he knew when it was time to shake your hand or give you a hug as you were coming or going. He never used a cane, but he just put his hand on my aunt’s shoulder and off they would go. She never gave a word of direction, he just knew from her movement where he should walk.
Uncle Carl had a watch that fascinated me. It was a Braille watch. The face popped right open, and he could feel what time it was.
He may not have been able to see his surroundings and get clues as to the passing of time, but he did something about it. He found a way to move past his darkness and be well-informed. Uncle Carl, although physically blind, lived in light.
The thing I can tell you about Uncle Carl is that his entire life was dedicated to his relationship with Jesus. Even without being able to look it up, he knew more scripture by heart than I will ever be able to master. He was well-prepared for life – even when life threw him a curve – and he was never truly blind. Uncle Carl found a new way to see even in his darkness.
Now Ephesians calls us out of the darkness to live in the light. What we read says “Live as children of light — for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” This is Paul telling us to wake up from our spiritual sleep. This is our call to expose darkness for what it is. Have we been so eager for everyone to just get along that we have become blind to our surroundings? That we cannot see what is really going on around us? All the darkness that surrounds us every day? And if we do recognize it, then what do we do about it? The Bible tells us that we are all born blind, all of us, through no fault of our own – but our task is to do something about it.
The long story from John today drives us home. But not only does it make the point – it powerfully shows us God's way of healing our blindness – and not ours only, but that of the whole world. Jesus does not wait for this man to ask to heal him. Look at verse 4: “We* must work the works of him who sent me* while it is day…”Jesus has been sent by God to work God's works in the God’s world. Jesus goes to the man, makes mud from soil and his own spit, places mud on the man's eyelids, and tells him to go wash in the pool called Sent. The man does all of these things, and finds himself not only healed but “sent” to proclaim the truth about his healing. He does not become a “disciple” of Jesus until later in the story. For the majority of the story, he is simply bearing witness to what has happened to him. He was blind; now he sees, thank you Jesus.
You see, if we stop with our own cleansing – our baptism – if we stop there and do not respond to where we are sent, we remain blind ourselves – we stay in the dark. As Christians, we have been cleansed but we know that it doesn’t stop there! We are to do something about it. We are to find a way out of our own darkness and experience the light.
Now that we have been cleansed, we are sent to be witnesses to this light – Jesus Christ. Now that we have accepted Jesus into our hearts, we are to see things through his eyes – in a new way of seeing.
Now that we have this new way of seeing, we challenge ourselves to fund Divine Street United Methodist Church. Even if we cannot be together physically, the work of the Church never ends, and your faithful generosity will allow us to help others now and to open our doors again when the time comes and we are on the other side of this virus.
If we meet the new guidelines of being under 50 and healthy, we show up at the food pantry on Tuesday. This is all new to us. The typical volunteers don’t meet those requirements – I don’t meet those requirements – and those of you who do are desperately needed.
We continue to make our donations to Rise Against Hunger without being begged. Yes, we have postponed the meal packaging event, but we haven’t cancelled it so that need is still there.
Maybe we make it a point to write one note a day and make one phone call a day – just to reach out to someone and say “hey! Was thinking about you and wanted to check in!”
Now that we have this new way of seeing, we don’t put up with bad behavior around us. We take a stand for the things we believe in. We take seriously our responsibility to know what is going on in the world. We don’t just glance at the newspaper headlines and go on with our day – we see with new eyes – we study the news reports to see how we can be proactive in making changes. We pray through the evening TV news for God to open our eyes, take away our blindness, and show us a new way to see.
We don’t get sucked in to political rhetoric – we pray for our leadership. We don’t say “oh, what a shame there are over 2 million people in prisons in this country today.” We say “how can we reach people before they head that direction?”
Folks, we are not always going to be confined by such strict social distancing. When this is behind us, how can we meet those people when they come out of prison so they don’t re-enter?” Now is the time to put the effort into an infrastructure like we’ve never had the time to do before. We are finding ourselves with some extra minutes – let’s find ourselves BEing the Church!
We recognize that there are 14 times more men in prison than women, but with our new eyes maybe we specifically ask “how can we reach young men early enough that they don’t become part of that statistic?”
Church, these are the difficult dialogues we have when we are living for Jesus. These are the conversations that take place in our meetings. These are the books we are reading. These are the Bible studies. These are the places we are learning new ways to see and discerning how we will step up our game.
And with new eyes and a new way to see, we will want for nothing because Jesus Christ leads us and restores us. With new eyes and a new way to see, our Lord makes us bold, comforts us, and prepares for us. With new eyes and a new way to see, our shepherd anoints us, and offers us goodness and mercy all the days of our lives. What wonderful promises are before us held right within our own scripture!