The Gospel Story for the Fourth Sunday in Lent – John 9:1-41: Jesus and the Man Born Blind

In lieu of our regular Sunday Sermon (due COVID-19 preventing congregational gatherings on Sunday mornings), Reverend Dr. Elizabeth Green has distributed some written thoughts on this week’s Gospel.

At the beginning of this story, the disciples see a man blind from birth and
they ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”
The belief of that time was that God rewards good and punishes evil. If
you are rich, that was a reward. If you were poor, your life was a
punishment that was either blamed on you, your parents, or your ancestors. In today’s Gospel story, Jesus goes against the traditions of his day. The beginning of the story of the Man Born Blind challenges the view of inherited evil: Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

In John’s gospel Jesus doesn’t refer to the things he does as miracles – he
calls them signs.  We see this at the wedding feast at Cana. John says, “Jesus
did this as the beginning of his signs … and so revealed his glory.
” The point of his ministry was not to dazzle but to reveal something.

Who is the man born blind?  He is an outcast — and he doesn’t even have a
name. When names are not assigned to a biblical character, it means that
we are being personally invited to step into the story, and to literally
become part of the story with God. We can see ourselves as a woman
being given living water, and as a man who is healed of blindness; we can
even picture ourselves as a disciple who Jesus loves.

Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”

Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud and puts it on the blind man’s
eyes and sends him off to wash. Really? That’s it? We usually like our grand
signs to come with claps of thunder and lightning.  We want a crowd
going, “Ohhhhhhhhh!!” Yet this miracle is so ordinary and so “every day”
that its very ordinariness seems to be part of the lesson Jesus wants to
teach us. Jesus comes into our life without the thunder and lightning. Jesus
comes to us as a living, loving presence in order that through him, we
might see God in all things and in all people. The man in this Gospel story
received, not just his sight, but a gift of healing, wholeness and peace. He
has a new understanding about the world, about life and about Jesus.

“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means the one who is Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

Siloam means the one who is sent.  Jesus sent the blind man.  He washed in
the pool and received new sight.  And we who have been baptized, we
have washed in the pool of Siloam. We too have been sent by God. Each
one of our lives has holy meaning and a God-given purpose.
I went. I washed. I saw.’  Four times the man born blind says that.
What will we say this Lent? It seems that in this time of such great
uncertainty, we will more likely say, I stayed home. I self-isolated. I practiced social distancing. I washed, and I washed and I washed some more. And then….I saw.  What did you see?

While we are all doing our best to guard against the spread of COVID-19,
the fear, isolation, the confusion, and the not knowing, could have a
negative impact on our faith if we are not careful. Our minds might relapse
into the old way of thinking – that by way of COVID-19, we are being
punished for our sins. This is an old way of seeing that Jesus calls us to
correct. He wants us to see God no other way than as a God who loves
and who heals.

Everyday in the news media, we are being cautioned not to touch one
another, to keep our distance, and to wash our hands all the time. Even so,
we can still approach Jesus – the spirit of the living God – and invite him
to come and touch our hearts. We can wash again and again in the love of
Jesus’ heart. Then we might see and understand as never before, that God
is sending us to love one another – even when sending, these days, means
staying home. Lent is a process of having our eyes opened to see and hope
and desire, just as Jesus does.  Lent is about re-forming our seeing, our
hoping and our desiring. Sometimes we despair and say, “I can’t understand what God is doing. I don’t see any way out of this!” Lent’s answer to our dilemma, our hopelessness is, Wash in the One sent by God – Jesus Christ our Lord. “I washed; I see; I hope; I desire.” It’s all new.

We now see that the story of Jesus healing the man born blind is not about
an ancient Nazarene who had great powers over two thousand years ago
that enabled him to cure the sight of a blind man.  No. The story about
Jesus healing the blind man is a story of how Jesus has the power to
give us a sign today, when we are blind to so much that is going on around
us. We all have blindness in our lives – and we can all turn to Jesus and pray in the simplest of words. I invite you to pray.

Jesus, heal my blindness!  I go blind in the same ways over and over in my life. I lose sight of your love when I think there is no hope, when people hurt, or turn against me, when all I see in the world is suffering. I lose sight of your love when I struggle to forgive, when I am overwhelmed with grief and despair. I lose sight of your love when I fail to see your presence in my life; when all I see are my own selfish needs and wants.  Holy God, restore my sight, not just for today, but in all those ways I live every day without seeing you, and especially in those situations when I go blind, even temporarily. Amen.

Reflection for the 4th Sunday in the Season of Lent

During this time when we are doing all we can to protect ourselves and
others from COVID-19, let’s use this day to think about the ways in which
we are blind. Then let us pray to God to heal our vision through new and
life giving love.

  • Selfishness – this blinds us to the needs of others.
  • Insensitivity – this blinds us to the hurt we’re causing others.
  • Snobbery – this blinds us to the equal dignity of others.
  • Pride – this blinds us to our own faults.
  • Prejudice – this blinds us to the truth.
  • Self-Centredness – this blinds us to the beauty of the world around us.
  • Materialism – this blinds us and makes us numb to spiritual values.
 Open my eyes Lord; help me to see your face.
Open my ears Lord; help me to hear your voice.
Open my heart Lord; help me to love like you.

People Stayed Home – by Kitty O’Meara

And the people stayed home.
And read books, and listened, and rested,
and exercised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed,
some danced. Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.