United Church of Jaffrey
The sermon begins 10 mins 38 seconds of this video
I went out earlier – the errand, I think, involved giving food scraps to the chickens — and on my way back the dog waylaid me with a look of profound longing.
She is a smallish dog – not a yippy toy dog, mind you, but short enough that her head barely peaks out over the top of the soccer ball.
“Please” she seemed to be saying to me…
The soccer ball itself could hardly be described by making reference to that sport. The dog is the only one who plays with it, and consequently, it is a sad tattered thing – frayed by the thwarted attentions of a beast whose jaws cannot manage its girth.
“Okay, okay,” I said, and I put my foot on top of the ball.
For the next minute or two I kicked the ball around for Luna – Luna is the dog’s name.
Just then I heard a
…and who should come over the picket fence from the neighbor’s yard, but Totem, our teenage tabby cat.
What’s going on here? He seemed to say.
I looked at him,
And then at Luna.
“What?” she said.
That, my friends, was when I heard it…
I heard the sound of no traffic.
I heard the silence of no airplanes…
In the distance there was a faint yellow sound – the sound of a kid somewhere, yelling into the sky.
But other than that?
It was quiet enough to hear the tree branches moving.
It was quiet enough to hear what my dog and cat’s emotions!
And how… lovely!
I hope you enjoyed the reading from the Gospel of John. It is a long story that gets a little turned on itself at times, and so it has the potential to get boring or seem redundant, so I wanted to come up with a way to keep it interesting.
Since the reading was a long one, I could break it up into parts, and that gave me the idea of farming out the reading to a bunch of different people.
I want to use this worship video to keep us together, so this was one way to do that.
Shared purpose creates community, even now.
And another thing.
Since this story, at its core, is about a blind person being given sight, it is, of course, a story of transformation.
The healed man says it himself: “I was blind and now I see.”
It is about growth, and change, and gradually growing into a more full quality of being.
So I thought about blooming flowers.
I like the way it worked out…
Did you notice how the orchid burst open just when Tina asked “then how were your eyes opened?”
I’ve said that this story, at its core, is a story of transformation.
But there is considerably more going on here isn’t there?
The miraculous core of the story is hidden under an explosion of red tape that erupts as a result of the miracle.
It’s too bad, because if you strip away all the theological hullabaloo, the miracle itself is a fascinating thing to consider.
Sensing a teachable moment, the disciples point at a man. The man is not simply blind – he has been “blind from birth.”
They ask Jesus:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Note that the question is not whether sin was involved in the man’s blindness, but rather whose sin it is. The disciples have a rigid world view. Their assumption is a powerful one — one that some people still fall prey to even today.
If a person is afflicted, it is because someone, somewhere sinned.
Suffering, they think, is the natural result of sin.
The power of this prevailing world view makes Jesus’ response all the more
He summarily dismisses the idea that sin is an any way involved in the man’s blindness. He offers an alternate view of the matter:
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
Saying this, Jesus approached the man. He
spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”
When the man returns from the pool of Siloam, the text reports, rather anti-climactically that he “came back able to see.”
But hidden in this matter-of-factly language is a transformation of extraordinary dimension.
Recall that the man was not just blind – he was “blind from birth” – this man had never seen light.
He had never known the color red, or the long shadows of the evening.
Never known spatial difference intimacy and distance.
He had never looked upon creases in an old woman’s face – never seen the light in her eyes.
This man…. Can you imagine?
For his entire life, he lived in a certain way – without hope of ever living differently, and then, suddenly, he is utterly changed.
He comes into a fullness of being that carries with it whole new ways of perceiving and understanding.
Have you seen the drone footage that is showing up on YouTube – videos that are taken from high above the most populated cities in the world. All the infrastructure and landmarks are there, but no people.
Wide expansive overpasses, and massive bridges spanning rivers – but no cars.
Parks without people.
Avenues and boulevards empty of any movement.
Even where I live, the streets are empty.
It seems like everything that we know to be true about our lives, is being threatened.
Every morning, when I have coffee, Cary and I wade through the latest updates from around the world.
The stock market…
The situation in Italy…
All of the unknown variables about this sickness, how, when and where it may or not progress.
When we drive anywhere, the radio comes on to tell us more and more ominous information about the dire economic impact of all this… the fearful possibility that nothing will ever be the same…
At its core, this corona-virus story, is a story of transformation.
In this sense, the story of the blind man, and the story of our lives is similar – we both find ourselves in a confusing moment – a moment when everything has changed. A crucial moment when nothing will ever be the same.
You could say, well, that’s all very well, Pastor Mark, but the blind man was being transformed into sight, and we? We are being transformed into illness, distance, fear, unknowing.
But is it the only truth.
If we insist on seeing only the truth we know (like the Pharisee’s in this story) we will not be able to see the liberating new truth.
It is true that many may die from this Virus.
But in the meantime, we are being given a gift – an extraordinary gift.
The gift of transformation.
The gift of time, to re-assess our connection to the earth.
The gift of long hours with our loved ones, or alone with our souls.
The gift of a moment to stand apart from the world and ask if everything that has defined our lives – the pursuit of material wealth, the endless running around – is the only thing?
Perhaps there is something else that has been waiting to be seen.
Something that has been hiding behind the explosion of red tape that is our lives…
Perhaps there is something else that has been waiting to be heard.
Something that has been drowned out by all our theological hullaballoo.
There is a growing sense that maybe…
This is the time to discover these subtle spiritual realities.
A new way of seeing.
A new way of hearing…
When, for one blessed moment, the traffic stops and the planes stay on the ground, and we can hear what the dog has to say…