Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 | Psalm 23 | Ephesians 5:8-14 | John 9:1-41
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8-10, NRSV).
This past week has certainly been an eventful one, hasn’t it? Last Sunday we were still wrapping our heads around things like ‘passing the peace’ with a wave, light refreshments instead of our weekly fellowship meal, and only sharing the Bread together during Communion. Now suddenly we are required to cease gathering altogether… to worship the Lord as the scattered members of His Church, not to mention all of the other major adjustments in the rhythms of our daily lives. It is amazing how much can change in such a short time.
But change is nothing new for us. From the beginning, we Christians have been a people of change, although at times we may have forgotten this important part of our collective past. As individual believers we have each been called into a life of discipleship: of continuous learning and growing and training in the way of Jesus, our Master. And as the Church, we are called to be a community that is aligned to God’s good will, and to be willing ourselves to be realigned to Him whenever we get off track. As St. Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, which we read together this morning, though we were once in darkness, in Jesus, we are to leave that form of life firmly behind us… we are to be changed… and now we are to live (together and alone) as children of the light.
In our Gospel lesson this morning we heard a dramatic (and enlightening) account of one man’s life-changing encounter with Jesus… how the Living God gave sight, in more ways than one, to a man who was born blind.
But first things first, of course. This story does not begin with the man suddenly deciding to change himself… or even with him taking the initiative to ask for help. No, here we are told that it all simply began when Jesus saw the man. Christ saw this man in his blindness… and did not pass him by. In our suffering, or blindness, or darkness, can we believe that Christ sees us?
The disciples saw the man too, of course… but not in the same way at all. Rather than be moved with compassion, they instead focused in on his problems… preoccupied with wondering whose fault was it that the man had been born blind in the first place. In those days, (not unlike our own) it was often assumed that physical impairments like congenital blindness were the result of God’s judgment on sin… that someone must have ‘done’ something to deserve that painful lot in life. For the disciples, this man’s predicament had them playing the ‘blame game’; trying to make sense of it all by finding out for certain who is at fault. Before we start picking on the disciples though, we might want to ask ourselves how often we do the same kind of thing… fixating on problems and searching for ‘causes’, but not actually doing much good.
Jesus doesn’t answer their question though. At least, not in the way they were expecting. He does not offer them an explanation for the man’s situation. He does not lay any blame or answer their big questions about the causes of human suffering. No, Jesus points them instead to what God’s work, God’s good will actually look like in action: He gives them a glimpse of His New Creation… New Life, beyond all expectations.
Disregarding the taboos against working on the Sabbath, Christ makes mud from some dirt and his own spit, rubs it on the blind man’s eyes, and tells him to go wash in the pool named ‘Sent’. We are told the blind (and no doubt confused) man listens to Jesus… he goes and washes himself just as he was told, and miraculously receives full sight for the first time in his life. In an instant, his whole life was changed, completely transformed… and in the same moment, his journey of faith had begun.
The rest of our Gospel passage plays out with a comic back and forth between the spiritual experts, who stubbornly refuse to see God’s re-creative work right in their midst, and this unlearned man who had just received his sight… and who is slowly coming to see that Jesus really is the One sent from God to do His divine work: who finds him at last and takes him from living in darkness into the light of faith… re-creating his physical eyes, yes, but even more importantly giving him spiritual eyes to recognize the Living God at work in Jesus… and to believe in Christ wholeheartedly, and worship Him as Lord.
This passage from John’s Gospel is a beautiful story of how Jesus completely changed someone’s life: setting them free and drawing them deeper towards the light and life of God. But it is also a story meant to invite us to reflect on our own stories too. How is Jesus drawing us deeper into His light today? How are we being asked to exercise faith in the Living God, and let Him bring about His new creation through us?
Like the disciples, it can be easy for us to fixate on all the troubles we see. Especially with all of the uncertainty, suffering, selfishness, and fear at work around us. And like the Pharisees, there are lots of ways we too can resist God’s invitation to share in His light: there are things we can cherish and cling to that keep us back from the life we have been called to live. But in Jesus, we have been made children of God’s light… and are the means by which God wants to share His hope, peace, truth, and holy love with those still in darkness (in whatever form it may take). So how can we take seriously our calling as children of the light? Especially today, as we find ourselves mostly stuck in our homes?
First things first, of course: the Christian journey doesn’t start off with us simply changing ourselves, but with listening to and believing in the One who re-creates us.
How do we live as children of light? We seek to draw close to Jesus. In faith we seek to let Him draw us deeper into the light and life of God. We pray… not simply sharing our words and worries with the Lord, but we also let go of our own agendas we make room for listening to Him. We read and study the Scriptures, trusting that through these written sacred words that the Holy Spirit is still at work revealing God’s purposes and mission, and is transforming and enabling us to take part in it as well. We worship, intentionally honouring the goodness and glory of God, and orienting our own lives around Him as our Lord. And as we do all this, we keep our eyes open… we actively look for ways that He might be opening up for us to share in His re-creative work. We ask Christ to show us those people (maybe they’re right before our eyes), that He wants us to reach out and help, or comfort, or challenge, or connect with. And we ask Him to show us what we need to let go of so we can be free to do His will.
So let us commit to persevering in prayer (for ourselves, for each other, and for our world), to listening to the Scriptures, and turning our hearts to God in worship, that our Saviour will show us what it means to live in His light today. Amen.
Rev. Rob serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Gondola Point, and as the School Chaplain at Rothesay Netherwood School