Gospel: John 9:1-41
1As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”  13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”  24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “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?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.  35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

Gospel Time “Not Getting Our Own Way”

P:   I’ve brought some friends with me today.  This is Beaky (bird puppet) and this is Munchie (chipmunk puppet)

B:  I’m bored.

M: Me, too!

P:   Oh, why are you bored?

M: I’ve been stuck in the house all day.

B:  I’ve been stuck in the house all week!

M: We can’t go see our friends…

B:  …and we can’t share our snacks.

M: …and we have to wash our hands every time before we eat.

B:  …and before we go to bed.

M: …and every time we come back in the house!

P:   Wait a minute.  I thought you hadn’t been out of the house?

B:  Just for groceries.

M: Yeah, that’s boring.

B:  I want to fly!

M: Me, too!

P:   Munchie, Beaky’s a bird.  You’re a chipmunk.  You can’t fly.

M: Then make Beaky stay here with me!

P:   I’m sorry.  We can’t make Beaky into someone who can’t fly—Besides, Beaky can’t go very far inside the house…are you crying?

M: NO!  Maybe sort of…

P:   There were people in our Gospel story today who wanted to believe that God heals only those who deserve it, but Jesus had healed a man they didn’t like, so they called the man a sinner and told him to go away. But Jesus found him to try to make him feel better.  Then he told the Pharisees that they were really the sinners.

B:  I bet they didn’t like that much!

P:   Not at all!  They weren’t getting their way.  They wanted to be in control.

B:  Hey, Munchie, I don’t’ need to fly all the time. I’ve got an idea.  Why don’t we line dance!

M: Yeah!  We don’t even need to wash our hands for that!

B:  ’Cause we can do it without touching anything! Yeah!

Prayer: Lord God, help us to connect in ways that are safe and healthy, and help us to do things that are good for all people, and not just ourselves.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

Sermon “Doing the Work and Why”

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

You may have noticed as I was reading the Gospel story, I read a little bit differently than the story was punctuated in the text.  The way it is written in our translations, it seems as if the man was born blind so that Jesus could have someone to heal.

There are lots of problems with looking at this story that way, because being blind, especially 2000 years ago, was a severe trial. The truth is that there was little or no punctuation used when this was first written on parchment or skin and rolled into a scroll.  I believe, therefore, that it is better read as I read it.  Neither the parents nor the blind man sinned, causing his blindness. It is merely fact that he was born blind.  Then, in order that the work of God might be revealed in him, we need to get on it, and do that work.

But what can we do?

Generally, I like to try to give very general answers for that question, what can we do as people of God in this world?  Right now, though, it’s different.

It’s different because we risk spreading an infection that can be deadly if we merely touch someone else after touching the wall or a doorknob without washing or sanitizing well in between.  It’s different because the way we’ve done church forever is by encouraging people to gather together in worship… and that very gathering together is what we cannot do right now.

Granted, there are people arguing about all that. Some continue to gather, saying they’re not worried, but I worry about the people they might encounter.  Some are gathering in very small groups for very short times and doing their best to sanitize between them, but I’m not sure where they’re getting supplies to do that.  Many are staying home, and just about every congregation I know of is attempting to do a live-stream of the worship service, and to reach out to those without Internet access in other ways.

When a person has been hospitalized, I will often ask what they are doing to pass the time as they recover.  Now I’m thinking that’s not the best question to ask! It’s not about passing the time.  It’s about healing.

In our Gospel story, they asked the man, “Who healed you?  How did it happen?”  Then they basically said, “We don’t believe you!  We don’t want to believe you!  Go away! You’re a bad person!”

We often respond this way when we hear what we don’t want to hear.  I complained when we were given the restrictions to gather in groups of fewer than 50 people, though that was not really a hardship.  I complained more when they lowered that to 10.  I’ll complain again when I’m told to stay home. But I’ll comply—as long as they allow me to continue to reach out in some form—and some form will always be there, even if the Internet goes down, even if the phone lines die, because the Body of Christ—the Spirit of Christ remains with each of us.

I’ll comply, because I see that these are the best ways we can come up with right now to work together to slow the onslaught of this particular infection.  This is how we do the work of God today, by doing our part.  I see—that we need to make accommodations.  I see—that this is not easy.  And I see—that God walks with us through it all.  I see—that people are lonely.  Let’s make it a point to talk on the phone while we are kept apart, okay? I see—I see so much, and sometimes feel helpless, but we are not.

Jesus said that once the Pharisees insisted they could see, that’s what made them sinners, because even though they saw, they did nothing.

We might feel like we’re doing nothing, when we refrain from gathering, when we avoid crowds, when we sit and cry out in loneliness, fear, or despair.  But we are helping, as we work to keep this virus from ourselves and from our loved ones in this way.

We are not helpless, because God sees so much more than I can see.  God stays with each of us, and we will do what we can do to proclaim God’s presence with us today, tomorrow, and always.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen