Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lent 4A

“He put some mud on my eyes. I washed. And now I see.”

Simple. To the point.

But that wasn’t enough. They wanted a fuller explanation. The religious types couldn’t accept his version of the story. There had to be more to it.

Jesus meets this blind man who has been blind from birth. With some spit and dust Jesus heals him. Praise be to God! A man who was blind can now see.

But not so fast. A controversy breaks out. Was this man really healed? How was he healed? If Jesus healed him, what does that say about Jesus?

Fortunately, a bunch of pastors appear on the scene to help sort things out, religiously speaking.

“Who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” they ask. Like lots of religious folks, they want to place blame. They want to talk about sin. They want to beat this guy with a theological stick.

Jesus doesn’t play that game.

The neighbours can’t believe it. Isn’t this the same blind man who once had to beg to survive?

The pastors alert the bishop who refers it to the disciplinary committee to investigate.

“All I know,” the man tells the committee, “is that this man put mud on my eyes and now I can see.”

Though the man is standing right in front of them, the committee can’t reach a conclusion. They subpoena the man’s parents.

“Is this your son?” they ask.

“It looks like our son, but we don’t want to get into any trouble. We have no idea how he got his sight back. If you want to know what happened, ask HIM,” his parents reply.

They call Jesus back in and say, “Jesus, you don’t have a medical license. You’re not on the clergy roster. You shouldn’t be messing around with things you know nothing about.”

The bewildered and annoyed formerly blind man says, “I don’t know a lot about all that big theological stuff. I don’t have a lot of fancy words. The only thing I know is that a few days ago I was blind and now I can see. If you want to know how all this works ask Jesus.”

“He put some mud on my eyes. I washed. And now I see.” That was his testimony.

Simple. To the point.

Sometimes I think we make it harder than it needs to be. I have, on my bookshelf, a whole section on church growth and personal evangelism.

And here at Good Shepherd, we’ve spent a lot of time and money on resources to help you share your faith. We have ChristCare, Stephen Ministry, Making God’s House a Home, Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life, etc.

I’m not saying that these programs aren’t valuable. They are VERY useful. But I do worry that we place too much emphasis on method, and not enough trust in what God is ACTUALLY doing in our lives.

We make it harder than it needs to be.

But then again, it’s not as easy as it looks. Telling people about what God has done in our lives is a challenge because not everyone welcomes conversations from church folks.

I think the problem isn’t God or Jesus. It’s been my experience that, despite the protest of some high profile atheists and their disciples, people are NOT turned off by God talk. In fact, most people WANT to talk about God. They simply don’t want to talk about the church. And in some peoples’ minds the two can be one in the same.

Given the church’s spotty historical record I don’t blame them. When non-church people ask me what I do for a living I’m often hesitant to tell them. Not because I’m ashamed of God or the church.

I’m hesitant because I know that an onslaught of hostility is probably coming my way. People often unload about the pastor who told them their uncle was going to Hell because he was gay. Or how they’re appalled by the sexual abuse and cover-up by the Catholic Church, or the residential schools abuses.

When people unload on me, I RARELY, if EVER, hear someone say, I have a real problem with God intruding on my life, so I try to stay away from church. And I never hear someone say, I have real difficulty with Jesus’s message.”

People’s problems are rarely with God or Jesus. People LOVE talking about God. Peoples’ problems are usually with the Church. Rightly or wrongly, they see the Church like the Pharisees in today’s reading, blind to what God is doing because they’re too busy protecting the religious institution.

We can’t escape the sins of the past. Those are the burdens we carry into the future. And I’m sure that we’ll create new burdens along the way.

But what I try to do when confronted with the sins of our collective past, is to listen to the pain behind those concerns. And all I can do is tell that person what I know about God, and what Jesus has done in my life.

I can’t apologize for other peoples’ sins, but I can tell them about the grace that I’ve received. And about the God I know and who loves me enough to die for me.

All I can do is say “He put some mud on my eyes. I washed. And now I see.”

Our future as a church will be created by simple testimonies rather than large programs. The church of the future will be sustained by our stories of God in our lives rather than by institutional support. Our life together will be about sharing with each other and the world what God is doing with and among us.

I’ve always believed that the church of the future will look more like an AA meeting than a Broadway musical. The church of the future will have one simple message, a message that will change peoples’ lives and the world.

“He put some mud on my eyes. I washed. And now I see.”

May this be so among us. Amen.


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