The Good Shepherd Strikes Again

This can be listened to here


Gate Pa – Year A  4th Sunday in Lent,
Readings:
Psalm                          Psalm: 23                                                       
First Reading:                         1 Sam 16:1-13            
Second Reading:                    Eph 5:8-14                 
Gospel:                        John 9:1-41                 

What I want to say:
Lets read this with some of the rest of John. And lets wonder where we stand in this story. What does it mean for us to have placed in our eyes the light of Christ?
What I want to happen:
-          what would we see differently
-          who would we see differently
-          how would we live differently

The Sermon

       1.     Introduction:

Rev. Sean is the vicar of a Protestant parish in Southern Ireland, and Fr. Patrick is the priest at the Roman Catholic Church across the road.
One day they are seen together, erecting a sign which says:
"THE END IS NEAR. TURN YOURSELF AROUND NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE."
As a car speeds past them, the driver leans out his window and yells, "Leave people alone, you religious nutters. We don't need your lectures."
From around the next curve they hear screeching tyres and a big splash.
Shaking his head, Father Patrick says "Dat's da terd one dis mornin'."
"Yaa," Sean agrees, then adds, "Do ya tink maybe da sign should just say
"BRIDGE CLOSED"?
Sometimes understanding some of our readings is a bit like reading that sign
in danger of missing the point all together

       2.     Blind guys

As I keep saying, one of our problems is that we keep reading stories like this morning’s really really long story as a stand-alone story
set out like that in our bibles
            own title
many us surprised hear that those titles are not part of what was originally written
nor were the chapters
the paragraphs
or even the verse numbers
รจ all of which helpfully divide up books bible into nice easy to read little stand alone chunks
Paul’s letters were written to be read out loud in one go
Gospels written to be read out loud in one go
Like watching movie in 10 minute bytes
            changes how we understand what is happening
But we do it
all do
we do it every Sunday
no way around it
but we need to remember that this is not how these books were to be read

       3.     for example

last week heard story of Samaritan woman
            often miss that it stands in contrast with Nicodemus – Jewish male and Pharisee
            we keep reading them as two separate stories
            that is how they are set out in our bibles
but in fact they are two parts of the same story
belong together
belong with today’s story
belong rest gospel of John
just imagine watching a film like this
jumping 45 minutes
take todays reading
             miss that this is a story about what Jesus says about himself in John 8:12
‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’
Because the lectionary writers took pity on us,
we do not carry on to at least 10:21
which is what Jesus commentary on what has happened  in today’s reading.
            10: 1-21 has its own title
                        Jesus Is Good Shepherd
                        so clearly it has nothing to do with the healing of the blind man
except it has everything to do with Jesus healing the blind man
            it is his discussion about the meaning of that

       4.     The Story

so Jesus returned to Galilee
then comes back to Jerusalem
in temple adulterous woman is brought to him
and then after she has gone he says that he is light world
which leads to quite the discussion with some Pharisees
and ends with them wanting to stone him
so he hides
while keeping low
disciples ask
"Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" 
-         at a lot of levels this is a really interesting question
-         Theologically – most don’t think blindness is caused by sin
o   and at another level this is exactly the question we ask when things go wrong
            “what have I done to deserve this?”
-         medically - we know what causes blindness
o   blindness is not caused by sin
o   caused by all kinds of stuff which prevents light getting into the eye or brain not being able to register that light
in Jesus world
blindness is caused by sin
sin here is broken relationships with God and community
not moral failure
            that causes the light within the eye to go out
Hence the disciples question
   3 Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.”
he restores light within blind man’s eyes
which turns out to be a pretty controversial act
it is the Sabbath
Pharisees find out and get real grumpy

       5.     The blind judge the blind

At this point Jesus has exited stage left
Blind man
            who has no idea what Jesus looks like
            because he was blind
            but can recognise his voice
            because he is not deaf
left face music with his community – many whom not sure if this is man who was blind
he lived on edge
not really one of them
sinner
blind
paid him little or no attention
they were blind to him
but now he is restored to that community
they can no longer be blind to him
he is there in front of them and he can see
no longer a sinner

and Pharisees
they are not blind
they know the law
they know that this kind of stuff should not be happening on the Sabbath
they will not turn a blind eye to this kind of shenanigans
they interrogate the once blind man
and in process
he shows them
this man who was just thought of as a blind sinner
shows the learned insiders
that their blind adherence to law
without any compassion, any generosity, any love
renders them
blind
which takes us back to the disciples first question
"Rabbi, who sinned: these men or their parents, causing them to be blind?" 

       6.     The good shepherd strikes again

Jesus hears about all the goings on and returns
man does not recognise him
            never seen him
does hear his voice
recognises the voice
            ringing some psalm 23 bless at this point
unlike Nicodemus
but like Samaritan woman
understands his identity is now in Jesus
He is one of Jesus family
he has been born from above
The Jesus light has been put in his eyes
allow him to see so much more than just what is around him
he can see the reign of God breaking open all around him
gathering up people like him
outsiders
people on the edge
who had been told all their lives they did not belong
God did not have compassion for them
they belong.
His worship is expression of his trust and loyalty

      7.     Lent

where are we in this story
with Pharisees thinking we have got it sussed
that we are one of the in group
and so blind to God’s compassion, generosity and love
with the bystanders getting on with life but not sure
            thinking they can see
            but blind to so much and so many people
with the once blind man who can now see
            who has had light Christ placed in his eyes
            and who teaches the insiders about what reign God looks like.
this Lent are we willing to have Jesus place his light in our eyes
what would we see differently
who would we see differently
how would we live differently


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