Sunday, 3rd April, 2011
Year A. Lent 4.
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41. Purple
Call to worship – Psalm 23 responsive (Uniting in Worship)
Hymn Together in Song 10 The Lord's my shepherd
Prayers of adoration and confession
we thank you for the gift of our senses
for sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell
for the ways you have given us to
understand and interact with this world.
We thank you for the wonder of all of your creation
and for the love you have for all you have made
and for Jesus, the greatest gift of your love.
We confess that we are sinners
We see Jesus in front of us,
and fail to recognise him,
to hear his voice,
and to obey his commands.
We fail to love you with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength,
we fail to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Help us to change, we pray,
Cure the blindness that stops us seeing where you are leading,
help us become the people you would have us be,
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Declaration of forgiveness
Hymn Together in Song 579 The Blind Man
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.
Close your eyes.
Imagine for a while that the only thing you have ever seen is exactly what you see with your eyes closed. (pause)
How does it feel, when other people talk about what they can see, and you don't know what those words mean? (pause)
How does it feel, when no-one will give you a job? There must surely be some work you could do – but there are people who can see who want work, and they'll get every job ahead of you. (pause)
You live on charity. It doesn't matter if you're a beggar at the roadside, or you live on a disability pension, either way, you are always aware that you live by the grace of others who supply your needs. (pause)
Blindness limits your ability to join in the life of the society around you. Any disability does. You are different from other people, and that difference is always the first thing people notice. (pause)
No-one knows why you are blind, and no-one knows of any cure for your condition. People speak to you, or speak about you in your presence, as if you deserve your disability, as if you somehow chose it. (pause)
Sometimes they use you as an object lesson, or a topic for a philosophical debate: whose sin caused this man to be born blind? Did his parents sin? Did he sin? You have been blind since birth, yet some people argue that you did something so bad before you were born that God would punish you. (pause)
Think for a moment what that feels like......
You can either keep your eyes closed, or open them now, but if you keep them closed, try not to snore....
The disciples asked Jesus: whose sin caused this man to be blind? Right at the beginning of the encounter with the blind man, blindness and sin are linked.
We might think that's an archaic way of thinking – after all, we know that disease and disability are caused by germs, or genetics, or accident, or any number of factors.
Yet, I've known people in situations of serious illness to have been told by someone, “if you had more faith you'd get better”. Somewhere there is still some idea that good people get rewarded and bad people get punished.
Jesus says “no” - the disciples, and the general population, have completely the wrong idea about sin. The man isn't disabled as punishment for his parents doing something wrong – or himself doing something wrong, apparently while in the womb if he was born blind.
It's not just that there's no link between a personal tragedy and personal sin – it's also that sin isn't about the list of things people do wrong.
This begins to becomes clear the man talks to the Jewish leaders – how strange it is that they claim not even to know where Jesus comes from – yet he's clearly got the power to cure the blind. There seems to be something important happening that they're just not seeing. It's something a blind man can see, but they can't. It seems there is more than one kind of blindness.
Jesus spells it out more clearly in his discussion with the Jewish leaders. Sin is about a response to Jesus. The blind – those who have not been able to see who he is – aren't held guilty because they haven't had the opportunity to respond to him. Those who are sighted, as the Jewish leaders claim they are, are held responsible for their response to Jesus. They are sinners, he declares, because they claim to be able to see, and yet they reject Jesus.
Sin, in scripture, is about a relationship with God, or a lack of relationship. To sin is to turn away from God. Here, Jesus is expanding that understanding to include himself. Those who knowingly reject Jesus, are the same as those who knowingly reject God, they are sinners. Jesus here is claiming to be equal with God.
The blind man had not been punished by God for being a sinner. His physical blindness isn't a direct result of anyone's sin. It's simply a circumstance in his life – a circumstance that God can use to reveal who Jesus is. In fact, he in seeing Jesus and believing him, is justified. The Pharisees, who claim to never have been blind, are judged and condemned, because they see Jesus, and do not believe.
Close your eyes again.....
You have been blind since birth. Unable to see anything more than you can see right now with your eyes closed.
What will it mean to you to be able to see?
How would you feel about someone who gave you such a gift?
If someone could heal you with a touch, by making sight for you from clay, just as God made humankind from clay, what would that mean?
If such a person invited you to believe in him as divine, as one with the God who made you, would you choose to believe in him? Would you defend him against powerful people who claim he is a sinner? Would you risk being further ostracised from society to be faithful to him?
If the circumstances of your life were used so God could show the world the truth of who Jesus is, would you want to share that with others, whatever risk might be involved?
Open your eyes......
If the circumstances of your life have been used so God can show the world the truth of who Jesus is, do you want to share that with others, even if it is difficult or risky?
Hymn Together in Song 129 Amazing Grace
Prayers of the People
We pray for your world
We pray for the leaders of our nation, and of other nations,
give them eyes that see the problems facing world today
the wars and violence, disasters, poverty,
We pray you give them hearts to feel compassion for the needs of your world and its people -
And we pray you give them wisdom as they deal with the problems of the world.
And we pray for our own congregation
Give us eyes to see the people in the community around us, their hurts and pains, their needs, their hopes and joys
Give us hearts to feel compassion for our neighbours
And give us wisdom to know what to do in response to their needs.
And we pray for our church family
May we have eyes to see each other's needs
Hearts filled with compassion for our sisters and brothers
and wisdom to find ways to meet their needs.
In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
The Lord's Prayer
Hymn Together in Song 684 Love will be our Lenten calling