Are you blind?? The signs are right there!!!!

Sermon March 2, 2014, John 9

The signs are right there. Right there for everyone to see. How can anyone miss them. They are black and white. Four, one on each corner. “No Turn on Red”. But more often than not drivers at the intersection of S. 27th St. and National Ave will if we’re lucky stop or slow down and then just turn right on red. Even though the signs say no. Even though there are pedestrians like me and my boys, or like Larry, or Sherveeta, or so many others whose names we don’t know trying to cross the streets. But the drivers go as if they can’t see, or can’t read, or don’t care what the signs say.

So what do you think? Why do they do that? Why do so many miss the signs.

Maybe the first time there at that intersection. Just with all the people, the business, the traffic, just to much.
Distracted
So much other going on the street
By what’s going on in the car, in our lives, in our head

We get focused on our wants, our needs to get where we’re going. We blind ourselves to others, to the signs.

That’s what Jesus is talking about this morning.

It begins with the disciples, who are distracted. They are trying to figure out who is to blame. They see the blind man and instead of seeing a brother, instead of seeing themselves in him, instead of finding out who he really is. They are looking for blame. Is he blind because it’s his fault or his parents’ fault. How is it God’s will.

But that’s not how Jesus sees it. Instead for Jesus the man’s life, his condition provides an opportunity to do God’s will, to do the good work, to show God’s power and healing in the world. So, Jesus takes that moment, that occasion and does what God would have him do–heal the man.

Now isn’t that a good thing?

Well, that’s not exactly how everybody sees it. You see, its not just that Jesus healed, its how he did it. Did anybody catch when Jesus does this healing?
It’s a Sabbath; the sabbath is the day of rest. A day for no work. But Jesus heals a man, a man who has lived sightless every other day. So this isn’t terribly urgent, there was nothing imminently dangerous about situation. We don’t even hear the man ask to be healed. But Jesus does it right then.
And, how does Jesus heal the man? If healing weren’t bad enough, Jesus makes some mud to do it. He doesn’t just say, “hey guy you are healed.” Like Jesus could have done and does in other places. No he does exactly what was posted, stated, as wrong breaking one of the commandments, and not just one of all the little ones. This is one of the big 10 right? Remember the sabbath.
It is no mystery that the religious leaders do not, they can not see what Jesus is really doing They can’t see Jesus for who he is, because well he’s doing what he’s not supposed to do. How can anyone be on God’s good side if they are going around blatantly breaking the commandments. Really it’s not just that they are distracted by jealousy. No, they are focused on what everything about their faith, their religion says is wrong and right.

However, the religious leaders lets not just pick on them. They aren’t the only ones blinded in the story. Before the man is questioned by the authorities, his neighbors, the people who walked by him, who saw him on the street, they have all sorts of questions. Some folks don’t even recognize the man. All they saw when they had looked at him for all those was his blindness, his disability, and without that they didn’t know who he was. So, for years and years the must have walked by him, they must have sat near him–passing by him on their way to market, on their way to do their business, on their way to worship, to greet their friends. Perhaps he even stood next to them at prayer, but the never took the time to get to know him. He was the blind guy in the corner, they never really saw him. Going about their lives, they were blind to him. So obviously their vision isn’t much better than that of their leaders.
How many times is our vision similarly clouded. We only see someone by the category we put them in. Old people or poor people, white people, black, lump all Asians together. Conservatives, liberals, the rich, gay or straight. We only see what we want to see. And with some we hardly take the time to stop and really look.
Today though Jesus is shining his light in here, so that yes, even we can start to see clearly. Now we’re not a big congregation right? 40 to 80 or so come to worship most Sundays. That’s not a lot right. Not too many. Now I’ve been open about the struggle I have recalling names when I want to. But im not the only one here. It’s as if we come here, but we really don’t see one another. Oh, we certainly focus on the people we like and who we are friends with. Now do not get me wrong. I’m not picking on anyone in particular, or just St. Paul’s. I’ve seen this in lots of other congregations. We don’t know what we don’t know. We are blind to our blindspots, that is until someone shines a light on them.
You know those signs at the intersection of 27th & National that I mentioned earlier in my sermon. Ignoring, not seeing those signs is such a big deal to me that when I am out walking, if I’m standing there trying to cross the street, well to the embarrassment of my sons, I will yell at drivers. I will wave my hands and i will point at the signs. Their blindness to the signs gets me all worked up.

I would like to think that I am righteous, somehow a better driver. But I have to admit, I can confess just the other week. I pulled into the far right lane, stopped at the red light, looked at the red light, looked to left, looked at the red light and pulled the wheel to the right and hit the gas. Luckily I caught myself before i hit a pedestrian trying to cross the street. My own impatience, thoughts, busyness distracted me, and blinded me to the signs I’ve pointed out to so many others, so many times. Well let me tell you I sure gave myself a good talkin too.

Friends if Jesus is the light of the world, then today he is shining. He is shining a spot light to show us where our blind-spots. He’s letting us see the things of this world as distractions, our busy-ness; our worries, our fears and resentments, the parties, the alcohol, its all the same, it blinds us. It is only when we admit our blindness can our eyes be opened, opened to Jesus God’s light .

But Jesus isn’t this holier than thou stop light. Making people think that’s all we as the church are or should be about. There to tell us what not to do. There to catch us in the act of doing wrong. Jesus is the light of eternal life. Of life lived beyond shoulda, coulda, wouldas, life not lived by don’t do this, don’t do that. But life lived really seeing one another. Life lived looking out for one another. Life lived looking for each and every opportunity to really see one another, to get to know one another, and to see how Jesus is reflected in their lives, in their struggles.

As we enter this season in the church a season of Lent. It has often been a season of sacrifice–of giving up something. In the church we give up the alleluia, that song and word of praise–not to make us feel bad, but to help us focus on Jesus, his life and his light. Let these days, these 40 days before the central festival and feast, the party of Easter be instead 40 days, of 40 opportunities to put away the distractions, to look for Jesus, to really see whats goin on in our lives, our prejudices, our weaknesses, to watch as Jesus opens our eyes to one another, to catch a glimpse of the glorious light that shines in our world to bring healing and living, forgiveness and peace, to bring us to life in God’s vision, giving us the eyes to really see the love and light of Jesus. Amen.

Despicable me, despicable you, despicable Jacob – Sermon for Sept. 22, Narrative Lectionary

Sept. 22

Kids Sermon –  Despicable Me” –

[Chorus – Pharrell Williams]

Im having a bad bad day

its about time that I get my way

steam rolling whatever i see, huh

despicable me

Im having a bad bad day

if you take it personal thats ok,

watch this is so fun to see, huh

despicable me

 

Who says cartoons aren’t educational?  From the modern movie soundtrack we just heard a couple of moments ago to Daffy Ducks, “Your despicable!” Where else could we learn such big words.  Where else, ok well maybe at worship?

 

So what does despicable mean?  what its Definition?  How would you define it? 

Mean, rotten, dirty, no-good.  perhaps it would be better if we didn’t name any names, you know as examples.  Did you know it comes from the word despise?  It can mean deserving to be despised.

 

And to despise something or someone is to: regard with it or him or her with  contempt, distaste, disgust, or disdain; scorn; loathe.

 

Now you probably didn’t wake up this morning and look forward to coming to worship to hear and learn about some despicable character.  After all, we see and hear of plenty of them day in and day out.  We probably even know a few, sometimes you may even feel that way about yourself.   But to have one of the one of the big three– Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The big three that we will hear about next week–you know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  To hear him referred to as despicable?  Well let’s see.

 

Can we describe Jacob as a despicable guy? He’s opportunistic, prior to our reading for today he had already taken advantage of his older twin’s, Esau’s hunger, getting him to bargain away his birthright, his inheritance for a meal.  So before or reading for today, Jacob had already secured his future with wealth and material goods.  But when there’s more to be had, there’s more to be taken.  So with the  prompting and coaching of his dear sweet mother, Jacob lies to and deceives his ailing father.  Incorrigible and despicable if you ask me.  Stealing the last thing this old man could possibly give, his blessing, the passing on of his power, his mojo.  And in that world, once its gone, it’s gone. Once it’s out there, it can’t be taken back.  Yeah, Jacob. . . He is one dirty, rotten, scoundrel.

 

It should then be no surprise that Jacob would have trouble sleeping, would have dreams.  We could only hope that his conscience would catch up with him.  But that’s not exactly what happens.  Fleeing his older brother, on his way to his uncles’ to get a wife or two, Jacob spends the night with a rock for a pillow, falling  asleep he dreams a vision of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven, with God’s messengers hard at work going up and down.  Then The Lord speaks to Jacob, not from up those stairs, but right next to him, at his level so to speak. And what does The Lord do?  Does The Lord reprimand? Does The Lord correct? Does The Lord condemn the rascal at his feet? Nope.  The Lord promises Jacob children galore, and the very land he is resting on.  It’s The very same promise made to his grandfather Abraham.

 

I don’t know about you, but it almost seems as if God’s got a really poor sense of judgement with these guys.  Or perhaps maybe, God’s just not got that good of a pool to work with.  But it sure seems like The Lord God doesn’t do what the label we’ve been using and tossing about all morning.  The Lord doesn’t despise Jacob.  Instead God’s going to use him, use his family to bring blessings to all her children.

 

And before we try to wiggle God out of this one.  This isn’t a case of you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  No Jacob’s been wrestling with his brother since before they were born.. And it’s not like Jacob saw the light, so to speak.  It was just a ladder, not light.  Meaning  he doesn’t exactly straighten up and become an upright and model young man.  He will trick his future father-in-law.  And he will continue the family tradition of favoritism, loving one wife more than the other, and loving her children more than his others.

 

Now learning about these guys like Jacob, and well pretty much just about the rest of these people that God works with in the bible isn’t supposed to tell us that it doesn’t matter what we do.  These guys are not necessarily models of behavior for us to emulate and put on some pedestal.  No, when you really look at them, they are just like you and me.

 

We can not idolize these Biblical characters, but nor can we dismiss them.  Just as we should not be dismissed either.  Instead we are here to be honest, terribly, even brutally honest about our faults, our sins, our weaknesses–how we cheat, steal, how we judge others,

 

These are the things that in worship, with you, with one another we can confess.  You know this is one of the best ways to erase that big excuse for not coming to church.  You know the one,where someone says he or she doesn’t go to church because we are a bunch of hypocrites.  A hypocrite, is someone who points their finger at others, and never admits their own guilt.  Well that’s not what’s going on here.  Nope.  We admit, we confess, we embrace our sin, our fallenness, our imperfections, our addictions, our hatreds, our unforgiving hearts, our prejudices, our ignorance, and more.  Because we are no better than anyone else.

The thing is God doesn’t despise Jacob, and God does not despise, you or me, doesn’t despise even the folks who never ever make it here on a Sunday morning. God’s not in the business of calling us names like the rest of the world, so when we are at ooir lowest, maybe even feeling downright despicable,God’s got different vocabulary for us–these are the words we should always use as church, these are the words we should know deep down in our hearts, and they are: forgiven, beloved son and daughter of God.

 

God is making a promise to us, and we deserve it as much as Jacob, but that doesn’t mean the promise isn’t real.  God’s promise is to use us to bless this world.  God’s promise is to be with us no matter what.  And brothers and sisters, there’s nothing despicable about that.  Amen.