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.
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.

Sermon for Advent 1

The signs are all around us. Take this one for example. I

a. danger crack in road
b. danger high voltage
c. danger lightning ahead

ran across this sign at the ripe old age of 16. I was taking the written portion of the Pennsylvania driver’s test. I saw this sign and the possible multiple choice answers much like you see this morning. Well, I wasn’t exactly certain what this sign was trying to tell me, so using a test taking strategy I chose “C”. Lightning ahead, and well I was wrong, and I failed my drivers exam.
Of course, a sign is only as good as our ability to read and interpret it. So I immediately went home and started studying. I wanted to know that sign, and all the others not just for the sake of the sign itself, although that is a good thing, but I wanted to be able to get behind the wheel and drive. I wanted all that comes with that, the power, the freedom. I wanted to enter the world of adulthood.
Now in our Gospel reading from Luke this morning, Jesus is not talking about traffic signs and signals. The signs we are called to watch, to pay attention to are different. And doing so will change our lives more than just getting a driver’s license. The thing is wars, natural disasters, fiscal cliffs, don’t come with a handy poster or a study guide.
How many times, how often have we heard someone or done it ourselves, list off the most current catastrophes and proceed to point blame or think about the end of the world, or “C” do both? The problem with this kind of thinking is that it tends to make us afraid, stressed, paralyzed feeling powerless, which all too often leads to well dissipation—doing unhealthy stuff because, well the worlds going to somewhere in a handbasket, so I might as well go along—you know that kind of thinking.
That is one way of reacting to all that’s going on and going wrong in the world. And it makes sense if life for you is basically working out—you got a job, a roof over your head, health care, health, an intact family, money to pay the bills. Well the thought of all of that going away—that’s downright scary.
But try to imagine if all or most of that is isn’t your reality—no job, not one that you can support a family anyway, no real home of your own, living day in and day out afraid of violence, disease, suffering and death. The promise that all this will end, well that actually can begin to sound like good news.
Reading the signs, and how you do that matters. For Jesus, watching the signs isn’t meant to throw us into some panic, to frighten us, but to move us to a certain way of living with, around, and through the signs.
One example of this is Ellie, and her life became an example. Ellie was an elderly lady, a widow, who eventually wasn’t able drive to her part time job, then she wasn’t able to stay in her own home. So she moved into an assisted living facility, where she was excited to meet new people. Her children had moved away and lived one on the east coast and one on the west, Ellie was thrilled to learn to use skype to see and talk to her grandchildren. Fickle her Jack Russell terrier died, she found the perfect volunteer job walking dogs and cleaning the cages at the animal shelter. Life went on like that for about five years. Then the kicker came she lost the use of her legs, she couldn’t walk. Lots of folks would just give up, this obviously is a sign to pack it in. But Ellie didn’t think that way, when asked to sit in a part of the kennel with the most fearful, timid, shy, wounded dogs, she answered the call. And so she sat in these little rooms talking to these wounded animals, and slowly a dog may approach her and allow her to touch him, to pet him, to scratch behind the ears. Six days a week she would do what she could. She read the signs in her life and she decided to live
Stay alert for when the worst happens—don’t panic—pray.
Stay alert for when the worst happens—don’t give up – stand up.
Stay alert for when the worst happens—don’t hide –lift up your head.
When the worst happens in our world, in our life don’t panic, live God’s kingdom way, because when you live it like it’s near, that means it’s here. Amen.

Illustration of Ellie provided by Maren C. Tirabassi, from Stillspeaking Daily Devotional – UCC