Blind Beggar : John 9-10 : Sermon Lent 4 : 26 March, 2017
Hear his voice: Go, wash, be healed.
Spoiler alert: A few years ago when I was writing comedy for the morning session at youth camp I came up with what I thought was a brilliant joke. We were used to taking news of the world, reporting it out to the kids who were spending the whole week at camp and turning it into jokes for the morning. We reported on the weather, sports scores, and the happenings of famous movie stars. A few summers ago I pulled up the news on a Tuesday evening while I was writing comedy for Wednesday morning. One of the famous, young contestants on the television show The Voice had just won or lost and important round. I included her name and reported out to the kids what it happened and made some joke about it. It was a fairly good joke, or so I thought, I was getting laughs all morning until I reported out on this show, the Voice. There’s nothing more demoralizing than a deadpan look from fourth fifth and sixth grade girls glaring back at you. They were recording it on their DVR to watch when they got home, the way we watch television has changed and I had spoiled it for them.
Judges listen for? Haven’t actually watched the show but I get the premise, it’s an audition on display. What are the judges listening for? The judges are listening for talent, listening for who has that golden voice with the magical properties to sign huge record deals. More than vocal quality and ability is listening for the soul inside. What are you listening for in talent?
How do you know? I don’t have a musical ear for greatness, can’t pick out pick the next big voice, but I have an ear for when someone is speaking about me or to me, I do tune in when I hear someone speaking my name, or speaking words of deepest meaning and naming my deepest issues. This is where we meet in today’s Gospel.
Jesus’ Voice: We may think about today’s Gospel as the blind man who was given his sight. But it’s far more about hearing than seeing. It’s first and foremost about hearing the voice, Jesus’ voice. Hearing and seeing Jesus are closely tied together in today’s gospel, and the one leads to the other.
Hearing Jesus’ voice is as important as gaining sight when it comes to recognition, being healed and ultimately transformed.
In the path: The blind man is begging, lying in Jesus’ path, not even asking to be healed; begging. And before the blind man saw anything, he heard the disciples talking about him, naming his shame, his lifelong shame of having been born blind. That’s how such body challenges were understood then and still by many today. The man blind from birth heard them asking the age old question for him, who sinned, was it his innate sinfulness or should his parents be blamed. We do the same kind of thing when we’re looking for reasons for why bad things happen or some people just can’t seem to manage in life as well as others. Like armchair psychologists when we’re looking for answers for someone’s issues we ask if it has something to do with a person’s family of origin.
Cut through, touch: Jesus cuts through the shame and blame game. He demonstrates, as we learn time and time again, that when we ask where God is in difficult and tragic circumstances, God is in the response. God doesn’t get caught up in the whys but is found responding to the tragedy, going to the most difficult place, touching the deepest wound, placing his hands on the one place we need them most, even when the rest of the world sees our wound as shameful.
Jesus speaks: And then he says: Go. The blind man hears the voice of Jesus command him to go and wash and he obeys. Hearing Jesus voice here in chapter nine is why today’s long reading could and should actually be longer. John’s Gospel has more robust, longer philosophical stories and discourse than the other three Gospels.
Truly long passage, longer than expected: Chapter 10 which follows is supposed to be included, John’s discourses are teasing out the teachings of Jesus, and are much lengthier, more robust than the other Gospels. Chapter 10 is the famous passage: I am the Good Shepherd, but is key because the sheep hear his voice. It’s meant to be the discourse and explanatory commentary on the whole blind healing in chapter 9. The Pharisees who argue about the healing are meant to be compared to the thief that comes to steal the sheep or speak in a voice the sheep distrust. The length of this passage is meant to help us as we move by degrees into our own transformation, our growth of discipleship. The transformation of the blind man was likewise in stages, like woman at the well last week. After he listens, obeys, washes and is given sight he names Jesus first as a man, eventually admits he is a prophet, and finally confesses him to be God, he makes this final transformation when Jesus seeks him out and, again, speaks to him. It’s not as much what he sees as when Jesus speaks and says, “The one speaking to you, is he. If you can hear my voice, you know it is I who touched you.” It’s his presence of the voice and operates the same as when he says, “I am he,” to woman at the well. This spoken and heard moment is the moment of recognition: God is with me, God has touched me.
How do we get to hear the voice? How do we get to see? How do we get to be healed and transformed, even by degrees? What’s the moment you know? Like a judge auditioning for the next big act we must listen, close our eyes and heighten our senses to listen for his voice. Like the blind man, we must place ourselves in his path, even beg, give us this day our daily bread. In his path, on the way of Jesus, he comes. He reaches out to you to show God’s glory through you. He touches you right where your deepest wound and deepest shame reside, touching you in your most vulnerable spot; it may even be as messy as mud and spit. He will say GO, wash, be healed.
I’m afraid I have another Spoiler: in case you were waiting to take in this message on your DVR for later, in case you were saving it for when you got home: here’s the spoiler: he has loved you already, loves you now, has spoken, the one who is speaking to you in the depth of your darkness, your blindness; you’ve heard his voice, he’s touching you in your most sensitive issue, and is now speaking to you GO, wash, you are healed.