Lent 4 A 2020 Sermon
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wow have things changed. In a period of just a few short days our world has been turned upside down. The coronavirus threatens our health. The economy has entered a period of anxiety. Grocery stores are out of basic supplies including toilet paper. International borders have been shut down. Whole industries have slowed to a halt. The price of oil has tanked. People are asked to stay home and practice social distancing. Church services have been canceled. I don’t know about you, but for me the events of the past two weeks have been a “real eye opener.”
Of course, we have had changes occur in our lives before due to epidemics. We are not the first people to experience such drastic sudden changes. In 2001 it was Anthrax; in 2002 it was West Nile Virus; 2003 SARS Virus; 2005 Bird Flu, 2006 E. Coli Virus; 2009 Swine Flu; 2014 it was Ebola Virus; 2015 the Disney Measles Outbreak; 2016 it was Zika Virus and in 2019 another measles outbreak.
As the Book of Ecclesiastes states “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
This morning we can say that our text today is also a “real eye opener.” As the once blind man states in our reading: “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” John 9:32
Our text today begins with Jesus and His disciples out walking, and as they walked along, they came across a man who had been blind since birth. And this encounter with the blind man obviously raised a few questions in the disciple’s minds and so they asked Jesus: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” For you see, it had to be somebody’s fault that this man was born blind.
Like human beings have reasoned since the beginning of time, if something bad happens, it was because someone had sinned, and God’s wrath was/is upon us. That is why the disciples wanted to know “who is responsible” and “who is to blame” for this man’s situation.
It’s like the people who told Jesus about the Galileans slaughtered in the Temple. They thought it was because “those people” were horrific sinners that this bad thing happened to them.
Or like Job’s friends, who thought Job had some unrepented sin that he was not dealing with, and that is why he was suffering. But that was not the case in these two instances, and it was not the case with the man born blind either.
Jesus answered the disciples’ question with this response. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And Jesus further stated: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the World.”
Jesus came to do the work of God in the world, and this man’s blindness gave Him an opportunity to do so. Jesus came to bring healing and wholeness to a fallen world. Jesus Himself said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
And after Jesus had spoken these words, Jesus healed the man. And notice how Jesus did it. Jesus made some mud with His saliva, anointed the man’s eyes with it, and sent him off with these words “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.” And the man did what he was told, and suddenly he could see.
And that is why we can state that this text is a “real eye opener.” But a second and more important eye-opening event also occurred.
At the beginning of our gospel text today the blind man lived in a state of social isolation. The blind man was separated because he could not see those around him. The blind man was separated because he could not participate in the everyday activities of the community. The blind man was separated because the people around him could not see the value his life could add to their lives.
But the truth of the matter is, God is with us. And we are never truly alone. God is with us when we are separated from other people. God is with us when we are afraid. God is with us when we don’t know what the future holds. God is with us even when a virus invades our space and drives us apart physically.
As the Psalm today states: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
The blind man was never truly alone. We are not alone. God is with us even when we must cancel worship services and physically separate ourselves from each other.
But the separation will not last forever. The virus threat will end. In a few weeks, in a month or two we will gather together in the sanctuary at Calvary Lutheran Church and greet one another in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And we will hear scripture together. And we will share the peace. And we will receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion our Lord gave to us on the night in which He was betrayed. And our eyes will be opened.
And we will discover that even during the darkest moments God was/ and God still is with us. And we will see and celebrate the fact that we were/we are never alone.
My friends, we need each other to live healthy lives.
The blind man’s eyes were opened so he could join and participate in his community. Today our eyes are opened so we can see how much we need each other and God in our lives. Through the act of suspending worship for two weeks we will discover how much we need each other. By suspending our time together, we will discover that we miss shaking hands during the sharing of the peace and that something is amiss when we cannot join hands together while praying the Lord’s Prayer.
But most of all, as we live out this time of separation our eyes will be opened as we will see the blessing it truly is to have the time and opportunity to talk to each other, and share a meal together, and study the Bible together in person while we sit next to each other.
I don’t know about you. But I have found our current situation a real eye-opener. For the truth of the matter is that true comfort is not present when we hoard toilet paper. True hope is not present when we buy all the water we can find. God’s purpose for our lives is not fulfilled when we buy all the canned goods and ground-beef we can find on the shelves at the local grocery store.
No. God’s will for us is opposite to the ways of the world. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “God’s purpose for us is to do what is right, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of each other.” 2 Corinthians 8:21
Yes. Today’s text is a real eye opener. As our Hymn of the Day states: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.” Amen.
Prayer of the Day: Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.