Finding the Lessons

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

4th Sunday in Lent, Year A


"Religion is assaulted most by the pretence of religion: but the more it is pressed down, the more it rises up."  From John Calvin's Geneva Notes.

John 9:1-41
9As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Image is by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1851-60. World Mission Collection, WELS.

A Little Bit for Everyone
Oremus Online NRSV Text


General Resources for the Texts this week


Textweek Resources For Sunday's Gospel from John


Some interesting articles on this passage:


William Loader's "First Thoughts"

Loader writes: "Obsession with observance is a characteristic of religion which makes it very dangerous, as many forms of fundamentalism have shown, not least the recent most violent. Such rigidity at the expense of people is not, however, limited to certain widely acknowledged types, but can flourish on both the left wing and the right, among the biblicists and among those serving other ideologies."
Working Preacher thoughts on each lesson appointed for today


Chris Haslaam's Clippings Site

Prayer
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.


Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930)
Click here for more Lenten collects and prayers.


Some thoughts...
God's work is revealed in us. This is the message of the Gospel today.  God's work is revealed in our own healing as we come to make our pilgrim way with Jesus.  Gods' work is revealed in our own mission and ministry to others.  God's work is revealed in us; both as we are healed and as we get our hands dirty doing healing work.

As we read along John's Gospel we see that this miracle is the second in a group of three.  Jesus is passing by a place were beggars usually gather and the question about sin and his blindness is posed.
All the scholars I read point to both the social history and the scriptural interpretation of the time giving evidence that people believed that people's trials were punishment for sin. (We might remember Job's friends.)

Jesus answers that the God's works are revealed in this man.  The glory of God is revealed.  John's Gospel repeats that the work of Jesus, who has come down from above, is here to glorify God.  (see John 11:4, “‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’”.)
The next verses remind us of the imagery of night and light explored last week and are ever present in this Gospel.  We might remember that “I am the light of the world” parallels 8:12 where Jesus says: “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”

Like many healing practices at the time of Jesus, he spits in the ground and makes mud.  I believe here we see the remaking of humanity by God - the new genesis of life.  John's Gospel is a new creation story and the image here of God remaking this man so that he may see and bear witness to the light is essential to the Gospel and the understanding of this pericope.

The people are divided and amazed and concerned.  Our response to our remaking is clear though we are to “‘Give glory to God!’”   This is the response and our work.  We might look elsewhere in the scripture to understand the meaning of this.  When we do we see that it is "a technical term meaning tell the truth! It is a formula used when people are to confess their sins. In Joshua 7:19, Joshua urges Achan: 'give glory to the LORD God of Israel and make confession to him'. See also 1 Samuel 6:5; Jeremiah 13:16; Acts 12:23 (Agrippa dies); Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:2. [BlkJn] [NOAB]" (Chris Haslaam's Clippings)

Of course the religious establishment wants none of this and so while they are astonished they react by blaming the blind man. This is a typical response from those in power to those who are left out of the system; this is surely his fault.  The man who does not accept the authoritative version of the events is driven out of the synagogue.

The man returns to Jesus and begins a life of following - a life of discipleship.  His witness, worship, and proclamation becomes his work.  Just as God is revealed in the healing, we see at the end of the text that God is revealed through the man's discipleship.  His ability to see, proclaim, and live in the light of the Lord is an important part of the story. 

Healing and being remade by Jesus Christ is only the first part of one's pilgrim journey.  Our Lentent journey is a healing one. We are turning and remaking ourselves.  Through various disciplines we are opening our eyes to see God's hand at work in the world and in our lives personally.  This revelation brings us closer to God as we proclaim and bear witness to the light which is in the world.  This is only part of our pilgrim way of lent though.  The second half is to remake and reinvigorate our hands in the world. Like Jesus we are to get them muddy with the primordial clay of creation and be at work in the world around us.  We are to be healers: proclaiming release from the powers that bind us and giving sight to the blind.  In this way we participate in the kingdom of God that is becoming and is to come.  We live with our eyes wide open to the emerging new creation and light which is already breaking in the world.


The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."

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