Seeing Lent

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

Opening prayer

The light of God shines forth in the darkness,
and the darkness cannot overcome it.
We come seeking the light of Christ
to illuminate our hearts,
we come seeking the hope of the spirit
to renew our souls,
we come seeking the peace of God to fill our minds.
As we enter into your presence
may the light of your wisdom be with us.

The story of the blind man John 9:1-41

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

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then 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.” 16 Some 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. 17 So 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.”

18 The 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 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but 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.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah[d] would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So 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.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He 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?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Spiritual Blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”[e] 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir?[f] Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord,[g] I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus 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.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Footnotes:

John 9:4 Other ancient authorities read I
John 9:4 Other ancient authorities read us
John 9:22 Gk him
John 9:22 Or the Christ
John 9:35 Other ancient authorities read the Son of God
John 9:36 Sir and Lord translate the same Greek word
John 9:38 Sir and Lord translate the same Greek word

Introduction: Look: you who have eyes to see!

This story picks up another sense in our biblical and spiritual journey through Lent – the gift of

seeing. In God’s creation, most creatures have eyes and they see the world in very different ways, both to us and each other.

This story from John focuses on the idea of ‘seeing’, and what we see. It raises the question about why have eyes and what are we supposed to see with them.

There are many stories in the Bible that tell us of many people who saw and were amazed by direct evidence of God’s activity. While we all have the capacity to notice the obvious, John is presenting us with something else here. What is unusual or different in this story and how are we to make

sense of it?

If you would like to read an in depth discussion of the passage please go to John’s blog at: https://johntsquires.com/2020/03/19/in-the-most-unlikely-way-touching-the-untouchable-john-9/-WolR-a72PhHSuua3-o

In Lent, as we look forward to focussing our thoughts on God and what he has done

through his Son Jesus Christ, we need to sharpen our vision. We need to pay attention

to what we see all around us and we need to learn how to see differently. If we just look and don’t pay attention, we can miss what God is doing in the creation all around us and fail to see the signs the Holy Spirit leaves us everywhere. We fail Jesus and his call to us by not picking up on these signs

and sharing them with others.

Things to note:

In this passage, John presents the concept of sight in a number of ways that are symbolic. Can you find where they are?  John also highlights the risks of ‘seeing’. Whilst that might seem like an odd statement, to ‘see’ what God is doing in the world often requires us to act, and that is a risk.

What are the risks associated with seeing and believing in the story? Compare the behaviour of the blind man, his parents, and the Pharisees. Does this story speak to you about how you share your faith?

The gospels make it sound as if it is easy for everyday people to put aside their fears and be confident of sharing the news about Jesus. Many of us can struggle with the task of sharing our faith. Think about the different ways you might share you faith with others.

Responding to God’s Word

Some questions to think about

A modern story of ‘seeing’

Karla gets out of bed and walks down the street to her friend’s house. She brings some bread rolls, some dried figs and an old bottle full of water. She is careful to blend in when she walks down the street and not look as if she is doing anything out of the ordinary. At the corner near her friend’s house, she stops and checks if anyone is arriving. If there is someone at the door, she will walk around the houses again. It is clear. The friend opens the door and Karla quickly goes inside. They go to a room at the back of the house. They are meeting for worship, about four people in all, who are willing to risk it. They have no Bible, it was taken from them some time ago and Karla’s friend was in trouble for possessing it, even though freedom to worship is supposedly permitted by their country. Instead, they remember together favourite stories from scripture and pray together in whispers. They light a candle, break the bread and drink the water together, and share the figs. Another person keeps a watch. They will be in a great deal of trouble if the police come in. There is a church in the village, but it is used for other purposes, they cannot visit it. But they will always risk coming together for worship, even if they must gather in silence. For them, it is worth it.

Reflection (from Spill the Beans, Issue 34)

Do you want to see?
A question never asked
to the one who knows only darkness;
to the one with absolute certainty
that darkness is always at the door.
This is “I am who I am”.
I’m the one who knows darkness
and have always been so.
You look at me and you see darkness
in what others see as beauty.
I am the reality of darkness
that you pretend everything is all right.
Do you want to see?
A question never asked
to the one who knows only darkness;
suddenly there is a light
from following one command: “Go, wash”.
Now is “I am the man”.
I’m the one who knows darkness…
until now.
You look at me and you refuse to see
that I am the one who once lived in darkness;
now changed and transformed,
being unrecognised as my former self.
I am the reality of light
that you pretend everything is all right.

A Prayer for others

Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well, and the blind could see.
Be with us now, be the presence that joins us together
as we worship apart in the midst of a pandemic.
May we experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus, and with other illness.
May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together
and neighbours from helping one another.
Help us to resist selfishness and greed and to share generously.

Heal us from our pride, which may make us claim invulnerability
to a disease that knows no borders.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Help us to see clearly, to love deeply and to be gracious to all.
May we experience your healing love.
Amen.

Blessing

Jesus heard the cries
of those who were ignored,
granting sight to the blind.
We too cry out to be heard.
We too, seek to see clearly.
We ask God’s blessing be upon us
And that God be with us wherever we may be.
Amen.

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018. 

Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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