One Word To Describe Ourselves?
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. 9:1 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 must work the works of him who sent me 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.” 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 to be the Messiah 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. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He 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.” 38 He 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?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. St. John 9:1-41, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. The Man Born Blind I can’t help but love this text. Jesus happens upon a blind man, and gives him sight for the first time in his life. Everybody in the whole town is stunned and amazed. They drop to their knees in wonder and appreciation for who Jesus is and what he is able to accomplish. They acknowledge that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, and they vow to follow him wherever he will lead them. The Christian movement is begun. Right? Wrong! Remember, instead, how the story continues: The man’s neighbors suspect that someone has pulled a switch, spiriting away their blind neighbor and replacing him with a look-alike whose vision is just fine. The Pharisees focus on “how” Jesus gives him his sight, noting that kneading (the Greek word used for making mud from spit and dust) and spreading are prohibited on the Sabbath — so they accuse him of being a sinner, and working against the will of God. His parents are so afraid of the religious authorities that they will confirm their son was born blind, but they will admit to nothing more. “Go ask him,” they say. “We want nothing to do with this thing.” How interesting it is that a person’s perspective can sometimes prevent the truth from being seen. The neighbors; the Pharisees; even, to a point, the man’s parents: they all are so determined to live within the expectations and the norms of their own lives and their own experiences that they can’t see or believe what has happened before their very eyes. Jesus has accomplished an incredible miracle! He has done something that, at least according to this now-seeing man (in verse 32), has never been accomplished before in the history of the world. By the power of Jesus, someone who was born without the ability to see is given the gift of sight. It is a transforming experience for the one who receives sight. And it might have been a transforming gift for those who are witnesses to this sign. But they won’t allow themselves to believe in it. They prefer the world the way it is. Predictable. Understandable. Normal. Yet predictable, understandable and normal won’t be the benchmarks of Jesus’ ministry. To someone schooled in the structure of Sacred Jewish Law, he is unpredictable. To someone accustomed to the way people teach in the school and in the synagogues, he is incomprehensible. To someone dedicated to the laws of science known in the first century, he is far from normal. That, perhaps, is what makes his ministry so remarkable. That, perhaps, is why people begin to suspect he is more than “the latest rabbi to hit Jerusalem.” That, perhaps, is why the religious leaders of the day are so threatened by him. He has the capacity to turn things upside down. Witness the man’s reaction: “I don’t know who he is. I don’t understand his relationship with God. I don’t know how he was able to accomplish it, but I do know that although I was blind, now I see.” Beyond our ability to predict it, understand it, or place it within the bounds of what we consider normal, Jesus comes to us to turn our world upside down and our hearts inside out, and to grace us with the ability to follow him. May this year’s Lenten journey draw us a bit farther down that road. May the presence of Christ in our lives open our eyes to what God would do, to us and through us, in order that the whole world might know God’s love. Amen. Exploring This Week’s Gospel: Why did it bother the religious authorities that Jesus gave sight to a blind man on the Sabbath? Why did the neighbors respond with such suspicion, and his parents with such fear? How was the man’s life changed? What sort blindness (singular or plural…) did Jesus heal? Connecting with This Week’s Gospel: What strong convictions do I hold, that I am reluctant to reconsider? When have I discovered that I was blind to a truth I wouldn’t allow myself to see? What growing edge is God involved with in my life right now? How is my faith seeking to expand my vision? Share this: Prayer of the Day: O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism you bring us to new birth to live as your children. Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your Spirit we may lift up your life to all the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 3.1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 ”Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 ”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” St. John 3:1-17, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Nick at Night Have you heard about the man? They say he comes from some small little place up north. Everybody is talking about him. He’s stirred up the whole city. Wherever he goes, dozens of people are following him. You could hardly get through the crowd in the Temple the other day, when he was there. Have you heard anything about him? I sure have! I hear that he is an amazing teacher. He’s squared off with the best in town, and he is so smart he makes them sound like little children. He seems to know more about the Bible than anyone. And he teaches differently than most teachers. He doesn’t say, “Rabbi Ben Eleazar says this.” or “Rabbi Joseph says this.” He just tells it like he sees it. I suppose that is why the crowds are so attracted to him. He seems to understand things differently than most of our other teachers, and they say that he is so convincing in the way he talks about it. I wonder if he really as good as everybody says he is. (more…) Share this: Psalm 51:1-17 (1) St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 6.1 [Jesus said,] “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Prayer of the Day: O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah, and in the voice from the bright cloud you foreshadowed our adoption as your children. Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 17.1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” St. Matthew 17:1-9, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C) 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Listen to Him In this week’s Gospel lesson, we get a glimpse of Jesus, accompanied by his inner circle. Jesus takes Peter and James and John and leads them up to the top of a high mountain. There, they receive what is perhaps their clearest glimpse of who Jesus truly is. Before their very eyes he is transformed. His clothes become dazzling white: whiter than any known bleach could ever make them. And as these three disciples look on in amazement, they see that Jesus is standing and talking with Elijah and Moses (two of the greatest figures in the Hebrew Bible). (more…) Share this: