Who’s Really Blind?

Lent 4A: Change of Sight: Who’s Really Blind?

eyeJohn 9:1-41

March 30, 2014

 

Katie was a classmate of mine in elementary school.

​We were in many of the same classes for kindergarten through 6th grade.

 

I remember her younger brother well…

​he played trombone in the band,

​​he had a whacky sense of humor,

​​​he played baseball…

 

I remember her brother well…

​but I don’t remember much about Katie

even though she was in my class for seven years.

 

In fact, the only thing I really remember about Katie

​is that she was blind.

 

I and others identified Katie by her disability.

​She was the “blind girl” at Dawes School.

And sadly that’s all we knew.

At least we knew her name…

“The blind man” in today’s gospel didn’t even have that recognition.

​It seems that no one knows his name.

​​No one really pays much attention to him.

 

After his sight is restored by Jesus,

​His neighbors say, “Is that the man who used to sit and beg?”

​​They really aren’t  quite sure because no one knows him as a person –

They identify him only by his blindness.

Once he is no longer blind and begging,

​they don’t recognize him!

 

​There are many stories of healing in the Bible.

​Jesus heals the blind, the deaf, the lame,

those with chronic illness, those who are mentally ill, and others.

​​These stories reveal to me a God of compassion, of strength, of miraculous power.

 

But these healing stories are not comforting for everyone.

In fact, these stories can be difficult for those who have disabilities.

​​(And that’s a lot of people – nearly one in 5 in the United

States according to the most recent census.)

 

The healing stories of Jesus can be difficult

​Because sometimes the impression is given that

​​those with disabilities are not yet whole people –

​​​that they need to be fixed.

​​​​

The healing stories of Jesus can be difficult

​because sometimes the stories talk about healing as a result of the faith of the one who is healed,

​​giving the impression that the person who still has a disability

​​​somehow does not have enough faith.

 

The healing stories of Jesus can be difficult

​because sometimes a relationship is made between illness and sin,

​​giving the impression that a person’s sinfulness causes the illness.

 

We need to debunk all of those false beliefs.

​A disability does not need to be fixed to make a person whole.

​A disability is not the result of a lack of faith.

​A disability is not a punishment from God for sin.

 

And that is why John chapter 9 is

claimed as such an important text for those within the disability community.

 

When the disciples try to link sin with disability,

​Jesus won’t allow it –

He clearly says  that it is not the man’s sin or the sin of his parents which made him blind.

 

There is also no association between faith and healing in this story.

There is no act of faith on the man’s part.

​He does not ask for healing,

​​He does not touch Jesus’ cloak like the woman who is hemorrhaging.

He does not ask to be carried into healing pool like the paralyzed man at Bethesda.

​​​​This man receives healing entirely through grace.

​​​​​No faith necessary.

​​​​

 

Furthermore, unlike how those with disabilities are sometimes treated in life as well as in the Bible,

this story is helpful because ​the man who is blind is shown to be an individual – an intelligent individual with a winsome personality.

​​He is thoughtful.

​​He speaks for himself.

He’s funny!

I love this line … He’s asked what happened and responds,​​​(“Why do you want me to tell the story to you again?”  Can’t you see the grin on his face? “Do you also want to become his disciples?”)

​​​​​

But what I think is perhaps the most remarkable thing about this healing story,

​Aside from the fact that it shows the man as an individual,

​That it disabuses the notion of disability as a punishment for sin,

​That it doesn’t equate healing with faith…

The most remarkable thing about this healing story

​Is that Jesus teaches that it isn’t the man who has been blind since birth who needs healing…

it isn’t he who is lacking in real sight.

​​It is the others who need healing.

​​​Those who are blind to God’s work in the world are the ones who need new vision.

 

Today we continue our sermon series in Lent focused on “Making Change.”

​We’ve talked about changes in circumstances,

We’ve talked about a change in heart,

We’ve talked about a change in habits…

​​Today we’re talking about a change in sight.

and we’re not talking about a change in sight for those who already wear glasses,

 

We’re talking about corrective lenses for those of us who think we already have 20/20 vision.

In her book For the Benefit of those who See,

            a wonderful collection of stories about her work with those who are visually impaired in Tibet,

            Rosemary Mahoney says that seeing is not a function of the eyes alone.

“It is a function of the mind at least as much as the eyes,” she says.

“We only see what we look at.”

 

So let’s think again about what it means to have 20/20 vision.

20/20 vision looks at the world and can see God’s hand in and through it all.

20/20 vision notices that the sacred is present outside of church or synagogue and in everyday life.

20/20 vision sees the blind man begging at the side of the road and stops to chat and find out his name.

20/20 vision observes tragedy around the world – a mudslide in Washington, a plane crash somewhere over the ocean,

and does not blame the victims.

20/20 vision pays attention to inequalities due to race or socioeconomic class or gender

and does not dismiss them.

20/20 vision looks, notices, sees, observes, pays attention to the world around them…

and ironically, perhaps, the blind man has done this better than anyone else.

May our eyes be opened to see.

Together let’s sing the first verse of Amazing Grace.

 

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now I’m found

‘Twas blind but now I see.                        May we see…  Amen

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