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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

Now I See

Now I See
John 9:1-41
(Video Clip)
 
 
Yesterday, Joe and I and our daughter went to see Noah at the theater. I was curious about the rising backlash against the movie. It was a good movie with lots of extra embellishments and story lines throughout. Not everything that was in the movie was in the Bible but everything that was in the Bible was in the movie. The producers had an interesting twist to the story. They gave Noah and his family personalities and a sense of caring for creation. Noah envisions what is going to happen to the extremely wicked human race and accepts his mission to build the ark and house the animals. He knew that God intended to save the innocent, which in Noah’s eyes, were the animals. At one point in the story he begins to see that not even his own family is free from sin, so he assumes that God intends to destroy the whole human race including his family. Humans were to be no more. He becomes consumed with this idea to the point of potential grave consequences to those he loved. He became blind to any other possibilities. He is determined his mission must be carried out to its fullest at the expense of himself and his family. His narrow vision began to go against God’s plan as the blindness of his ideas overtake him. He fights any other consideration.
 
The blind man in today’s gospel lesson as portrayed in the segment of film was not only literally blind from birth, but spiritually blind to any other possibility. He did not know what it was like to see and actually feared to have his sight restored. So he was dragged, kicking and screaming to his healing. His blindness extended to the depths of his being. He did not want change to happen. He did not know what it would mean to see for the first time. He was accustomed to the way he was. So we find Jesus doing his miracle thing and the man begins to see. What was something very fearful for him became something very wonderful as he began to see things around him. We cannot even imagine what he could have gone through. His response was to praise God and rejoice that now he could see like those around him.
 
We too can suffer from spiritual blindness at times. We get stuck in our faith, believing we have a good handle on what that faith is and does. We have aha moments when an understanding or insight enters into us as we read and meditate and think on God. Some form kind of a religious addiction to ideas about how to live a life of faith. I have known some who get stuck on certain aspects of how to live a life of faith. They have begun to live a narrow vision, limiting possibilities of faith. New insights and understandings have a hard time seeping in and creating transformation toward deeper relationship with God. Faith can become judgmental as others don’t live up to the expectations of the blinded believer. It is easy for individuals as well as denominations to set “the rules”, no card playing, dancing, singing, drinking, joking, or spending frivolous time. After all, we are about prayer and following scripture. 
I think I understand why some have raised objections to the Noah movie. Some believe that too much extra has been added to the story. They want a grand, epic version of the Noah story that is “true” to the Bible. Instead of appreciating what Noah and his family might have gone through in that whole episode of human history, they want to believe that Noah could do no wrong and that his family was just as righteous as well. They want to believe that God chose a perfect person to carry on the human race. But Noah had it right. He and his family carried on the seed of sin, but what he didn’t see was that God could work with this fresh start to create a people who would eventually birth the one who was to save the world. 
 
And so we struggle century after century with the human condition. We want to catch a vision of how to make this world right, the way God wants it to be. Unfortunately we have different ideas, hundreds of denominations and organizations that believe they have the right handle on how to correct the world. But all we seem to be doing is getting into “turf” wars about what is right. That is because we have our blinders on. We cannot see as God sees. We can catch glimpses, but we can’t see the whole picture. And we continue to struggle with ideas about what our relationship with God should really be. 
Our problem is that our blinders keep us from seeing other possibilities, keep us from listening to God rather than ourselves, keep us so ready to condemn others for their beliefs about Jesus, about creation, about God. We aren’t willing to struggle very hard to understand and to grow spiritually. What if we are wrong as we begin to explore the meaning of our faith, what it is we truly believe? 
 
One thing I have developed over the course of my years in ministry, and that is faith that God will keep working with us as we come to new, yet incomplete understandings. God does want us to get it right, but God knows our limits, our incredible capacity to put new blinders on. God knows that we are likely to come kicking and screaming to transformation that changes us. God knows we are not evil people, just simple sinners trying to plod our way through life in faith. 
 
Yes evil rears its ugly head in the Hitlers, Husseins, and others who had visions that bent toward destruction. But for the most part humans struggle to get life right. We want the better world that God has in mind. We are just not so good at following God to get there. We blind ourselves to other possibilities that God may be offering us in our understanding of our faith in Jesus. But the hope I always have in God is that God finds ways to remove blinders and move people forward in greater faith. 
 
I have been struggling for a long time with Jesus’ words about helping feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick. We have people who make a living going from church to church, telling their stories of woe in order to get a handout. I have heard so many of those stories that I no longer believe most of them and have become quite skeptical with people. But about a week ago, a man showed up during our pastor parish meeting with his own story of needing money to buy gas so he could get to his daughter’s funeral. It didn’t matter if the story was true or not because the reaction of the members of the committee and their quick response touched me deeply. There was almost no hesitation in giving him some gas money. What I saw was genuine concern and care there. So I struggled in the days following about whether I was too skeptical and what the answer was for those who chose to use the system to get money. And then it came to me just a couple of days ago. Jesus asks us to help the helpless. The blind man in today’s story was helpless. He could not make a living because he could not see. And Jesus cured him. Jesus turned his helplessness into potential. My question for the one who comes to see if they can get money will be, “When was the last time you helped someone else?” The answer to that question may well determine what the outcome of the visit is.
 
We don’t always understand, nor can we see the completeness of God’s work. But we can remain open to new possibilities that God may be offering us through inspiration, events, meditation, prayer. Perhaps our prayer should be, “God remove the blindness from my eyes that I may see. As the good hymn tells us:
Open my eyes that I may see Glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key That shall unclasp and set me free. 
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, My God, thy will to see
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit Divine
Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
And while the wavenotes fall of my ear, everything false will disappear.
Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share.

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