March 26, 2017 – Vision check

Lent 4 March 26, 2017    Psalm 27, John 9 (v1-12, 13-23, 24-41) Vision check ********************************************** I may as well start confessing up front – I once was blind… Very blind. I couldn’t see to save my life. Not that there was anything wrong with my eyesight, other than needing glasses by the time I was in my twenties… It was more like that bad old song said – “Trouble with you, trouble with me – got two good eyes but just can’t see…” And probably the first thing we should see in our gospel story today is that it’s only secondarily about eyesight. This brief little drama within the larger drama of John’s gospel, told in seven short scenes is really all about checking our vision. (Quick review.) First, Scene One, disciples walking with Jesus see a blind man, and ask, “Teacher, who sinned? This guy or his parents, that he was born blind?” We don’t know how they knew he was born blind. Maybe he had a sign by his begging bowl, saying “Blind from birth. Please give generously.” (But we don’t know that.) With 20-20 hindsight we can see – what an awful thing it is – to assume his blindness is the result of sin. But we should probably give the disciples a little benefit of the doubt – remembering it is written in the law of Moses that ‘the sins of the parents will fall on the children to the third and four generations (Exodus 20).’ Of course its also written in the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, ‘from now on, everyone’s sin falls only on themself.’ But what we should know, most of all, of course, is what Jesus says: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This is so God’s glory can be seen at work.” Then he spits on the ground and makes mud – (which kind of seems like a funny way for God’s glory to be seen – unless we remember how God makes that first prototype human from mud in the beginning) – and then, as far as we know, without giving any word of explanation or asking anybody’s permission – Jesus lays muddy hands on the man’s eyes, saying, “go to the pool of Siloam and wash.” Siloam, notice, means “Sent.” Jesus is the Son sent by God the Father. Later he tells disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…”And the man goes as he is sent – and dips in the pool (some see baptismal symbolism here) and he comes back… seeing. Scene Two: Neighbors are talking with each other. “Isn’t this the guy who used to sit and beg?” Some say “yes, he’s the one.” Others say, “no, he just looks like him.” The man keeps saying, “I am the man…I am the man…” He keeps saying this, seems like, because no one’s really listening. Too busy talking to each other about him, and asking him intermittently, without listening for an answer, “How did you get to see?” He says, “Jesus told me – ‘go wash in the pool.’ I went, I washed, now I see.” “So where is he?” they ask. “I have no idea,” he says. He’s got eyesight… Already he’s seeing more than those who aren’t listening… Yet his vision...

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March 6, 2016 – Home

Lent 4   March 6, 2016   (Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21) Luke 15   Home ***************************************************************** Community leaders are grumbling about Jesus eating and drinking with sinners. So Jesus tells a parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and one gets lost. Won’t you leave the 99 and seek the one that’s missing? And when you find it, won’t you call your friends to join in celebrating? And I tell you – there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who never went missing.’ ‘And suppose a woman is missing a whole day’s pay. Won’t she turn on the lights and search and sweep til she finds it? When she does, won’t she celebrate? And there’s joy among the angels in heaven over one sinner who repents.’ And Jesus says, ‘There was a man with two sons. The younger asked his father for his share of the inheritance, then he left for a far-off land where he lived it up… Till the money was all gone. Then a famine came, and the boy hired himself out, feeding pigs. He’s broke and hungry, and no one lifts a hand to help. The boy says to himself, “Here I am starving, while dad’s hired men have plenty to eat. I’ll go home and say ‘father, I’ve sinned against God and you, I’m not worthy to be called your son; take me back as a hired man…’” And the boy heads home. As he gets closer, maybe he’s imagining how people will be staring…Talking about ‘what a nice family he came from, what a disgrace he’s been, and doesn’t he look just awful?’ But… even before anyone else sees him…Here comes his father, whose been watching and waiting…. Running to meet him. Throwing arms around him, hugging, kissing him as if he was a little lost boy… And the son begins his speech… But the father won’t even let him finish the sentence. He doesn’t seem to even be concerned about whether the boy’s really sorry. He tells the hired men, ‘Go to the store, make him a set of keys to the house and truck. Get him the best clothes you can find. For this son of mine was dead, now he’s alive. He was lost, but now he’s found.’ This story’s been called the parable of the prodigal son. Prodigal meaning wastefully or lavishly extravagant. And… **** I’m familiar with the title role in this prodigal child story. I’ve played the part, actually, many times…I’m the oldest of four kids in my family… but recognizing a good part when I saw one, I began auditioning for the younger son’s role in the family drama at an early age… Running away from home once while in high school, hitchhiking from Boston to New York…spending my money quickly. (Fortunately it was just a week’s wages from my after-school job, not a share of the family’s assets.) Hitchhiking home again, I was picked up by police somewhere in Connecticut. My dad drove several hours each way, down and back, to get me home. There was not exactly a big welcome home party with a fatted calf. But I was spared the punishment I richly deserved. I did get a generous taste of amazing grace. Unfortunately, this was not...

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March 15, 2015 – Whoever?

Lent 4   March 15, 2015 Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-21   Whoever? **************************************************** John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life. This one verse has been called the summary of the whole gospel. It’s probably the most popular bible verse in America. We’ve gotten used to seeing football fans dressed in strange outfits, wearing rainbow wigs, lifting up signs at games saying nothing more than “John 3:16.” And people actually seem to know what this means. Kind-of. At least people recognize this John 3:16 verse, thanks to prolonged popular exposure, and some high-profile believers, like quarterback Tim Tebow – who, in his college days, would write John 3:16 under his eyes in eye-blacking (till that was prohibited by the NCAA). Then three years ago as a pro, Tebow led his team, the Broncos, on a weird series of come-from-behind-late-in-the-game victories, famously throwing for exactly 316 yards in one game. The next day John 3:16 was the most googled phrase in the world. (Tim Tebow was second.) Saturday Night Live did a skit the next week, in which Jesus himself walks into the Broncos locker room, saying Ok, I’ve been winning all these games for you guys, pulling it out for you late in the fourth quarter. Seems like some may be taking my help for granted. So I’m giving notice – you’re on your own with the Patriots next week – I’ll be busy elsewhere… It was the week before Christmas. And sometimes life imitates Saturday Night Live – and the Patriots beat the Broncos that next week. And if this seems like a strange way to begin reflecting on our gospel reading…(Well– ?) Consider again our gospel story, which we’ve joined in progress. Just before we’ve tuned-in, Nicodemus, a leading teacher of Israel, has come to visit Jesus by night, looking to see who Jesus is. And Jesus tells him “you must be born-again (born-from-above)” – thoroughly mystifying Nicodemus. Then, as we pick up in the story today, Jesus refers to a certifiably peculiar episode from the book of Numbers – saying ‘just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up – (so) that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’ Back in the book of Numbers, where we’ve read a few minutes ago, remember, Moses lifts up a bronze statue of the serpents that are biting Israel – and those who look to the serpent on a pole are saved from death. God sends these serpents as punishment for Israel, when they won’t quit whining and complaining. Numbers is a country and western kind of book – ‘Heartaches by the number, troubles by the score’ is the theme song for the whole book – it’s one long sad country song, with faithful God singing to unfaithful Israel, “each day you love me less, each day I love you more…” Now Israel’s walking on the fighting side of God – saying they’ve got nothing to eat, while grumbling about what they actually do have to eat (thanks to God.) And now God, having delivered these guys out of one-too-many disasters of their own making, has had enough. God...

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March 30, 2014 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

Lent 4 March 30, 2014 (Numbers 22:21-33)  John 9   Vision check ************************** Numbers 22:21-33 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab. God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. Then the angel of the Lord went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” John 9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked,...

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