- Helen Keller
John 9.1-3, 6-7 (The Message)
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw.
The Jews didn’t believe it, didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with. They said, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” “I’ve told you over and over and you haven’t listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?” With that they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.” The man replied, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.” They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.” Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?” “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him. Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.” Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?” Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”
- John 9.1-3, 6-7, 18a, 26-41 (The Message)
In 1893, Daniel Burnham witnesses the realization of his vision; The White City, short for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Where most of his contemporaries see the barrenness and isolation of Jackson Park – the park as it is - Burnham and his colleagues see the beauty and grandeur of the world’s fair to top all world’s fairs – the park as it could be.
In the stage version of Don Quixote, you may recall the magnificent soliloquy of Don Miguel Cervantes while awaiting trial before the inquisition. When confronted by another prisoner demanding that Cervantes give up his “fanciful flights of idealism and hope” and see the world as it is; Cervantes responds in so many words that he has seen the world as it is, itself fanciful, even mad. “Perhaps,” he continued, “to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams; this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash... too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
And let’s not forget Ezekiel who almost despairs in the face of his peoples’ exile, represented in vison as the valley of dry bones - life as it is. Ezekiel is confronted by God with a question, “can these bones live,” – i.e. life as it could be. With God’s grace and guidance this vison is fulfilled.
These men share at least one thing in common, each is blessed with a perspective that far surpasses sight, reaching into the realm of vision. From life as it is to life as it could be.
These examples offer some indication of the direction Jesus is headed in this week’s gospel reading. He offers the man born blind sight to be sure, but in addition he offers him vision, insight, understanding of the life he promises – life as it could be. Jesus promises to bring things into the clear light of day and demonstrate the difference between sight and vision. The Pharisees have the former, yet lack the latter, the most important thing.
On Sunday we will begin a sermon series on vision – Seeing through God’s Eyes – which is both timely and significant as we seek discernment on another step toward fulfilling our recently affirmed vision of ministry; “right sizing” the space we use in our primary ministry of worship and spiritual formation in order to partner more significantly with service oriented not-for-profits in our broader community. This will be a big step to be sure; a big decision. For this reason, we must make sure we discern the difference between sight and vision; life as it is, or with God’s help life as it could be. I hope you will join us on Sunday as we begin this new sermon series, and are led in worship by insideOUT, the last opportunity to hear them in their current incarnation.
Join us if you can. and remember, everyone is welcome!