This week’s message parallels the confusion in John 9: 1-12 with the current confusion present in our own context of pandemic. On a journey where questions rarely have concrete answers, today’s message speaks of a renewed spiritual vision, offering the world a reminder of the healing which has already taken place.
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
It wasn’t the greatest feeling I’ve ever had. Standing in front of everyone last week during the time of greeting rambling on about COVID-19 and not being sure what the next right thing to do was. Still, even in retrospect, I am not sure I can think of a more comfortable alternative.
I wasn’t sure what the next right thing to do was and I’m not sure how I would have been effectively able to hide that from anyone around me.
Like most people, I make decisions by gathering, sorting and interpreting information from various reliable sources. This is what they teach us in school. This is what we generally practice in life. Gather, sort, interpret…add in a pause to process, then decide.
I rarely pause to process for too long. I imagine my brain to be much like an ocean of information cluttered with unusual connections, run by professional deep-sea divers on speed. I tend to be able to access concepts and connect experiences to create meaning and direction quickly. Rarely, however, can I remember a date, name or anything related to numbers. My brain chews words like a gum that never loses flavor but fails to digest the numerical language that can be vital to understanding current events or recalling historical occurrences.
I like to think that if my brain could digest and decode numerical languages, I would have known what the next best thing to do was but the more news I watched, the more articles I read, the more conversations I had…the more confused the professional deep-sea divers in my brain felt.
There was a fog that settled so deep in my head, that if there had been any reference point in the wrinkles of my cerebral cortex to provide direction as to where to dive next, the entry points would have likely remained unfounded. What do you do with information when it is so new, when it is so big and real and threatening that your brain has no digestive tract, no storage system, no method or means, to make sense or use of its presence?
Jesus sees a man born with blindness the rest is confusion. Why is the man blind? Whose sin caused the blindness and what was the sin that they did? Who is the man who was blind and now can see? Is this not the man who used to sit and beg? How is it that his eyes are opened? Who is this man that healed him and where has he gone?
Jesus drags with him a cultural shift of platonic proportion and what we witness is the unfolding of an active struggle to arrange pieces to a puzzle unmatched to their own. A wrestling with the unbelievable, the illogical, in hope that somehow, they might form meaning to explain what’s happening around them.
More information is required.
Frantic to know who and how and why the unthinkable has happened the people turn to the man whose eyes are fresh with new sight, “Well, where is he?” Only to find that he, too, has no idea.
“I do not know,” the man responds.
Even the man with vision brand new cannot see Christ when the scene to this story ends.
“I do not know,” is a regrettable, inconvenient ending.
I do not know how long this pandemic will last or how many people will die or what will happen to our economy. I do not know how to fix or solve or stop that from happening when I barely can claim to understand what is really happening at all.
On repeat, I hear echoes from politicians and doctors and reporters and teachers and pastors, “We are living in unprecedented times…”
This is a regrettable, inconvenient beginning.
Unprecedented times; rewritten from a rough draft, too blunt to broadcast, originally read, we do not know what the next best thing to do is…because we have never been here before and therefore aren’t sure where we are going.
It turns out, we are not blind. We simply do not recognize what we see.
If it was the man who received new sight that failed to know where Christ was in his midst, I would say it was I who lost my sight this week and failed to know where I was.
“Stay put.” Isn’t the advice given to young children from parents ensuring a child will never remain lost?
Information gathered, sorted, interpreted, removes us from where we are so that we can prepare and plan to move forward to safety. This week, regaining my sight has meant staying put and remembering that it is in this place, in this moment, that I am safe.
I am safe in this moment.
And, in this one.
I grieve the loss of the public space; to share music, a meal, a moment. I notice its death, even if only temporary, in the forgetting that happens naturally and the remembering that occurs reluctantly. I run out of bread, and for a moment I forget that I can’t just run out to the store. I prepare for worship, and for a moment I forget that there will be no one there. I sit outside in the snow, and for a moment I forget that there is a pandemic at all.
I believe we can live into the promise of resurrection and grieve the loss that reminds us of its relevancy. I believe we can heal from loss of sight and still strain to see the one who heals us. I believe we can mourn the absence of things past and live into a new way of being.
We are walking through days in which the only strategies that will lead to resurrection are those that enable us to work together as a community to maintain public safety by staying apart.
When we can no longer see one another in public spaces, perhaps it is a call for our very lives to become public spaces; spaces of refuge in unprecedented times. The question before us then, is not how can we physically be together, but more importantly, how will we choose to be together in a time when many can no longer see Christ?
Beyond the curiosity and confusion of our scripture passage this morning, rests an encouraging story line for us this morning.
Look closely and notice, Jesus was not physically present when the miracle took place. Yes, he spat on the ground and rubbed mud on his eyes but it was only after Jesus sent the blind man away to the pool of Siloam, that the man’s sight was restored.
Jesus doesn’t leave us with all the answers, but he heals us before he leaves.
Spiritual vision restored speaks of this healing, it directs towards this healing, it manifests this healing. And, this is what is needed now more than anything; spiritual vision to re-imagine sacred spaces for healing.
We do not need us to produce more information or to ask more questions. We need a safe space to construct new meaning in the aftermath of an inconvenient, regrettable beginning. We need the promise of a beautiful, meaningful ending.
Today and in the days to come, may we be the vendors of a present peace, the visionaries of reliable resurrection. May we be those who hear the crowd ask, “Where is he?” and respond with our lives, “He is here.”