1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:8-14 John 9:1-41
Our gospel readings this Lent are super long; they are stories within stories. There is so much packed into each one, it feels impossible to try and find just one message to take away with you. I wonder if sometimes it is worth spending time immersed in the text, looking around it from the inside, somehow. So come with me, if you will, to this dusty street in Jerusalem and hear what the Spirit is saying. I invite you to close your eyes – as strange as that may feel – to see what your senses encounter.
Imagine you are this nameless blind man, sitting on the side of the road, in the heat of the day. You know this space; you have sat there every day for as long as you can remember. You know how it feels, underneath you. You know every sound of every person who passes, every scent of every market trader, each person’s tone. You know the time of day by where the sun hits your skin, and the season by the warmth of it. You’ve never seen it, of course. But you know it better than anyone who has.
And you know, recently, there has been a new person doing the rounds, with his group of friends. He’s been causing quite a stir – just hours ago there were raised voices, outrageous claims. He seems to be saying he is God, that he has seen Abraham. The pharisees are livid. Rocks were raised and thrown and dropped, and they’ve lost him. There’s confusion, chaos and then silence. Tensions have been rising, for good and for bad. Could he be a prophet? Could he maybe even be God? You would love to see him. You would love to see. Him.
And then footsteps, as always. People walking. Its busy here – you’re more likely to get money if you sit here; more likely to eat, maybe even take something home, so footsteps are good, even if they mean the occasional kick. And then the footsteps stop, several sets, and they are right in front of you. People are standing right in front of you. You hear local voices, ‘Rabbi, who sinned? This man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’ and you want to disappear – not this again. Not the blame thing. Yes, of course, one of us must be bad – either me, or my parents. It must be someone’s fault, right? Someone was wrong? Wrong. You’re wrong.
‘Neither this man, nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so God’s works might be revealed in him’. What? He is talking to his friends. He hasn’t spoken to you. He hasn’t even asked your name or what you want. He’s the same as everyone else. He talks about you, not to you. He is the same as everyone else. And then he spat. He spits.
He drips saliva onto the ground in front of you, over and over, to turn dust into mud. Saliva, dust, mud, mixed, and smeared onto your face, disgusting – covers over your eyes and tells you to go to Siloam. He sends you to the place that is sent, and you wash your face – you wash because you are covered in dust, spit and mud. You wash, and you open your eyes, and you see. You see? The sun is not just warm it is bright – it burns your eyes, and you shield them with your hands that you’ve never seen before, but you can see them now. You can see your skin and the water and the people. All the people. They are watching you. You can see!
And you don’t know what you looked like before, because you are seeing yourself for the first time, but it seems they are too!
‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’
Yes it is, no its not, nobody is quite sure.
You tell them it is you – some believe, some aren’t quite sure.
And all you know is that this man, the one they call Jesus, spoke and spat and smeared and sent you. And now you can see.
Once you were in darkness – you were always in darkness – and now you are in the light. Though you were blind, now you see.
The pharisees don’t get it. Your parents don’t get it. You don’t get it; you don’t understand, you don’t know what happened, you didn’t ask for it, but everything has changed. Darkness becomes light. Darkness becomes life. The mud didn’t do it. The water didn’t do it. Jesus did it. He must be a prophet. He must be God.
And your blindness had kept you out of the temple. You couldn’t enter because you couldn’t see. You would never be ritually pure enough to enter the temple. But now you are clean so you take your first step in. And everyone is questioning, everyone wants to know what happened.
But nobody will listen to you. Everyone is angry. You don’t know why they are angry but you can see it in their faces – what you could once only hear in their voice, now you see in their eyes. And their anger grows with every word you say and every new thing you see, and they grab you and shove you. And as they shout so their words spit on you but this time, spit is hurt, not healing. And they throw you out. Still kept out.
And then you see the man. The one you heard speak and spit and smear and send. You see him. And he tells you he is God. First, he opened your eyes and then he opens your heart. First you saw him. Then you worshipped him.
He came to bring light to dark places. Life to dark places. Light and life to those living in darkness and he tells you I am the Light of the World, and you know it is the truth. And you know his work is now your work.
And as it was for that nameless blind man, so it is for us.
As Jesus said to him, so he says to us; I am the light of the world and I have come to bring light and life to those who are fumbling around in the darkness.
His work is our work.
In this place, in Beaconsfield, we are to shine as a light in the world, to shine with the light of the world. To be a beacon to those in darkness and despair around us. To bring light to dark places – even if we don’t know their name. Even if they don’t ask. To be a light, to bring people home.
And, in the words of the 21st century poet-prophet Amanda Gorman:
For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it.
If only we are brave enough to be it!
May Beaconsfield be known as a place of light, as a people of light.
May we be brave enough to see it and brave enough to be it. Amen.