Lent IV John 91-41                                                      3/26/17 Epiphany, Norfolk

The Gospel passage I’ve just read from John is a really important passage. In the second sentence of this passage, we get one of the great questions of life being asked – and then answered.
 
Jesus and his disciples are walking along, and they come upon a blind man – blind from birth. Now, we need to remember that the Hebrews considered anyone handicapped to be “unclean” – untouchable. Jewish thought was that there was something wrong with them because THEY had done some horrible thing – sinned – or THEIR PARENTS had done some horrible thing – sinned. One could not associate with them, touch them, employ them, or speak to them. AND, if a good Jew had contact with someone like a blind man – HE, too, would be considered unclean, and have to present himself in the temple to be purified. By the way, this didn’t apply to women. This was “a guy thing.” But this was the Jewish mindset of the day.
 
Now, Jesus and his disciples come upon this blind man. And his disciples ask: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” That was a very logical question. It HAD TO BE one or the other. And Jesus answered them that NO ONE had sinned. “He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” And Jesus made mud, put it on his eyes, and healed the blind man – gave him sight – ON THE SABBATH. And the Pharisees got very upset.
First – Jesus did this on the Sabbath.
Second – Jesus performed a healing.
Third – He had contact with an “unclean” person.
Forth – He taught against the Temple’s teaching about sin.
 
And this becomes a major element in the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, which led to his trial and crucifixion.
 
Now, what is Jesus saying with his answer? It really deals with the Jewish idea of “predestination.” The Jewish idea was that each year God decides what is going to happen to each person in the coming year. Practicing Jews pray to God to go easy on them, but once God has decided, it must be “lived out.” And what Jesus is saying here is that God ordained that this man would be born blind so he would be there for Jesus to heal. AND, God ordained that Jesus would heal him. It had all been arranged by God and had nothing to do with “sin.”
 
Well, this is one area where most modern Christians, and certainly Anglicans, deviate from traditional Jewish teaching. We are just not very much into “predestination”, where God has it worked out for us. But I’m going to talk about that Thursday after next in our last Lenten Program. But I have to say that we Anglicans see ourselves as much more responsible for our own state, with God working hand-in-hand with us to resolve problems as they arise in our lives. So, we’re not quite “in sync” with the Jewish teaching, to which the writer of the Gospel of John is referring.
 
But the basic question, and the basic answer are just as real for us today as they were to the disciples of Jesus’ time. We still say something like: “What did I do to deserve this?” We have one of those days where everything is a mess, and we might think, “Boy! God must be angry with me today.” We get sick, and we ask, “Why me, God?” “What did I do to deserve this?”
 
Sometimes when things don’t go just right, in the back of our heads we’ll sort of take inventory, trying to figure out what we did wrong. It’s the old idea of “The Wages of Sin”, about which many a sermon has been preached. Well, that’s good pre-Jesus Jewish theology, but it’s not compatible with Jesus’ teaching. Here in the Gospel of John we’re told that it doesn’t work that way.
Now, Anglican theology has taken Jesus teaching, and carried it a little further. And this is what OUR church says: There is a brokenness in all of creation, a warp. God chose to make all of creation less than perfect. If perfection was required, or the standard, then anything “not perfect” would have to be destroyed.
 
And this IS ancient Jewish thought. In the Genesis Creation Story, each day, after God has finished that portion of creation, God looks upon it and finds it “very good” – not perfect – just “very good.” And we are part of that creation – not perfect – just very good.
 
But since we are not perfect, sometimes we go wrong – sometimes EVERYTHING goes wrong. It’s made that way. That’s Jewish. That’s Christian. That’s Anglican.
 
Now, here’s where Anglican theology gets a little different. Anglican theology says that when things go wrong, God steps into the situation with us and strives to work it out. God doesn’t create the situation. God allows the situation to happen, and then God uses it to help us grow, and mature, and learn, and become more fully aware of God. God makes something positive out of bad situations.
 
At the fireside chat a few weeks ago, someone asked me what my favorite preaching topic is. I think I answered: “Anything that lets me talk about walking hand in hand with God.” And this is a good example, because I can’t imagine living my life without that understanding of my relationship with God. I’ve never had a sense of God “whacking me” when I did something wrong. I’ve never had a sense of God doing horrible things to me to punish me. I’ve always had a sense of God helping me deal with the mess, so that I can learn from it, grow from it, and move on with my life, perhaps in a new direction.
 
The God that I feel I know doesn’t do bad things to us. It makes no sense to me that a loving, creating, life giving God would do hurtful things to us. The God that I know helps me straighten it out when things become a mess. And I KNOW that God walks hand in hand with me, and with you. I know it inside. I can feel it. And God is NOT doing bad things to me, and not doing bad things to you. That’s our Anglican theology at its best.
 
Amen.

Posted March 28, 2017 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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