Message for the Fourth Sunday in Lent / March 6, 2005
John 9: 1 – 16 /
Rev. Carol Kniseley /
Missing the Signs
Do you have any idea what it’s like to be told: “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” I was told that once, by people who were so sure of themselves that they couldn’t even see straight. They couldn’t begin to imagine that theirs was not the only opinion in town. If you ask me, they were blinded by their own zeal. Anything that they couldn’t understand or fit into their neat box of rules about God…was assumed to be wrong. Dead wrong. And this…is where my story begins to unfold.
I was born…unable to see. People would often come to our home and right in front of my parents I would hear them say: “What was it that you did? Was it something that you said that made God so angry? Think! Surely there was some small misdeed that you didn’t think God would notice…and yet, look at him. I tell you it’s a sign from God. There’s your proof! Plain as the nose on your face…a sign that no sin goes unpunished. Why God can even reach down into a mother’s womb to bring judgment on one generation to the next.” And then, just before they went out the door…they would always allude to me once more, saying: “Afterall…no one is beyond the reach of Almighty God.” (Pause)
“No one is beyond the reach of Almighty God. As I grew older…oh, how I prayed that that was true. Imagine living every day of one’s life in total darkness. Not once had I experienced the light of day as opposed to the darkness that I knew to be night. For me…everyday was filled with the night. With the absence of color of any kind…everything remained the same. From one moment to the next…from the very first time that I drew my first breath and my lungs expanded with air…nothing registered but…“darkness”. “Was this God’s doing?” I would sometimes wonder. And from somewhere deep down in the recesses of my soul…came a faint reply. “No…this is not God’s doing. God is a God of love and mercy”…and yet, I couldn’t help but wonder…”why me?” If no one was beyond the reach of Almighty God…then why wasn’t God reaching out to me? It was all so confusing…that is, until He came to town.
I remember sitting in my usual place by the road…when I heard what sounded like a group of people stopping right in front of me. At first, I didn’t know what to think. Was I in their way? Did I need to move? But where? Surely they could see that I was a blind beggar. It was then that I heard one of them ask: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” I couldn’t believe my ears…the one question that had alluded me all of my life was finally about to be answered. The next thing that I knew…someone was saying something about neither of them…that this happened so that the work of God might be displayed. Displayed? Displayed how? What did he say? Something about night is coming…and while I am in the world…I am the light of the world.”
And before I knew it, people were grabbing me up and suddenly something wet and gooey was being smeared over my eyelids. I could smell what seemed to be wet dirt…but I couldn’t be sure…and then someone leaned close to my ear and said, “Go…wash in the pool of Siloam.”
And just like that…I was practically carried in the arms of three our four people who brought me to the water’s edge. As I dipped by hands in the water and splashed it on my eyes…the most amazing thing began to happen. All of a sudden…the darkness began to break up into light…and before long, I discovered that I could see colors! Colors that I never imagined even existed! It was the most incredible moment of my entire life…when I suddenly realized that I was no longer blind…and I could see!
One would think that such an occasion would draw cheers and shouts of joy from those who knew me. But instead…the whole incident became nothing but a topic for heated debate. Now don’t get me wrong. As best I can tell, it wasn’t so much the “miraculous sign” that they were contesting. After all, I kept telling them over and over: “Yes, I am the man…that they all passed by every single day for the past 20 years sitting on the side of the road and begging for change all because…I was born blind.” What was up for debate…was the meaning behind the “sign” itself. Some said that it was the work of the devil sighting that God wouldn’t do such a thing…especially on the Sabbath. And yet, the more I thought about it…why wouldn’t God? Heal on the Sabbath, that is? If God is the God of the universe…what’s to stop God from acting whenever God chooses to act…and not being limited by whatever man thought?
It was then that I was told…in no uncertain terms: “You…don’t know what you are talking about”…and from that moment on…I was no longer welcome in God’s house. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Had I somehow missed the signs? Had I misread what I had come to believe deep down in my heart? That the one who had given me back my sight could only have come from God. And it is He whom God has sent to bring light into the world. Not just to those who were born blind…but to every single person on the face of the earth, because…no one is beyond the reach of Almighty God.
They say that “seeing is believing”…and for many folks I suppose that’s the way they distinguish the truth. But as for me…I can only speak from my personal experience when I say…I think it’s the other way around. In the end, the choice between being blind…and having one’s sight…has nothing to do with the physical. The truth is…it’s all spiritual. Believing is seeing…and being able to read the signs when they come. And now I know…Jesus…is the greatest sign of all. Sent by God…to restore sight to those who can not see. And if that means I don’t know what I’m talking about…then so be it. But what I do know …is this: I once was blind. But now…thanks be to God…I can see. Amen.