The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s015  Lent 4  3/4/2011

‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’  John 9.40

In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.   (Fr Jim Cotter

What did this formerly blind person come to see?  He came to see the world around him, in all its beauty and ugliness, the transcendence of the stars as well as the mud which he put on his eyes.   He perceived healing and jealousy.   He saw the unreality of causality, of debates about sinfulness.   It was a big day for this man.

On the other hand those who were offended by Jesus’ curing were very focussed, focussed on whether Jesus was from God or not.   This should alert us to the fact that it is a snare and a trap to consider Jesus’ divinity.   We are being sucked into the logic of those who were offended by Jesus and his association with others, those who had him killed.   They had tunnel vision, blind to the wonders all around them, blind to the miracle that had happened before their very eyes.   They were blind because they WOULD NOT see.   They would not see good beyond themselves and their own narrow perspective.   They would not see dignity in this formerly blind person.   They would debate irrelevant theological niceties with those who were ignorant of such things and who had better things to do, like giving thanks to God for the miracle.

And so the same question could be asked of us: ‘What do we see around us - or not?’   Do we see the beauty of the stars as well as acknowledge our intimacy with the soil on which we walk?   Do we look for the healing of all or are we jealous of the spirituality of others?   Do we retreat into endless debates about causality and sin?  

I have been reflecting more and more that the church talks much about sin, I guess in an attempt to curb headstrong behaviour.   People’s mana, people’s self esteem has been stripped away and we have replaced their proper dignity with church authority, and it is no wonder to me that we have lots of gate-keepers, both lay and ordained, in the church.  And such people say things like ‘children are to be seen and not heard’ and ‘he’s got too big for his boots’.   And this is perpetuated down the centuries just as sexual abuse is committed by those who have themselves been abused.   Abuse of others has become what people normally associate with religion, and it is for this that ordinary people spurn the church, and rightly so.

And I reflect that it is a theology, not remarkably different from the theology of the scribes and the Pharisees, which spawns gate-keepers and it was precisely the ‘gate-keeper’ role of the scribes and the Pharisees which enraged Jesus so much.   Jesus didn’t cleanse the Temple, he got rid of the gate-keepers at the entrance.   And it comes from blindness, blindness to the goodness in others.

And I want to say that it is not just that I have an optimistic personality.   How many depressed people find their depression magnified by the church’s emphasis on sin and unworthiness.   I prefer an optimistic God, who, if there was a God-ordained way of living life or worshipping the divine, God wouldn’t insist on it.   I prefer a God who doesn’t demand that we believe in God to be acceptable, but a God who believes in us, and in all people.

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