SCRIPTURE: John 9:1-41
TEXT: John 9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
THEME: God’s work is revealed in us.
This passage begins with Jesus and his disciples walking through town and passing a blind beggar. The disciples ask whose sin was it that has caused this man to be born blind, his parents or his own? There is a poor theological belief that bad fortune is caused by sin. What we are discovering through the Gospel of John is that God is not out to punish us for our sins, there are consequences enough to our bad behavior, but God is trying to lift us up and take us away from such a life. It is like flossing our teeth every night. Not flossing is not a sin, per say, but receding gum lines and cavities between our teeth could be a consequence of our neglect. Then when we go to the dentist, whose sin is it, the dentist, the floss, the food stuck in our teeth, or our own?
Jesus says this is not a matter of sin, the fact of the matter is that we live in a world with brokenness where there are people who are born blind. As we think about this we may agree that no one is exactly perfect and that we are all differently abled in one way or another. It is into this brokenness and to the differently abled that God’s work is revealed.
Then Jesus spat on the ground and made a salve and rubbed it in the blind man’s eyes and told him to go and wash his eyes out in the pool of Siloam. After he washes the mud from out of his eyes he can see. This healing is not based on the blind one’s faith. He just happened to be there as the disciples asked this question. But as the story progress we get to see the continued work of God revealed in this person’s theology. Having been blind and a beggar he was probably ignored, marginalized and invisible to most. So when he emerges seeing, no one believes him. His neighbors say he looks like someone who used to be blind and begged over there, but he can’t be him because that fellow was blind. We are all guilty of seeing but not taking a good look. Avoiding eye contact and not wanting to be engaged. If we did, we might have to be more involved and do something about it. Jesus crossed over that boundary and heals his blindness.
The neighbors ask, “If you are that blind beggar, then how is it that you can now see?” The formerly blind person tell the story of how Jesus healed him.
Then his neighbors ask the blind man where Jesus is. How should he know? He was blind. So they take him to see the Pharisees. Instead of rejoicing at the healing that he received they complained about their broken Sabbath rule and refused to see how Jesus could do any good. When asked, the former Blind man calls Jesus a prophet but the Pharisees put him in his place by accusing him of being born entirely in sins and drove him out. (Who is blind now?) Later Jesus finds him. He has become quite the theologian. He argued the truth with the Pharisees, He spoke about the signs of God through healing in comparison to the darkness of their interpretation of the Sabbath rule. And now at seeing Jesus he believes in the Son of Man.
The way that we are, no one is exactly perfect. We all have something great about us as well as something wrong with us, whether it is because of the way we were born, or how we are wired, or something we did or because of something somebody else did. Everyone of us is differently abled and that is not a punishment for our sin. It is just that we are diverse and unique. Jesus says that in just the way we are, that God’s work might be revealed in us. In the way that we are, how might the God’s work be revealed in us?
Salvation is not just following a set of rules but by living by the will of God. We were driving the speed limit in stop and go traffic, waiting for our turn at a four way stop when, Crash the driver behind us hit us from behind, falling asleep and letting the car drift into us. We were following the traffic rule but not the tenants of driving safely.
One of the punchlines that the formerly blind man says to the Pharisees is, “God listens to the one who worships and obeys God’s will.” This is how Jesus was able to heal him and what we are freed to live as. This is found in relationship with God, in communion with God.
I ran into someone who attended the Bible and Homosexuality workshop and entered into a conversation about it. She said she wanted to have a greater understanding about homosexuality. Counting it as a sin she felt that they would be disqualified from heaven. And yet none of us are sinless. We all rely on God’s will to forgive, accept, love, bestow grace and have affection towards us to get into heaven. This is based on belief in Jesus as the Son of man. This is how we get into heaven from the Gospel of Jesus. Salvation is more about how we treat God and each other than it is about being right about how we are obedient to the law of God.
The Law of God is a description of how the people of God are supposed to live their lives in relationship with God and their neighbors. We all have sin and we live in a world with brokenness in it. If God is loving, gracious and forgiving of our sin, we should be that kind of sign to our neighbors of the work of God in us.
It is not our sin that causes all of the misfortune in our lives, there is brokenness in our world. Jesus comes into our broken world with its people who are differently abled to invite us to live in relationship with God. We are not invited because we have reached some level of perfection on our own, but out of the deep affection that God has for us to offer us forgiveness, grace and love. the man born blind experienced this by being given his sight.
The Law of Moses is to draw us closer to God not to be rules to keep to earn us and invitation to heaven. The goal is not to live sinless lives but to be transformed through God’s forgiveness of our sins. Then our lives can be lived in dialogue with God. Jesus comes to connect us with the help of God, so we can be gracious when we encounter those who are different from ourselves and offer them love as God has been loving towards us.
SCRIPTURE: John 4:5-42
Jesus and the disciples come to a Samaritan city called Sychar. Jesus stays at the well while he disciples go into town to get food. It is noon when a woman comes to draw water. The parallels between Nicodemus encounter with Jesus and this woman are interesting. In the story before this one, Jesus is encountered by a the Jewish teacher, we don’t know what this woman does. He was a man, now we have a woman. He has a name, this woman is nameless. The man comes at night, this woman comes at day. He is a prominent Jew, she is a Samaritan. Jesus treats this woman without condemnation, no judgment and asks for a cup of water. There is a long standing prejudice that he over looks to get a drink of water. It is a beautiful dialogue of grace, discovery, acceptance and healing. And through the honesty of this conversation truth is told. There is a confession of broken covenants. But this time when she gives platitudes to Jesus, they have a theological discussion about God and worship. She reveals a thirst for God and Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah, “I am he.”
Belief in Jesus brings us into relationship with God. In the previous chapter, the end of the story of Nicodemus we get the John 3:16 passage of God’s great love for us. So much so, that righteousness is given to us as a gift, that if we believe we in Jesus, we may receive and enter into an eternal relationship with God. Relationship with God is the goal of Jesus’ ministry. How do we overcome exclusiveness and build a community through inclusiveness?
In order to do this we have to wrestle with what we do with sin This weekend I went to the ETCL workshop at Iao UCC, on the Bible and Homosexuality. I don’t like focusing on one sin in particular and hammering at it as the Church has done. I believe the UCC has had an approach more like Jesus has with the woman at the well, where there is no talk of condemnation but compassionate actions of a hope and grace, of worshiping together in Spirit and in truth.
Some of us hide our sin better than others. We act as if we have none so we are not truthful when we are critical of others. But if we were honest to the deep dark secrets of sin we harbor we would admit that all of us are in the same boat with God. And we all want to meet Jesus at the well to be accepted, to be known, to be treated with respect and loved.
There isn’t a passage to say that Homosexuality is not a sin, but I don’t think that that is so important as how we treat a broken person. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. And salvation come with belief. Then we wrestle with who we are with God, we wrestle with what God is calling us to do, and we wrestle with how we love our neighbor. So our work as the church is not to condemn but to introduce people to Jesus from our experience. To tell our story of meeting Jesus, to listen to their story and to make the invitation for them to meet Jesus as we have experienced him. Then maybe they could wonder, “He cannot be the the Messiah can he?”
The second part of the passage is about what happens when the disciples return and the woman’s witness of Jesus in the village. Many Samaritans believed because of what the woman said. They asked Jesus to stay a few days, and he did. Then having heard Jesus for themselves they knew that Jesus was the Savior of the world.
The disciples came back from the village with provisions and wanted Jesus to eat. He was not hungry after his ministry to the woman. Doing the work of God feeds him. When I used to go fishing, and the fish were not biting, you were hungry, tired, hot, thirsty, and had to go use the bathroom. But when the fish are bitting you felt none of that.
People are ready to hear the message of salvation that Jesus brings. Jesus was encouraging his disciples to quicken the pace of talking to people about God because they are ready to hear the Good new he is brings to have their lives turned toward God.
Jesus traveled, intentionally into the area of Samaria to share the good news there. The message of Jesus crosses over all kinds of boundaries but mostly over the boundary of sin. We should not keep our stories about Jesus contained within our boundaries but be willing to share it as the Spirit leads.
This Friday Maile and I went to address the Committee on Ways and Means and the Finance Committee of the State. We have an application for a grant for from the state to help us with our mission ground project. They gave us a 3 minute opportunity to talk about our grant proposal. I did, in sermon form. I identified those who are looking for affordable housing as our neighbor, and those who need a place to gather and learn in our community center as our neighbor. Then I shared the story of the Good Samaritan in this way. “Who is my neighbor?” Is the question the Lawyer asks Jesus to define the boundaries of benevolence. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan shatters the boundaries of prejudice to include the ignored, the marginalized and the wounded. They got a little theology with our request to extend our mission.
This weekend at the event at Iao I met a seeker who has been rejected by several other churches. He was unidentified as sin or otherwise, just as a fellow human being. But my hope was that if he came here he would find a welcome as we have felt. The story of the Jesus and the woman at the well is the illustration of John 3:17 for he did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. Because God so loves the world and has called us to do the same.
SCRIPTURE: John 3:1-17
THEME: Influenced by Jesus
When it come to faith, we become intrenched because we don’t want to be wrong. But what if what we have been holding onto is wrong, how do we change? When we want to be correct, sometimes we take a strict literal understanding and miss the freedom, grace and wide expression of our faith. Could it be possible that faith in God is more about grace and living than following a bunch of rules?
A leader who has been teaching the same theories of faith year after years, has been intrigued by this new approach to faithfulness with God. It is not so much about obeying a set of rules to keep in God’s good graces, but about living
transformed lives in a relationship with God. This makes us think about the people who have been influential in our lives.
How our relationship with them have changed the way we wash rice, tie a hook, take a bath. I was watching an episode of “Friends” and Chandler caught Joey for using his wash cloth. Joey’s come back, was to have Chandler think about
the last place he washes with that wash cloth and the first place Chandler washes when he takes a bath. I now rinse my wash cloth out before I bathe. If even an incidental relationship with TV can change our behavior with truth,
how much more should our lives be transformed by our relationship with God and God’s truth?
Jesus’ teaching is a teaching of change by being able to living intimately with God because God allows it, sin and all. Instead of living in a way as not to draw attention to the wrath of God we can find purpose, adventure and creativity with
God. Under the cover of night Nicodemus goes to have a one on one discussion with Jesus, but it was not what he expected. Marveling at this new approach to God Nicodemus comes to Jesus with platitudes, “Rabbi”, “Teacher from God”, “signs that display God is with you”. Jesus is unimpressed but wants to get to the heart of the matter, so Jesus
“Rabbi”, changes the subject to address the kingdom of God and being born again. No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. Water is baptism, reminding us of a repentance that turns us Godwards. The
Spirit is the power of God that helps us to participate in the activity of God or the will of God. Turning our direction to participate in the God’s activity in the world, is how we can begin to see the kingdom of God in our realm. Being born of water and Spirit is one thing; listening to what God wants us to do, and to let God helps us with abilities through God’s Spirit.
Jesus then ties the past with future events, the ascension tied Elisha's heavenly ascent in a chariot of fire with the prophetic messiah, who is Jesus, the Son of Man. The lifting of Moses’ serpent on a stick saves anyone destined to die in the same way The Son of Man must be lifted up to save those who have been poisoned by sin. All who believes in him may have life with God that is eternal.
This is a display of God’s love for the world, not God’s condemnation of our waywardness. Take a breath, once we figure out that God is not out to get us, instead of trying to fly under God’s radar, we can begin to live with God! The
possibilities are freeing and endless.
We are influenced by the relationships that we have. They inform us, inspire us, show us ways to do things and how not to do others. So when we believe in Jesus, we begin our relationship with God. We are about living not dying. Believing is transformational. Belief sets us on a new course. We are influenced by God. Having Jesus as a part of our lives causes a dying to somethings as it brings a living to others. How does Jesus influence us to live? We live in compelling ways that express our faith in God and love for each other. Life is like a rummage sale that has a good reputation. Did you know, our
little rummage sale has a good reputation in the community? This has been about the third one, when people have come said, “you have the best rummage sales.” “good quality things at good prices,” but not only that, “you all seem to
get along together”. “it is like you really enjoy and respect each other”. then someone said, “Yes, that is how we are in church, you should come.”
There were some people at this rummage sale that asked what time our service was, and said they wanted to come to church here. Our people shared bottles of water with people who were thirsty, bought roast pork plate tickets and gave them to the food pantry. This was not just any roast pork plate either. When I got home to eat mine, it was gone in less that five minutes. Scarfed. I even had theological discussion at the rummage sale. We were discussing the Event at Iao UCC on the Bible and Homosexuality. What does this mean for us? It means this is a good time for us to discuss this and get a new perspective. It may be influenced and change the way we think or not. Or more importantly, it may influence the way we behave. it is worth a look and see. It is like Nicodemus going to Jesus at night. In an earnest exploration of the heart of the matter. And maybe the matter is not so much about what is sin or not, but how
we love, care and treat our neighbors.
In the future, when we ask some of our members how they came to WUC, some will say because of the Preschool, Some will say because of the Music at WUC, Others will say because of the great rummage sales the church has put on, but most will say because of friends who have invited them to come. You are all so nice and get along so well with each other, you are living out your faith as best you can and there are others, who wanted to do that too. When people come, they may not believe in Jesus being lifted up but they believe that we have taken our relationship with Jesus seriously and are as best as we can, living with grace, love and forgiveness.
Influenced by Jesus to live faithfully in the activity of God in our world.