Thursday, March 30, 2017

Jesus: The Blessed Disrupter

Lent 4/Year A/March 26 & 29, 2017
John 9:1-41
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Moorhead
Installation of Pastor Taylor and Deacon Julie Wilson

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

I have a multiple choice question for you this morning/evening:  Which of the following three statements do you think comes closest to the truth?

A.     Having Jesus come into your life makes everything better.
B.     Having Jesus come into your life disrupts everything.
C.     Both A. and B.

How do you suppose this blind man here in John 9 might have responded?

At first blush I think he’d probably have answered:  A!   When this guy had his own “Life at the Crossroads” encounter with Jesus, everything got better!

He’d been blind from birth after all!  Can you imagine what that was like: living your whole life in darkness?  Never seeing a sunrise, never beholding the faces of those around you, never gazing dumbstruck into a starry night sky?

But then one day—out of the clear blue—this blind man crossed paths with Jesus who healed him, just like that.

What a rush that must have been!  Seeing clearly for the first time since he was born.   I’d call that a very good day—to be blind from birth and then—all of a sudden, able to behold everything--whiter whites, brighter brights, the whole amazing multi-colored universe suddenly coming alive and in focus! 

Amazing!  Astounding!   Crossing paths with Jesus that day made everything better for this man, right?

Except that’s not exactly how this story in John 9 actually unfolds—not at all!

To be sure, the light did come on for this blind man.  His useless eyes were finally working the way they were meant to!

It should have been “party time” for him and his family and his neighbors and his faith community.  Pull out all the stops—“I once was blind, but now I see!”   Praise the Lord!

But that’s not how the story actually plays out here.   The wonderful thing that happened to this man also introduced all sorts of complexity into his life.  

He, his family and his friends got all tied up in knots—trying to deal with a bunch of “hot potato” questions.  
·        So who exactly was behind this healing—was it God or the devil?  
·        And since this healing had happened on the Sabbath Day, the day of rest—had the healer violated God’s “don’t work on the Sabbath” commandment?  
·        And what’s more, did this healer have some ulterior motive in mind?  Was it truly a simple healing?  Or was it some sort of political statement?

Here, when folks should have been turning cartwheels in the streets, all these questions came bubbling up.

And before you knew it the whole neighborhood was in a hubbub.  Just like that the blind man’s business became everyone’s business.   Everybody got their undies in a bunch!

What he should have remembered as the day he got his eyes back—became, for this man, the day when he was kicked out of his faith community—simply because he told the truth, several times, about how his sightless eyes had been restored.

When Jesus comes into your life does everything get better, or is everything disrupted?   By the end of this story, the blind man surely would have answered YES.  

Jesus simultaneously makes everything better AND, in the process, Jesus also disrupts everything!

At the climax of this story, Jesus (who, curiously, was off-stage during all the hubbub)….Jesus finds the man whom he had healed.   In fact it’s the first time the formerly blind man actually sees Jesus in this story.

Having revealed himself to the man, Jesus offers this compelling word of interpretation:  "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind."

Sounds as though even Jesus would answer our multiple-choice question with answer C.  

Jesus “confesses” (if you will) that when his path crosses our path, when we encounter Jesus at the Crossroads of our lives--everything does get better, but only because everything we thought we could count on is first disrupted.

And thank God for that!

Because, my friends, there are all sorts of things in our lives that need disrupting so that our eyes might finally see things clearly.

Jesus comes along and disrupts everything we thought we knew about God.   We’re born believing that God isn’t happy with us and we somehow need to get ourselves on God’s good side.  

But Jesus comes along and opens our eyes to see that before we even think about taking a single step toward God, God has already come running toward us, like the Father of the Prodigal Son--eagerly, joyfully scooping us up in his strong, loving, forgiving arms.

Jesus encounters us in a way that disrupts everything we thought was true about ourselves On our own, we imagine that “we’ve got this”—that we can pull our own strings, fashion our own lives, truly make something of ourselves.

But Jesus opens our eyes to see that on our own we can’t really do much of anything…and that’s OK because God’s the One who’s got our backs--from the moment we take our first breath.  In other words:  all we are and all we have comes to us, every moment of every day, as a sheer undeserved gift from God.

Jesus crosses our path and disrupts everything we thought was true about our neighbors.  We start out in life with the sneaking suspicion that in this dog-eat-dog world no one “out there” can be trusted.

But Jesus opens our blind eyes, helping us see that because God has created us all and Jesus has died for us all, we are brothers and sisters—beloved children of an unfailingly faithful Parent.

Jesus meets us and disrupts everything we thought was true even about the earth itself.  We tend to think that the world is our oyster, a treasure trove of resources for us to do with just as we please.

But Jesus opens our blind eyes to behold how this good earth has been daringly entrusted to us…so that we might tend, keep and care for it not just for ourselves, but for the sake of all our fellow creatures—past, present and future.

When you and I cross paths with Jesus…we encounter Someone who truly does make everything better…but only after first disrupting our “me, myself and I” lives….

….which means that the adventure of faith is more—much more!--than we bargained for:  more joyous, yes, but also more unsettling and challenging to everything we thought was true.

So, my dear friends, whenever Jesus crosses your path—hang on to your hats!   And whatever you do, stay close, tightly connected with all the others who are with you in this adventure of living, breathing faith.

For God has given you a host of companions for this journey—persons like the Wilsons—Pastor Taylor and Deacon Julie—whom we formally welcome this morning/evening.   They—along with your wonderful church staff and all your other Good Shepherd friends—all of them are also God’s gifts to you, here to help you make sense of this amazing Lord Jesus Christ who constantly disrupts our lives in order to open our eyes to see everything the way it truly is.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.