Monday, March 31, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Lent (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: John 9:39
Theme: Eyes of Faith

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God wishes to be seen through the eyes of faith. All attempts to circumvent those wishes end in doubt, frustration, or despair. He reveals Himself most clearly on the cross. Everything is interpreted through the lens of the crucifixion. The sacrificed Saviour exposes the heart of God. The darkness of sin and unbelief is overcome only by His Word. Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten darkened hearts and minds.

The Gospel of John provides us with the extended details of encounters Jesus had that illustrate His power over sin. These accounts lend themselves particularly well to the focus of Lent. Through them the portrait of the cross is given more colour, detail, and perspective.
In His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus compared salvation to being born again. When conversing with the Samaritan woman at the well He compared it to living water. Now today, in the context of the blind man, He makes reference to being healed from blindness. The comprehensive nature of God’s redemption in Christ is communicated to us in the fullness of the biblical witness.

Today Jesus healed a man who was blind from birth. More importantly, he was given spiritual sight. The healing sparked a controversy about Jesus’ identity. Ultimate truths were at stake. Wherever the gospel grants spiritual sight controversy still erupts today. Satan does not let go of his grip without a fight. “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’”1 Christ’s work is always decisive.

A false premise leads to a false diagnosis. The blind man (and his parents) was (were) the subject of mistaken identity. What was the cause of his blindness? Everyone thought they knew. Someone was directly liable, they said. Jesus’ response is remarkable. It overturns widely-held opinion. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”2

We might say, “How liberating! How comforting to be excused by the Lord Himself from the guilt of sin!” The parents too were exonerated. Jesus knew others had falsely placed the blame for the man’s blindness. But the pathology of sin doesn’t easily lend itself to such direct diagnoses. We are all trapped in sin’s tangled web and who’s to say who suffers which consequences and when? The second implication of Jesus’ response is, perhaps, more confronting: The man was blind so that the work of God might be revealed. His ailment was a means of glorifying God.

Now that might be easy to accept as long as we remain distanced from the reality of the story. But there’s more than just an example in this narrative. It teaches the nature of cross-bearing. The formerly blind man was immediately put at odds with the Jewish rulers. Are we willing to accept that our hardships, even when particularly burdensome, serve the greater purpose of bringing glory to God? Do we accept that this means we’re often not in control of our own circumstances, even those most relevant to us? Can we acknowledge that our personal agendas are superseded by God’s greater design? Do we understand that Christianity is marked by suffering, not by carefree-ness?

Important matters are at stake here. The centre of our world is refocused from our personal prosperity to God’s revealed truth in Christ. This reality necessarily entails sacrifice. Self-centeredness must be recognized as sin. Our egotism can’t be merely refined, it must be crucified. We are not the hinge upon which the door swings. We are not the hub upon which the wheel turns. You are not the master of your own domain or the architect of your own future.

Being a believer means we are subject to the dismantling and reconstructing work of God. God targets us. He singles us out, allows, and even causes hardship. His love is not a mollycoddling love. He does not pander. His love is a transforming love. The Scripture says, “Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”3 It means quite definitively that God is not the consultant for our businesses, the occasional guest in our homes, or the doctor-on-call for our emergencies. He is the head of the house, the provider of our livelihood, and our palliative care physician of body and soul- for we are all dying. He cannot be both optional and essential. He cannot be expendable and vital.

God cannot be used. He is not an accessible, convenient commodity. He is not the spiritual counterpart of a government or institutional service. His is the kingdom, and the power and the glory. Ours’ is the privilege to participate in His kingdom. That privilege in the here and now involves contention with the world. The blind man found that out immediately. The Apostle Paul says, “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”4 Gratitude is the first response of faith. It is expressed in worship. It is marked by confession.

Dear friends, we can only know from His word what pleases Him. Accessibility to that word is critical. The Holy Spirit does not labor where the word is not present. In the Spirit’s absence all people remain blind. How many saw the resurrected Christ, and yet they did not see? How many hear the call of repentance, and yet they do not hear? But you are baptized. Your eyes are opened. Bats have very poor eyesight but their night “vision” is excellent. They use a different method to perceive their environment. Faith allows believers to see in the “dark”. It’s not a magical or mystical vision that ignores the tangible evidence. It is a confidence that takes God at His word. Faith is a gift that receives the forgiveness of sins and brings the peace that passes all understanding.

Christ enters your brokenness. He camouflages you when you must walk through the darkness. He ferries you across stormy seas. Satan flees from His presence. He hung on the cross for you. He rose from the grave to guarantee your eternal future. You will not face death alone. He says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”5

And we take strength from the knowledge that we’re all in this together. There is no atomistic or individualistic view of the church in the Bible. God’s redeeming love for us, though intensely personal, always has in view the whole picture. We should not think of God’s rescue from sin as we think of strangers rescued from a train wreck or a plane crash. They go on to live their separate lives. But we are knitted together in a holy fellowship. You are one stone in His magnificent temple, one sheep in His delightful flock, and one member of His amazing body. The body of Christ involves a mystical connection to be sure, but it also entails a fellowship that has concrete dimensions. All true believers share a common baptism, confess the one true God in three persons, and participate in the sacred communal meal of Christ’s body and blood.

Dear friends, with the eyes of faith we see everything through the lens of the cross. With the crucified in view we will never be in darkness. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

1 John 9:39
2 John 9:3
3 John 15:2
4 Ephesians 5:9-10
5 Matthew 14:27

Fourth Sunday in Lent
30 March 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

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