Glimpses of the Kingdom

a sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent

“In the land of blind men, the one eyed man is king,” the saying goes.  One day, a man who was born blind met Jesus, and soon realized that he was the only one who could see all along.

 

 

handsIt doesn’t matter how it happened.  That day, that hour, that moment of the man’s conversion experience; the exact formula Jesus used – how much mud and how much spit he mixed together before he put it on his eyes; how long he left it on before he washed; the name of the river – none of that matters.

All that matters is that his life was transformed.  Now that’s a word we in the professional religion business like to use a lot.  “transformed – to make a thorough or dramatic change to the form, appearance, or character of something or someone.”  All we know is that the man met Jesus on the road and he was transformed.

It was like that song:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.

Before, he lived in a world of darkness and dependence.  He was a blind man, a beggar, a nobody, a person who depended completely on friends and family and the church for everything.  He lived on the streets, begging for food and for money.  He slept on the sidewalks, and took shelter from the rain and the wind wherever he could.  He couldn’t see anything and had never seen anything.  He was born blind.

In other words, it was no accident.  God must have made him that way.  And for God to have done something like that, somebody – either him or his parents – must have done something wrong.

That was all before.

Afterwards, he could see. He could look a the beautiful blue sky, the trees and the flowers, the synagogue.  He could see the faces of his friends and family for the first time.  And they weren’t happy.

Afterwards, his friends didn’t even recognize him.  All their lives, they had only known him as poor-old-blind-Pete, the kid who was born blind.  His blindness was all they knew about him.  The fact that he couldn’t see is what defined him, at least in their minds.  It was sad, sure, but it was who he was:  Blind Pete.  Occasionally they’d invite him to their home for a meal, or give him some money.  They were kind to him.  But they really didn’t know what to make of him, now that he wasn’t blind anymore.  So they asked him to explain himself.  How did it happen?  But all he could tell them was:

I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.

Afterwards, his parents didn’t know what to make of him either.  He was still their son, that much was certain.  But now he was different.  All his life, all they could see was his disability.  Where oh where had they gone wrong?  They must have done something to cause God to make him that way, right?  So they carried their guilt everywhere they went.  They had kind of gotten used to being the mother and father of Blind Pete.

Afterwards, the religious people were furious.  This wasn’t how God was suppose to work!  God wouldn’t have done this miracle on a sabbath day!  That violated everything they knew about God’s law, the law in the bible that says, “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.”  Shoot, if God healed this man on sabbath, it means that we didn’t understand laws in the first place.  Who knows what else we might be wrong about?  So they asked him to explain himself.  How did it happen?  But all he could tell them was:

 I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.

Before, he was a blind man.  Afterwards, he could see.  And as he looked around, all he saw was that it was the others who had been blind all along.

Before, his friends could only see him for his disability;
afterwards, they couldn’t recognize him anymore.
Before, his parents could only see in him their own guilt and shame;
afterwards, they left him fend for himself.
Before, his church could only see in him the way they imagined God to be;
afterwards, they threw him out of the temple.

Vision is a funny thing.  Our eyesight isn’t always perfect.  Sometimes we need to wear glasses.  Sometimes we still have trouble seeing another person for who they really are.  Sometimes we’re blinded by our own assumptions of who someone is, or what they do for a living, or how they live differently from ourselves.  Sometimes we’re blinded by our familiarity – we think we already know who they are.  Other times we’re blinded by our differences – we simply can’t relate to who they are.

But these are all symptoms of our own blindness, not theirs.

At the same time, each one of us here has been transformed.  It doesn’t matter how it happened.  Whether by mud and spit, or by a bolt of lightning while traveling along a road, or by the waters of baptism, or by meeting a stranger on the street.  Some people remember the event very clearly; for others it happens so gradually they can’t remember a particular time.  It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that by God’s grace, we have been transformed into children of God through Jesus Christ.  Our vision has been altered, our sight has been restored, and when we look very carefully, we can see glimpses of God’s kingdom.  We can see the face of Christ in every person we meet.

Our own transformations may not be obvious to others.  That’s a sad fact, but true far too often.

But in time, by the grace and love of God, little by little, folks will come around.  It’s already happening, in big ways and in small.

In the meantime, just remember:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.

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