St. Luke's Live - Sunday, March 22
March 22, 2020 | The Rev. Jesse Lebus
It’s late in the night, there is no one awake in our house, except for me. I stand up from the chair in the living room. I know the path to bed. Past the coffee table and into the foyer, a dog leg to the right and counter clockwise up the stairs. I do know the path to bed. But standing by the reading lamp, I take one last look and make a mental note because when I turn off the light, it’ll be dark and last month I walked into the wall.
Since then, even with a precautionary survey, I keep my right hand extended. It brushes the wall, and I pivot into the hallway. I’m halfway up the steps and my eyes have begun to adjust and now I’m home free.
In the mornings, certainly on Sundays, I’m the first to rise. The dim glow of a night light guides me into the bathroom. I stand at the mirror looking for myself, but it’s too dark. I’m reluctant, though; anxious to turn on the light. To flip the switch is to be temporarily blinded, it actually hurts a little, and it takes a little time before I can look up and smile at myself and get my day started. Maybe I should get some lower wattage bulbs.
Whether we are basking in radiance, or walking in the shadows, our eyes need time to adjust. For those of us whose sight is otherwise normal, to enter suddenly into darkness or brightness is to become disoriented, to be rendered blind. Gratefully, it’s short lived and eventually things begin to take shape.
In this morning’s reading there are those who come to see with clarity and those who seem to remain lost in the fog. It’s no coincidence that we encounter this story in Lent. We’re expected to draw parallels between the blind man's anointing, his washing in water, and the gift of his sight with our own baptism. Having been marked with the sign of the cross and drawn through the waters of baptism ourselves, we’re called to see things differently, but faith and perspective - no matter how we receive them - do not arrive crystal clear but must be formed and transformed into focus.
If our faith and perspective has matured enough, then each of us can answer honestly: in which characters from this story do you most see yourself? The disciples who were stuck asking the same old questions? The parents who were afraid of being excluded from the community? The Pharisees who thought orthodoxy was paramount to human need? It’s ok, because the fog that surrounds them - the disciples’ complacency, the parent’s fear and the Pharisees’ self-righteousness - is our fog too.
For us the journey of Lent is one of deepening self awareness. At the beginning of this season we were called to consider our shortcomings, ask forgiveness, and amend our ways. To grow you’ve got to know, but the clarity with which we come to know ourselves, can only increase relative to the clarity with which we come to know Christ. And over the course of this morning’s passage from John we encounter an endearing example in the man who was born blind.
He’s quite nimble for a guy who’s never seen color, or known how different each human face looks; his ability to wrap his mind around the visual world appears to be instantaneous. But his ability to see the truth about Christ is gradual.
In the beginning, to his neighbors and family, the man born blind refers to Jesus as merely a person, “a man named Jesus,” he says. By the middle of the story, under interrogation, he tells the Pharisees that Jesus is a prophet. But in the end, when the healer and the healed are reunited, it becomes clear, and the person of Jesus is drawn into focus, to the one who finally sees: Jesus is more than a man, more than a prophet, he is the Son of Man, the Son of God.
He is one of us. He is one with God. He is the Christ.
It’s ok to be in the fog. To not be able to see clearly. And even when we do catch a glimmer, we can be sure that we will be blinded again. We will walk into walls and feel the sting of illumination. We are on a pilgrimage, towards seeing the truth about ourselves: fragile, loved, forgiven. We are on a pilgrimage towards seeing the truth about Jesus, our redeemer, our companion, our Christ.
It’s a pilgrimage defined succinctly in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully , even as I have been fully known.”