VicarSharonRichterSermon for Lent 4

Open Our Eyes, Lord
By Vicar Sharon Richter -


John 9:1-41. Healing the blind man.

Let us pray. God of light, open our eyes so that we may see your light and come to you.  Amen

 Have you ever wanted something intensely for a long time? Did you ever have the experience of suddenly receiving what you wanted so much?  But for some reason, after the initial thrill is past, this great prize no longer satisfies you the way you always thought it would. You are disappointed that it is not the answer you hoped it would be.

 I was a child of the 60s and 70s: Peace, love, and rock ‘n roll! I was never a “smash the establishment” kind of person, but I definitely looked on striving for promotions and wealth with a kind of scorn.

 But then, after graduate school I took time to raise kids, and when they were finally in grade school, I entered into the publishing world. Suddenly I was on a roller coaster of deadlines and promotions and raises that motivated me more than I ever would have expected.

 I loved my job, and raises and promotions fulfilled me for a long time. I rose up the ladder until eventually I was running the local office, with 8 writers and 27 data entry clerks under me.

 Then, a surprising thing happened. I was doing more managing than the writing and editing I loved, and I got more and more stressed out. Time to fire the new writer—she’s just not measuring up. Time to tell everyone there’s no raises this year. Time to tell staff we are switching their sucky insurance to a suckier insurance.

 You get the idea. The promotions up the ladder finally put me where I always thought I wanted to be, and it was NOT where I wanted to be.

 Jesus tells us today, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he says this, he spits on the ground and makes mud which he spreads on a blind man’s eyes. When the man washes his eyes, he is able to see again. We can imagine him thinking his dream has come true!

 Biblestudy John9 1 41 slideshowBut what does he see, this blind man who had been blind from birth?  What does he see, this man who has been thought to be a sinner, or to be born from sinful parents? What does he see, this man who has been forced to be a beggar?

 He runs to show his friends and neighbors, and do they celebrate with him? They do not. They can’t even believe it’s him, although he’s vainly shouting, “It’s me! It’s me!”

 When he finally convinces them, do they throw a party? Do they offer him a job? Do they say, at last your sins have been forgiven?

No. They take him, like a criminal, to the Pharisees! The Pharisees also don’t believe he had been born blind, and they question his parents.
 His parents, are already peripheral to the synagogue because they gave birth to a blind son—believed to be a sign of their sinfulness. They are scared to death!  They know the Pharisees will cast them out if they testify that Jesus can heal the blind. They cannot afford to be cast out! Where would they go? What would they do? 

 So this young man, a blind beggar, is privileged to now see his own parents, the only people in the world he could say cared for him, throw him to the wolves. “Ask him,” his parents say. He is of age.”

 The Pharisees, who are afraid of Jesus’ power, question the young man closely. They are fixated on proving that Jesus is doing unlawful things, so they can arrest him. When the young man points out their blindness and hypocrisy, they cast him out of the synagogue.

 This is like a death sentence. He’s been rejected by neighbors, parents, and now by the synagogue. Outside his community, how will he live? He can’t even be a beggar in these circumstances.

 I would say that Jesus’ gift of sight shows the young man the world as it has become. A world where fear, rigid rules, and lack of compassion have bankrupted even the Law God gave to Moses. That Law, the Torah, was supposed to be a law of compassion and love and life. But fear and blindness had changed it into a Law of death.

 quote 3 26 2017Jesus’ gift of sight—his first gift to the blind man—shows us that what robs us of love and compassion robs us of life.  But Jesus has another gift to give—the gift of light.

 When Jesus hears that the Pharisees have driven the young man out, he searches for him. The gift of sight had shown the young man a disappointing, rejecting world. Jesus’ second gift—the gift of light--opens the eyes of the young man’s soul.

 Once the young man understands and believes in the Son of Man, he enters into the world God wants for us—the world of love and compassion under Christ Jesus. He discovers that what he always wanted—his sight—was not really what he was missing.  What he was missing was a community that loved him. By following Jesus, and later perhaps becoming part of the Christian movement, the young man will for the first time have a community that will embrace him.

 Jesus put mud on my eyes, too. And when I washed, like the blind man, I finally saw my world the way it had become. It had become all about money and status, at the expense of compassion and love. It had become, not life for me, but death.

 All of us have many kinds of blindness. What keeps us from the love and compassion that gives life? Are we stressed, overworked, or in a soul-killing job? Are we rejected, abused, isolated, or afraid? Do we struggle with depression, illness, or physical limitations? Are we quick to anger or do we hold on to resentments? Are we a slave to drugs or alcohol? Do we keep striving for things, and when we get them it’s not enough?
I pray we let Jesus give us the first gift, the gift of sight so that we can see the limitations of our world as it has become.

 Then, I pray Jesus will give us the second gift, of light. Jesus gave it to me, and when my spiritual eyes were opened, I knew that Jesus had been calling me to the church for many years. What I really want is here. And I thank Jesus for opening my eyes, not once, but twice.

 Not everyone is called to serve as a pastor. But everyone is called. When your eyes are opened, you will see the light of love and compassion, which shines from Jesus, both to you and through you, and out into the world.


Vicar Sharon Richter
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
March 26th, 2017

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