Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.
Invocation. In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1. After forty long years of wandering in the desert, Moses and all Israel stood east of the Jordan and prepared to enter the Promised Land. Their journey had been dark and difficult; marked by the sins of grumbling against God, pagan idolatry; and even outright rebellion. Even then, God gives Moses words to speak to them. Words that diagnose their dark, sinful condition.
"But to this day, the LORD has not given you a mind that understands, or eyes that see, or ears that hear."
The people are deaf to God's Word, blind to his light and incapable of understanding his ways. They are steeped in the darkness of sin.
2. Some 650 years later, the people of God are in no better shape. They're in the promised land, but as God ordains Isaiah to be his prophet, he gives Isaiah this message.
"Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.'"
Once again, God diagnoses the spiritual condition of his people. They are steeped in the darkness of sin.
3. Today in our Gospel reading we see that after almost another 750 years, many in Israel are still in the dark when it comes to the working of God in their lives. There's the physical darkness of the man born blind. And there's the more pressing darkness of the soul, too. Spiritual darkness has penetrated the hearts of God's people and made them blind. The Pharisees reveal their spiritual blindness by their "holier than thou" attitude and their refusal to listen to the healed man's testimony. They show the darkness of their blindness by putting him in his place and putting him out of their assembly when he dares to speak to them of the miracle Jesus performed for him. And the Pharisees are not alone in their darkness and sin. The disciples themselves reveal shades of spiritual darkness in their own lack of understanding sin and the cause of the man's blindness. The blind man's friends and neighbors reveal their own blindness when they just can't believe it's him after he's been healed. The blind man's parents, too, live in the dark sin of fear--they dare not confront their leaders, lest they be cast out of the synagogue. Darkness and blindness all around. Among God's people the blind are leading the blind. They are steeped in the darkness of sin.
4. But into this mess of darkness, blindness, and sin, Jesus shines his light. From the moment he sees the blind man , he shines the light of the gospel on him, and on his disciples.
[St. John 9:3-5]
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I AM the Light of the World."
As the Light of the World, Jesus breaks through the deep darkness and blindness of his people and shines the heavenly light of God on everyone involved. He tells the disciples that the purpose of the man's blindness is that God's work would be revealed through his healing. He heals the blind man and then later searches him out to strengthen him in his newborn faith. He confronts the Pharisees and once again reminds them that the hardness of their hearts has made them blind to the light of God. Throughout this chapter of St. John's gospel, Christ shines the light of life on his people, lighting the way to salvation; opening the eyes of all to see the Son of Man--and condemning those who refuse to be led by his light.
5. So what is God trying to tell us by having us consider this passage from his Word? He's diagnosing our dark, sinful condition. He's telling us that we are blind; that we, too, are steeped in the darkness of sin. Perhaps we are not physically blind like the man Jesus healed, but we are spiritually blind like God's people have been throughout all of history since Adam and Eve's fall into sin. Some of us are blind like the disciples. We don't really understand sin and the effects it has on our lives, physically and spiritually. Some of us are blind like the man's parents, refusing to confront authorities who would have us take part in sinful behavior out of fear that we would be made outcasts. Some of us are blind like the man's friends and neighbors, refusing to believe that God would heal anyone or forgive them their sins, much less do the same for us. And some of us are blind like the Pharisees, shutting out the light of God by all possible means, even hiding behind outward forms of religion in order to protect our places of prominence in this dark world.
6. We are sinners, and by our sinfulness we have become ever hearing, but never understanding. We have become ever seeing but never perceiving. Our hearts have grown calloused and hard and we have banished the light of God from our lives. By his holy Word, today, God is shining his light on our sinfulness and calling us to repent; calling us to turn away from the darkness and to turn toward his marvelous light. So over these forty days of Lent, we humbly and honestly examine the condition of our ears and we find that we hear but don't understand God's Word. We search out the workings of our eyes and learn that even though God's work is plain to see in our lives, we don't perceive his blessing. In heartfelt contrition we search out the depths of our inmost being and find hearts as hard as stone--hearts that do not understand the power of the grace of God. God horrifies us by such self-examination--yes, you should be scared to death by the dark blindness of your sin. For by the word of his Law God drives us repentance, so that we might see with our eyes; hear with our ears, understand without hearts, and turn and be healed. Only by such repentance will we see that we are in desperate need of the Light from above. There is no better time than the season of Lent for such repentance. For we spend these days in reflection, repentance, and prayerful return to the Lord, our God. Yes, I know, Sundays are not technically part of the season of Lent, but we dare not abandon our repentance simply because of a peculiarity of the calendar. Even on the Sundays during Lent, we confess that we are in the dark. We confess that we are spiritually blind. We pray for the Light of the World to shine on our hearts.
7. In Christ, that light shines brightly. He is Light of Light, as we confess in the Nicene creed. Today, the glorious light of the gospel shines into our ears through this passage about a man born blind. These sacred words open our sin-stopped ears to hear the forgiveness of our sins. The light of truth shines upon our eyes and in Christ we see our salvation in the one who closed his eyes in death on the cross of Calvary. The light of life beams down upon our hearts through God's Word and his holy Sacraments and softens our hearts once again. With this story about a man born blind, Christ, leads us out of the darkness and into the light. He heals us of our spiritual blindness and leads us to faith in him, the Light of Light, just as he did for the man who was blind from birth. By this precious Gospel, Christ approaches each of us and leads us back to our own Pool of Siloam. For you and me that pool is the water of Holy Baptism. Christ takes us back to the font and there, he washes us again and again. He unstops our ears. He softens our hearts. And he gives sight once more to our blinded eyes. Light shines in. Sight is restored. And we see the salvation of our Lord. By his Holy Spirit, given us in Holy Baptism, Christ restores our spiritual sight. In the waters of Holy Baptism the darkness of sin is banished, and we, like the man born blind, confess in faith, "One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see."
8. As people so blessed, we see the truth about ourselves. We see that without Christ, we would remain forever blind. Without Christ, we would remain forever steeped in the darkness and blindness of our sin. We see that if Christ had not washed us in the Water and the Word we would forever suffer from spiritual blindness that would lead us straight into the devil's arms. But praise God,
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
We are those people. We have been walking in darkness, but in Christ we see our great light. We have been living in the land of the shadow of death, but now light has dawned upon us. That light is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. By his light we have been forgiven our dark sinfulness and rescued from certain damnation in the land of the shadow of death. We have been cleansed in the heavenly pool of Siloam that is the font of Holy Baptism. There, we have been bathed in the light of God. The stranglehold of darkness on our souls has been broken and we have been brought into the kingdom of Light by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
9. As people of the Light, we now no longer wallow in the darkness of sin. With eyes opened by the light of Christ we see the horrid effects of sin. We see that our sin put Christ on the cross, and there, in black darkness in the middle of the day, he died to bring us into the light. So by the Holy Spirit, the giver of Light, we strive to avoid sin at all costs, for we dare not plunge our Lord back into the darkness from which he has rescued us by giving up his own life. Strengthened for our life of faith by Christ's light shining down on us from above, we boldly confront those who would lead us into sin, and we stand strong in our faith, no matter what the cost. We bask in the light of God at all times and we give God thanks and praise when, in his grace, he heals and forgives us body and soul. We open our hearts ever wider to let the light of God shine down upon us. For Christ has healed our spiritual blindness, and so we revel in the light of divine, the Light of Light, our Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice that he has given us his light in the water and the Word of Holy Baptism; in the precious Word of Forgiveness in Holy Absolution; in his very body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar and in his sacred Word in the Scriptures. We take heart, that one day we will see this light in all its glory, lighting the heavenly city of God, where we will live forever in light of Christ. May his light ever shine upon us. Amen.
Blessing: The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
March 1, 2008
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