Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent 2008

Last Friday night, 29th February, I attended the installation of the new Pastor of the Uniting Church in Nambour, Rev. Darren King. The congregation had been searching for a minister for over a year. Their new pastor comes from South Africa via New Zealand. He has a strong accent that takes getting used to. He also thinks he might become a supporter of the "Reds". As the Uniting Church uses the Common Lectionary, the readings for the liturgy were the same as ours for this 4th weekend in Lent. These are the stories of the choice and anointing of David to be king and the healing of the man blind from birth.

We get many invitations to one event or another. Sometimes we say "yes" a bit reluctantly. And sometimes our motives are not always the best. But if we say "yes" then we do lay ourselves open to possibilities we do not expect. God can do wonders.

God's choices are not always what we would expect. As our first reading reminds us God does not judge by appearances as we so often do. God looks at the heart of a person. God does not just look. His gaze is always a healing and creative one.

All through the gospel story about the blind man, he is on the receiving end of many questions. The disciples had pointed him out to Jesus asking who sinned he or his parents for him to be born blind? In the story Jesus did not say anything to the man. He just went up and put mud in his eyes and told him to go and wash! This the man did and was cured. "Let there be light. And there was light!" Here God is once again creating light out of the dark chaos surrounding the blind man.

The story is about the blind man gaining his sight and of coming to see Jesus with faith. And it is about the able bodied Pharisees showing themselves blind to God's grace. Maybe even more than this it is about Jesus' insight. He sees into the blind man's heart and into the Pharisees' and disciples' hearts. He is completely present to them loving them and inviting them into a new relationship with God. He puts aside the assumptions of the disciples and the Pharisees about who sinned and simply seeks to heal the blind man, physically and spiritually. Unfortunately, the Pharisees had created a system of understanding the world that made it impossible for them to see the truth that was infront of their faces.

She was an old lady dying in her bed when I visited her. Surrounded by family, she also had photos of her deceased family members arrayed on the bed covers. She wanted to join them much to the sorrow of those standing around her. They would rather she stayed but knew she was going to die soon. Hovering between life and death the old lady seemed to create a sacred space around her. At such times families may cross the bridges that divide them and be present to one another in ways they would be afraid of in ordinary circumstances. Such moments seem to break through into the mystery of life and death so that Christ and all the faithful departed are gathered around the bed as well as the family. The Church is present. A new creation is being born and all eagerly await its fulfilment.

I mention this incident to note that there is often much more going on than first appears. Looking in from the outside the hospital bed could be seen as a very sad occasion. All death and disease and grief. Yet gathered in faith and love we can see a whole new world is being born.

St Paul's words form Ephesians we read today certainly apply to the blind man. They also apply to the old lady and to us: "You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8).

Fr Graham