Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ash Wednesday

Text: Matthew 27:11-26 - His blood be on us and on our children!

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus[b] Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”[d]All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;[e] see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

It would seem that Pilate tried very hard to get Jesus freed.
He tried to reason with the people believing it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.
He tried to have Jesus released under a clemency provision that allowed him to release one prisoner at this time of year – but the people chose Barabbas instead.
He begins to panic when his wife pleads with him not to have anything to do with this innocent man because of a dream she had – even she knew he was innocent.
Finally Pilate succumbs to the demands of the people but exonerates himself allowing for Jesus to be put to death by crucifixion but symbolically washing his hands as a sign that he has nothing to do with it.
Is it that easy to excuse what he has done?
I’m going to allow you to put him to death, but I’m washing my hands of his death.
Isn’t that what we do sometimes when it comes to the things we do wrong?
We wash our hands of our guilt.
We might do that by making excuses – it wasn’t my fault, someone else started it, they deserved it, it was an accident, I was affected by drugs or alcohol.
Our legal system strives for more lenient sentences by finding some mitigating circumstances – it was his upbringing, he stole to feed his gambling addiction.
I always find it amazing that when reporting on a crime the police and media have to say the person “allegedly” committed the crime, even if there is clear video of the person doing it.
Finding an excuse for doing something wrong may entitle you to a more lenient sentence in criminal law – and may even get a person off a conviction.
Not getting caught may mean you don’t have to face the punishment or consequence of what you did wrong.
But there is something that “washing your hands” of doing wrong cannot do.
It cannot relieve a guilty conscience.
Many times we see someone confess to something they did years ago even though they got away with it because their guilt cannot let them forget it.
Or the sense of relief you sometimes hear from them as they feel the weight off their shoulders not having to run from their guilt any more.
In our bible reading, washing his hands of Jesus’ death won’t exonerate Pilate.
In fact we are reminded of it every time we confess our faith.
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate”.
In Judas we see the full extent of his guilt as he tried to buy his way out of his remorse by giving back the money by which he betrayed Jesus but ends up taking his own life.
But we do find comfort in our bible reading albeit the people had no idea what they were saying.
When Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, the people cried out:
“His blood be on us and on our children!”
We can make excuses that may get us off the hook.
We may be able to keep some things secret in our life.
But our guilt can never be ignored.
And we must never underestimate the damage guilt can do.
It can cause physical and spiritual damage.
The physical damage it causes can create sleepless nights – depression – loneliness as we withdraw from friends and family – it can break down relationships.
The spiritual damage it can create is in our relationship with God.
Just look at Adam and Eve who tried to hide their guilt by hiding from God.
That’s what guilt can do.
If we know we’ve hurt someone, even if they don’t know it we will avoid them because every time we see them it reminds us of our guilt.
So too as we come into God’s presence we are reminded of our guilt and it turns us away.
King David, as he tried to hide his guilt and shame after committing adultery with Bathsheba and ordering her husband’s death, felt the full effect of his guilt in sin when he wrote Psalm 32:
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Not blessed is the one who does no wrong or who gets away with his sin.
He continues:
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.
God invites us to come to him – not to be punished but to be comforted through forgiveness from the blood of Christ shed for us.
And even though the people had not intended its meaning in such a way the saying is true for us in Jesus’ death:
“His blood be on us and on our children!
In this Lenten journey take time to reflect on your sin.
Read your Small Catechism and Luther’s explanation to the 10 Commandments which show us that we have not loved God with all our heart or our neighbour as ourselves despite our best attempts to believe we’ve done nothing wrong.
Even if you can totally justify why you acted in such a way, your guilt at some stage will return and convict your heart.
Your guilt is Satan’s greatest weapon.
God wants you to know the sweet comfort of his grace and mercy which does not just cover up sin, which is all our excuses do.
God’s grace and mercy wipes away our sin and guilt forever as God remembers our sin no more.

Admitting our sin is one of the hardest things we have to do but God invites you to come to the cross and let Christ’s blood be on you.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Year A 2017 The Transfiguration

Sermon 26th February 2017
Text: Matthew 17:1-9 – Listen to HIM.

Over the past few weeks we have heard Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It has had some challenging commands like turning the other cheek and loving your enemy. We heard that being angry breaks the command “do not murder”. They were hard and challenging. Now we hear one more command directly from God himself. And while it may not seem that difficult on the outside, as we live out our lives it can become quite difficult and challenging. The command was: This is my Son; listen to him!”

There are times when it is easy to listen to Jesus. When he says things that we agree with like: God loves the world so much that he sent his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. When Jesus says – I am the resurrection and the life whoever believes in me shall not die but live forever. These are quite easy to listen to and take to heart.

But it was some of the challenging things in his Sermon on the Mount that made it difficult to “listen to him”.
Things like: Seeking reconciliation instead of revenge,  Loving your enemies, Praying for those who hate you, Giving to the needy without expecting a reward, Not judging others. These are not so easy to “listen to him”.

The Transfiguration was to give Peter, James and John strength during those times when it was difficult to keep following Jesus and listening to him. How did it give strength? By revealing the true identity of Jesus as God’s Son by showing them his glory. So that despite what their eyes are about to see when Jesus is arrested and put to death; Despite what they themselves are going to experience after Jesus’ death including rejection and persecution – they know that what they believe in and what they are witnessing to is God’s power and glory that is hidden behind rejection and unbelief in the world.

From here the next step of Jesus’ mission journey was the walk to the cross. Peter had already signalled to Jesus that he did not want to go down that path – and who could blame him when Jesus told his disciples that he must be handed over to be put to death: Peter didn’t listen to Jesus. He wanted things to stay the same with the crowds cheering Jesus on.
He wanted Jesus to listen to him.  “Never Lord – this shall never happen to you”! (Matthew 16:22). So too, when Peter experienced the Transfiguration on the mountain top seeing Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah he was more than happy to stay there:  He wanted Jesus to listen to him. Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah (Matthew 17:4).

It’s easy to think like Peter and try to take a snapshot of life and stay there. And when life changes it’s tempting to look back and wish things were the way they used to be. Israel was a perfect example. As soon as their wilderness journey got difficult they complained wishing they had not listened to Moses and wanted to go back to Egypt. Even though the work was backbreaking slavery, knowing that their stomachs would be filled was worth it. Likewise, going forward for us can be difficult too.

Things are changing in the church – they’re not what they used to be. We don’t have the young ones taking up leadership roles. We don’t have the amount of people worshiping as we used to. We pine for the way things used to be. Do you remember when we had dozens in our Sunday School? Do you remember when we had big Confirmation classes? Do you remember when our children willingly came to church? Do you remember when we sang the liturgy every Sunday to the pipe organ?

It’s easy to become disheartened about the future when we pine for the past. It is so tempting to listen to other voices that sound so convincing about how things should be done. Those voices have been there from the beginning of time trying to convince us to go our own way rather than listen to God. It began with Adam and Eve who were tempted to not listen to God when Satan created doubt in them listening to God: “did God really say” (Genesis 3:1) It continued with the voice of Satan trying to get Jesus to listen to him – “if you are the Son of God turn these rocks into bread (Matthew 4:3). The voices continued and intensified as Satan pulled out every last trick to get Jesus to listen to him – “if you are the Son of God come down from the cross and we’ll believe in you” (Matthew 27:42). And the voices continue today which have led many people away from the church. “The church is irrelevant – you’ve got better things to do – you’re too busy – you can worship God without the church – the bible is 2000 years old – the bible is written by men, not God”

St Peter reminds us that we need to clearly listen to God’s voice over against what he calls myths. He says: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 1:16)
Notice he calls them “cleverly devised myths”. These are not voices that sound way out and farfetched. No, like the simple doubting question of Satan to Eve – did God really say, so too these other words can sound so tempting. Even words such as – “it’s the 21st Century” – “everyone’s doing it” – it’s not really that bad – just try it”.

We need to be, more than ever, attuned to God’s word so we can discern whether or not it is God’s word speaking to us. We need to immerse ourselves in God’s word so we know that it is God speaking and when it’s not God’s voice we’re listening to. So sometimes it’s not that it’s difficult to listen to Jesus but rather it is difficult to discern whether or not it is Jesus we’re listening to. And sadly many Christians today are reading a lot of Christian books but not their bibles – so it’s very easy to be led astray. The books are good because they write into contemporary times but we always need to keep going back to God’s Word which is also written for contemporary times as Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s so easy to listen to cleverly devised myths and believe that it’s God speaking because it sounds so good and true.
But we need God’s Word to be the foundation because only God’s Word provides comfort and strength during times of difficulty. That’s why God said – Listen to HIM.

Peter and the disciples were not going to find their strength after Jesus’ death from a cleverly devised myth no matter how great it sounded. When we are going through the depths of despair and facing real difficult challenges in life, the latest words of inspiration from the latest guru are not going to help us. Just think over the years how many different programs and ideas and self-help programs have been introduced in the church that are sitting on our shelves with piles of dust on them. Sadly, too many of our bibles are also gathering dust and we need to get them out and begin reading them again.

The Transfiguration is about sending us back to our beginnings because we tend to go off track so easily. And so the message at the Transfiguration is identical to the message that was spoken at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – his baptism; This is my son whom I love.(Matthew 3:17) As much as the world is changing and as much as the church is changing to keep its message relevant it also needs to be grounded in Jesus. And as much as we would like the church to remain the same it must also go into the world with its message. And so Jesus told Peter he couldn’t stay there on the mountain top. They needed to go back down into the valley where there was work to do. The work of bringing God’s word to the people.

And so too we come here each week to experience the mountain top presence of God in his Word and Sacrament and we do it to strengthen us to go out into the world. But Jesus doesn’t send us alone. Just as he went down the mountain with Peter, James and John, so too he comes with us. And that’s why God said – listen to him. Because he is with you and he wants you to listen to him as he encourages you and gives you hope.

There will be other voices competing but remember – those voices didn’t die for you. Only Jesus has your interests at heart. But to listen to him you need to be where his word is spoken – in his word – in prayer – in worship. As you begin your Lenten journey this week may Jesus’ voice guide you and strengthen you for your journey throughout the 40 days of Lent and always..

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Year A Palm Sunday

Text Philippians 2:5-11 – Jesus’ humiliation is our glory

Matthew’s Gospel was a Gospel that was specially written to a Jewish audience.
There are some indicators that support that idea.
The Family Tree in Chapter 1 shows Jesus family going back to Abraham – the father of the Jewish nation.
This is in contrast to Luke’s Gospel that was written for a non-Jewish audience that has Jesus’ family tree going back further to Adam – the father of all nations.
Matthew refers to the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the Kingdom of God, a safeguard against breaking the 2nd commandment of taking the name of God in vain – something the Jews still do today using the word Adonai instead of the name of God Yahweh when referring to God.
Matthew sets out to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah they had been waiting for – the Son of God.
Matthew’s Gospel is important for all of us because we too at times struggle wondering whether Jesus is truly the one in whom we can place all our hope.
John the Baptist struggled in his time of imprisonment and sent some of his own disciples to check with Jesus – are you the one we have been waiting for, or should we expect someone else (Matthew 11:3).
Last week we heard doubts by Mary and Martha because Jesus had not come to their help when their brother Lazarus was seriously ill, even though he had plenty of time to get there before he died.  (John 11:1-45)
Today also we see people starting to question whether Jesus really is the one.
People are questioning whether Jesus and the church really make a difference in our lives.
We began our service to the shouts of praise and support for Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem.
Here is the one they were expecting to take on the Roman enemy and restore their dignity and authority.
But surely they begin to question him – he comes riding on a donkey.
Some had always questioned Jesus – isn’t this Mary’s son?
Isn’t his father the carpenter?
How can he be the Messiah?
Nevertheless they throw their support behind him – after all, there’s no one else.
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
But something changes.
Jesus doesn’t seem to fit the image they had created for him.
He’s arrested, he’s humiliated, he’s betrayed by his own disciples.
Are we really going to put our trust in him?
Get rid of him – crucify him.
Let’s find someone else.
In the meantime, maybe it’s not too late to get back on the good side of Caesar:
– crucify this Jesus character.
He’s not our King.
We have no King but Caesar (John 19:15)
It’s easy to put our trust and hope in Jesus when things are going well.
When the money’s there – when the work’s there – when our health is there – it’s easy to thank God for all our blessings.
But what about when things turn pear shape?
What about when God doesn’t come through with the goods.
What do we say then?
Matthew’s Gospel is important because it not only supports Jesus as the promised Messiah for the Jews, but he also reaffirms that despite what happens, Jesus is still the one that we are to put our hope in.
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is called “Immanuel”, God with us – a promise linked to our Baptism.
Maybe it didn’t look that way as he was tortured, humiliated, spat upon, and put to death.
Maybe it doesn’t look that way as we look at the state of the church with its declining numbers, the sexual abuse reports, the number of churches closing, the claims of irrelevancy in today’s “smart” technological world.
But it is only through Jesus that we have the hope of eternal life in death.
Paul reminds us that Jesus’ humiliation was in fulfilment of what was going to happen to the Son of God.
Christ willingly emptied himself of the glory that the people of his day were expecting and let the world do its worst to show that no matter how bad things get – God will always come out on top.
The world did its worst so that God could do his best.
Christ humbled himself, obedient to God his Father, even unto death.
The worst that the world could do – and still Jesus came out on top.
God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When the world does its worst to you – when it takes away your possessions, your career, you hopes and inspirations, when it takes away your health and dignity, even your life – God is there to lift you up just as he lifted up his Son.
In Baptism, you are given the name that is above all names.
You are given the name – child of God.
And nothing can take that away from you.
Difficult times raise difficult questions for the Christian faith.
What was God doing while his Son hung there between heaven and hell; between life and death? Between the hosannas and the shouts to crucify -- the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, to the not so triumphal exit on Good Friday -- where was God?
Where was God when I was going through my difficulties?
Where was God when I really needed him?
Well, believe it or not, God was there with you.
He is Immanuel – God with us.
Last week we heard about God’s compassion as Lazarus lay in the grave with his sisters and friends weeping.
While they were weeping – Jesus was there weeping with them.
That probably doesn’t sound like much.
But it fulfils God’s baptism promise to us – I am with you always till the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)
Maybe we expect more from God, just like the crowds expecting an almighty, all-conquering King.
Maybe we expect God to heal us every time we’re sick.
Maybe we expect God to find us a employment every time we lose our job.
Maybe we expect God to pay the bills when there’s not enough money for us to do so.
But that’s not what the Christian faith is about.
The Christian faith answers the question that no-one else can answer.
The Christian faith provides hope where no-one else can provide hope.
What happens when death arrives?
There is no pill that can answer that question.
There is no amount of money that can pay for that answer.
Only Jesus can answer that question for us.
And he does that by dying the death we will die but then rising from the dead and being exalted to the highest place in heaven.
And there he now sits, at the right hand of God, praying for us and paying for our sin so that when we die we will join him in heaven.
If you don’t believe that then you still have to answer the question – what happens when I die.
Everyone has to answer that question, and only Jesus provides hope as St. Paul says:
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul’s companion Luke affirmed that when he said:
Eternal life is found in no one else other than Jesus, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we can be saved.” (Acts 4;12)
We vote out of office our leaders when we believe they are no longer offering what we want.
Sporting teams drop players, sack coaches, poach players from other teams when the side is losing.
But when it comes to the most important question we will ever face – what happens in death, there is no other option.
There is no other name by which we are offered eternal life.

So let us confess Jesus Christ as our Lord for there is no greater name nor hope in life.

Year A 5th Sunday in Lent

Text John 11:1-45 – A second chance at life.

One of the saddest moments for me whenever I officiate at a funeral is listening to regrets people have that they didn’t make the most of their time with the one who has died.
I wish we could have another chance to do things we never had time to do.
I wish I hadn’t been so busy.
I wish I had spent more time with them just to talk.
Or there are those situations where there was some unresolved issue with the deceased.
The last words were not kind words and now it’s too late to apologise or take them back.
It’s too late to forgive or to ask to be forgiven.
A dispute has seen a refusal to speak with each other.
There are moments when we wish that we could have another chance, but when it is the death of someone it is too late.
The raising of Lazarus is about 2nd chances.
Lazarus has died from an illness and his friends and relatives are distressed.
Even Jesus is distressed as we hear that famous passage, the shortest passage in the Bible – Jesus’ wept.
It is the shortest passage in the Bible but undoubtedly the most profound passage in the Bible.
Here we see that Jesus is truly human.
Here we see the devastating effect that death has on us – even on the Son of God.
Even though Jesus knows that death is not the end – that he is the resurrection and the life, nevertheless, Jesus is deeply affected by the loss of a dear friend and the hurt that he sees in his other friends.
While we, as Christians, know that death is not the end, it can be a missed opportunity to have experienced a full relationship with that person and sadly one that can cause a life time of regrets for unresolved issues.
One of the saddest comments I have heard is when a person has said “I’ll never forgive them this side of the grave”.
As Christians God gives us a 2nd chance everyday.
I’m not talking here about the comfort that God gives us in death, although that is surely an amazing gift.
What God gives us each day is the forgiveness of our sins and the strength to forgive others.
God also gives us a renewed vision of what is truly important in life.
I love a comment I heard recently – no one ever says when they’re dying that they should have spent more time at the office.
Sometimes it takes a tragic incident for us to realise the true beauty and value of something precious.
Lazarus is not just a symbol of Jesus’ authority over death.
He is also a symbol of God’s gift of life.
Life that is deadened by anger that doesn’t allow us to forgive those who have hurt us and prevent us from any further relationship with them.
The sapping of life through our pride that stops us from acknowledging when we are wrong or have hurt someone and prevents us from apologising or extending the hand of fellowship to them.
I have experienced family members torn apart because of a refusal to forgive or say sorry over such small matters.
 I have experienced relationships that could have been saved if one or both were prepared to humble themselves and offer or accept forgiveness.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are extremely difficult – and the closer the relationship, the greater the hurt and the greater the strength needed to reconcile.
As the old saying goes – to err is human, but to forgive is divine.
Divine in 2 senses – first because of the divine feeling that one gets when there is a reconciliation.
It is the same as receiving one back from the dead like Lazarus.
Just like the parable of the Prodigal Son and the joy in the father who is prepared to forgive but has an older son who cannot understand.
We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:32).
Or when King David wrote Psalm 133:
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
But there is also another sense to the saying – to forgive is divine.
And that is that sometimes we need God’s strength to forgive.
We can’t do it on our own.
Our human nature won’t allow it.
And so we look to the greatest of betrayals and the strength needed to forgive.
When we put God’s Son to death – calling for his crucifixion.
There on the cross Jesus is already asking his Father to forgive us:
Father forgive them – they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).
And so in our Psalm today we hear:
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can serve you. (Psalm 130:3,4)
And no better way can we serve God than loving one another as he loves us (John 13:34,35).
The death of Lazarus is about 2nd chances.
It’s not the same as Jesus resurrection because Lazarus would again die.
Lazarus was given a 2nd chance.
Mary and Martha were given a 2nd chance as Jesus gives them back their brother.
We too are given a 2nd chance to put aside our anger and hurt and be reconciled with one another.
We too are given a 2nd chance to see the beauty of God’s creation and realise that there is more to life than careers, money and possessions.
God has given us our friends, our family and our church.
And yet, sadly, these are often the first things we neglect and hurt.
Like the dead bones in Ezekiel’s prophecy, God is able to breathe new life into us as he returns us to our Baptism where the old Adam dies each day and we rise to new life with God.

So let us rise each day and begin the day with God as he renews us and brings us new life and calls us out of the grave and gives us that 2nd chance to see the beauty of his creation around us in our friends, family and church.

Year A 4th Sunday in Lent

Text: John 9:1-41 - Seeing is believing

The world has been transfixed by the disappearance of the Malaysian flight that went missing in 2014 - MH 370.
It’s not the first plane to have something happen to it but what has kept us intrigued is that no one knows what happened.
We don’t like that.
We like to be in control, and when a mystery happens we spend an enormous amount of time trying to find out what happened.
There have been many theories suggested.
Was it terrorism, was it pilot suicide, was it a hijack, was it simply an accident – some even believe it may have been aliens that have abducted the plane and its passengers.
We don’t like to be left in the dark, possibly a symptom from the very first curiosity moment in the Garden of Eden.
God had forbidden Adam and Eve to eat from the one tree in the Garden of Eden – the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Satan knew their weakness.
Like children wanting to know what’s in that wrapped present under the tree.
Or when that letter arrives for someone else in the family and you hold it up to the light or google the return address to see what’s in it – curiosity has always gotten the better of us.
And so Satan sidles up to Eve and tickles her curiosity.
What’s with that tree – did God really say you couldn’t eat from it.
Look at it –look how nice the fruit looks.
And then he says – if you eat from that tree – your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.
Your eyes will be opened – you’ll see everything.
And so Eve eats and draws interest from her husband Adam to also eat – and their eyes were opened.
But what they saw was devastating.
Nothing now would be hidden.
They saw they were naked and tried desperately to hide it again.
Their eyes were different – no longer attuned to see what God does for them.
And that’s the very problem today – God makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the good and evil, but we don’t always give thanks to God.
They desired to know Good and Evil and now their eyes will see exactly that.
Before this they only saw Very Good – as we hear when God finished his act of Creation and behold it was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31)
So their eyes, after being opened, only saw less and worse.
Less in that we see good and not Very Good.
Worse in that we now see Evil.
And so today we continue to live with these eyes.
Eyes that see Good and Evil and no longer seeing what God had intended – the Very Good.
Jesus comes to bring light into the darkness, and the darkness hates it.
Think of Jesus first visit to a Synagogue in Marks Gospel – the very first chapter.
From the moment he walks in evil is revealed.
There in the synagogue was an evil spirit.
Had no one noticed – obviously not or they wouldn’t have let him in.
But their eyes, now attuned to evil were so used to the darkness that they couldn’t distinguish evil.
The darkness had become normal, just like a nocturnal animal.
Jesus walks in and immediately the evil is revealed.
“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24).
Interestingly it is the evil spirits who first declare Jesus as the Holy One of God.
Similar to what James says:
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. (James 2:19).
Today Jesus brings healing to a man born in darkness.
And the curiosity begins the questioning of Jesus.
They want to know how come he was born blind.
Was it his parents who sinned or the blind man? (John 9:1)
I wonder if they really thought about that question, considering he was born blind, what could he have done to deserve being born blind.
What we learn from this passage is that there are 2 types of blindness.
There is physical blindness which this man was born with.
But there is also spiritual blindness which seems to be affecting the Pharisees.
They can’t see the good God is doing and call it evil.
Luther, in his Heidelberg Disputation said that humans call evil good, and good evil.
And what we learn as we listen to this incident is that sin does cause blindness – but it’s spiritual blindness.
As we see in the final encounter with the Pharisees:
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Jesus was speaking about blindness to God’s blessings and presence in the world – much like Adam and Eve.
Their eyes were opened but their spirits were closed.
They could now see Good and Evil, but their eyes were now closed to the “very Good” that God has created.
And perhaps that is why Genesis says that what God has created was “very good” and not just good.
Evil can hide the good, but it cannot destroy the very good that God has created, but only through faith can we see that.
Jesus came to restore God’s very good creation, which is why John’s Gospel begins with the same words as Genesis – In the beginning!
Like God creating Adam from the dust of the ground, Jesus creates new life for the blind man through the dust on the ground.
The new life that Jesus now offers is not Very Good – but Perfect!
That restoring work of God comes through his light opening our eyes to sin.
We heard that also in our reading from Paul to the Ephesians:
Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; (Ephesians 5:8-14)
It’s not a nice or easy thing to have our sin revealed.
It’s like walking from a dark room into the sunlight – and your eyes hurt – you can’t open them fully.
The darkness still tries to hang on for dear life as your eyes try to close and stop the light from breaking in.
And that’s because Satan and evil are trying desperately to hang on to prevent you from having the light of Christ enter with the grace of God.
Jesus’ light breaks the hold of sin through forgiveness.
But it first opens our eyes to see that sin which can be a very painful process, as it was for the demons.
As Paul said, it can be shameful.
And so we try hard to hide our sin just as Adam and Eve tried to hide their shame and nakedness from God by hiding.
But God comes in not to punish but to love and forgive us.
We hear in Genesis that God removed the pitiful effort of Adam and Eve’s fig leaves and made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
Sin is no small thing in our lives.
It blinds us to God’s grace and allows sin to do damaging work in our lives particularly through guilt and shame.
Jesus didn’t concern himself about who sinned that this man was born blind;
He didn’t come to judge or condemn but to forgive.
And there is no greater freedom than hearing that our sins are forgiven.
And there is no greater prison that being trapped in sin.
God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world but to save the world through him.
So allow Jesus to open your eyes today;
Firstly to see your sin so you can confess it and not hide it.
But then to allow your eyes to see and experience the freedom of sins forgiven in the grace and mercy of God, and the Perfect life in heaven that God has prepared for his children.

Not Very Good – Perfect!