“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works 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.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.” John 9:1-12 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/jhn.9.2-12.NIV
John 9:1-12 NIV
I’ve been incredibly frustrated the last few days. Strangely enough, it’s possible that in spite of all the extra challenges and chores the pandemic has brought with it, I’ve been the least frustrated among the church staff over the course of the last year and a half. (Is that quantitatively verifiable?) But the last few days, as we are now receiving new info (again) about a new strain of the virus (again) and how the thing is worse than we thought (again) and we are most likely moving back to masks in all public spaces (again…you get it), ugh I’m so over it. I’m frustrated with people on both extreme ends of the spectrum of the mask/precaution debate, annoyed with the lack of nuance in all discussions related to anything geopolitical, and a little anxious about what lingering, long-term ripple effects we will feel in the church for years to come as a result of all this.
Ugh, and I’m tired of talking about it. Recently I was sitting at a cafe, and at least one other table at any given moment was talking about masks and vaccines. But here I am, ALSO talking about it. So there you go.
The disciples ??
I think, in this story, it’s easy to identify with the disciples. The apostles were looking for some clarity. Obviously somebody did something wrong for this man to be in this state. They wanted to know who to blame. They wanted to get the inside scoop from the guy in charge. They had seen Jesus do miracles before, so they knew He was powerful, and they probably knew He could heal this person. But this passage doesn’t say they were focused on a solution, but on the problem. What did he do to get himself into this situation? Is the Church (or me personally) like the disciples? Are we pointing fingers? Are we seeing a problem that is so big and frustrating that it could make ministry/life difficult? Are we asking the Creator of the universe logistical questions?
The blind man ??
But it’s possible that the blind man is the better metaphor for us. Jesus didn’t need the mud to heal that man. But he chose to use it, and then to give the patient a task to complete in faith before giving him the healing. This thing is our reality. We may or may not know why we are in this particular reality, but it doesn’t really matter, because we are in it. The mud is on our eyes, and we still can’t see. The situation that started all of this is still happening, we are still blind/masked, and now we also have gross mud on our eyes. Is it possible that the current state of our society and the state of the Church – IS THE MUD? Is it possible that Jesus is choosing to use this all to bring about a change in us that will be transformational to what our life and the life of the Church will be going forward?
Our only real options are: listen to the one who is putting mud on our eyes, or don’t. That guy told us to love God with all our heart. That guy told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That guy said to take heart, because He has overcome the world. That guy’s example was to serve the people who are below us, to have compassion on the people who don’t deserve it, and to pray for those who persecute us. That guy told the blind man to walk to the Pool of Siloam and wash the mud off his eyes. The blind man listened. So the obvious question is: are we listening?
I watched a recent Matt Chandler sermon, he began like this:
“For $18 I toured the ruins of the colosseum. The Roman Empire ruled the known world from India to England for 1500 years. The USA is a baby. It’s still in diapers. Has to have it’s mom go with it. 1500 years, ROME! And they bent their face to destroy us. They dipped us in oil and caught us on fire. They fed us to lions. They made it illegal for us to participate in the economic resourcing and buildout of the empire. We were called cannibals, we were misrepresented, we were imprisoned, our stuff was plundered, and there was no bill of rights, there was no protection, there was no one to ascribe to. And then in 2015, a pastor from a part of the world they didn’t know existed paid $18 to walk through their ruins. Caesar has no authority over me, but by the Grace of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul still speaks and shapes and forms me. This is why I’m saying: I think we’re built for a moment like this. I want to infuse some courage into you for this moment we find ourselves in that really can seem discombobulating . There’s a lot of evangelicals trying to whip you up into being terrified, and I’m just here to tell you: don’t be.”
Take heart, y’all. We can do this, together. We can abide. We can strap that mask on our faces. We can innovate. We can continue to do the work of connecting with people in hopes of keeping them connected to God and His Church. We can love and pray for people on extreme ends of the geopolitical spectrum who say we are doing too much or too little. We were made for a time like this. Let’s keep walking, mud caked on our eyes, toward the pool.