Faith United Methodist Church
March 30, 2014
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Rev. Krista-Beth Atwood
Scripture: John 9:1-41
Prayer of Illumination:
The Word made flesh is the light of the world, shining on us each and every day of our lives. May we hear the word, see the light, and bear fruit as children of light. Amen.
Sermon: 20-20 Vision
Let’s start with a story. It’s one I may have told before, but I like it: One night an Admiral on a US Navy Battleship ordered a certain course. The navigation officer, seeing a light in the distance, reported that the battleship now seemed to be on a collision course with another ship. Not liking that, the Admiral ordered his radio officer to send a message to the oncoming ship that it should change course ten degrees to the south.
After two more unsuccessful exchanges, the Admiral ~ now quite furious ~ came thundering into the radio control room, grabbed the microphone and bellowed into it, ‘Do you know that you are talking to an Admiral in the United States Navy?’ After a brief moment of silence, the even-tempered reply came back, ‘Sir, do you know that you are talking to the lighthouse?’
Sometimes our eyes play tricks on us, especially in the dark. What we think we see is, in fact, something completely different. So we can’t be too hard on the Admiral. We all, at times, have trouble seeing in the dark. It takes our eyes a while to adjust. And we’ve probably all had the experience of something looking totally different when the lights go out. Walking into the laundry room in the dark, suddenly my dress drying on the clothes rack takes on ghostly proportions. Even the bravest among us sometimes gets spooked by the dark.
In the Gospel of John, in at least a couple different places, Jesus says to the disciples and those gathered around him, “I am the light of the world.” In fact, in John chapter 8, Jesus says, as Eugene Peterson renders it in The Message, “No one who follows me stumbles around in darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” And that Jesus describes himself that way should not be a surprise to us. Light is used as a metaphor throughout the Bible. Psalm 18 celebrates, “You will light my lamp; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” Psalm 27 affirms, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Creation itself begins with light.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ promised coming, presence and resurrection are described in terms of light. We remember how the glory of the Lord shone to the shepherds. The Magi were guided by a star. The prologue to the Gospel of John tells us, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…” In Matthew’s version of the resurrection, the angel that appears at the tomb is described as appearing like lightening. At the end of Lent we celebrate that the darkness of death is overcome by the light of the world.
And there are other kinds of darkness besides the darkness that we find in the night sky, right? Darkness that not even the neon lights of the Vegas strip can vanquish. Darkness that descends in the form of fear or hate or prejudice. Darkness that leaves us feeling worthless and helpless, without a clear path.
In John chapter 9 we find a man, blind from birth, begging on the street corner just as he always had done. As the preacher Barbara Brown Taylor describes the situation, “There he is, just minding his own tin cup business when the light of the world comes along and opens his eyes…” Like turning on a lamp in the middle of the night, I wonder if that first glimpse of light was painful. This man didn’t ask to be healed, didn’t ask to be brought from the darkness to the light ~ he probably didn’t even think it was possible ~ yet Jesus brought light to the dark places in his life. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
So, what do you think? Are there dark places in your life? We may not have been born blind, but we probably all have places where Jesus’ light could stand to shine. Frederick Streets, writing for The Christian Century, suggests, “When a light is turned on in a room, it enhances our ability to see what is there, but it does not change the character of what is in the room…God’s light as given through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals not only what is present but also offers the possibility of change – of hope, renewal and redemption.” The darkness of death is overcome by the light of the world.
Like the man born blind, we may not even think it’s possible. We may not want to make the change… to change our way of seeing the world. We may be comfortable with our tin cup. We may not want to admit that the threat we think we see in the distance is actually a lighthouse offering us guidance and safe passage. And when the light does shine, we may squint at first, not quite sure if we are ready to open our eyes to it.
But Jesus makes us a promise. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in. As we continue reading the story of the man born blind we see an amazing transformation. This man whose life was darkness was soon able to see things no one else could see. In a world of darkness he went from being blind to having 20 / 20 Vision. By the end of the chapter he proclaimed ~ to the protests of the Pharisees, his neighbors, even his parents ~ “Lord, I believe.” Lord, I believe.
Elsewhere in the Gospel stories we hear Jesus say to his disciples and followers, “You are the light of the world.” It seems to me that if Jesus is the light of the world it would follow ~ as those who bear his name ~ we would also be bearers of that light. As one pastor put it, “Christians are in the light shining business.”
Unlike the Admiral, who insisted the light yield to him, we are called to allow the light to guide us and illuminate our vision. Unlike the Vegas Strip, our light is not dependent on pipes and generators. I know the darkness can get pretty dark at times…. things like sin, fear, prejudice, and hate work real hard to keep us in the dark. Yet because Jesus is the light of the world, as Jesus’ followers, we are in the light shining business ~ not just for ourselves, but also for others ~ so that someone in darkness may see.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Lord, I believe! Will you say it with me… Lord, I believe. Thanks be to God who gives us the Light of the World. Amen!