Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday in Lent (March 19, 2017)

JOHN 9:1-7,13-17,34-39


In the name + of Jesus.

     We are not good judges of things, no matter how much we think we are.  We assume we know the whole story.  We assume we know all the facts, and that the facts we know are correct.  And then we try to figure out why bad things happen.  Many people assume that karma explains much of the bad that goes on in our lives.  But God does not work by karma.  God is not looking to get even with you.  The reason people are so willing to accept that God works by karma—that God repays you with something bad because of something bad you have done—is because we all know we have done bad things.  So we start to believe that every stubbed toe, every paper cut, and every car accident is because of karma—because God needs to get even with us.
     Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39)  Those who think they can see why God does things are blind.  They don't know.  They live by assumptions and guesses.  If you want to know what God has done regarding all the bad things you have done, Jesus enlightens you.  Jesus did not come to earth to get even with you.  Jesus came to take your sins and guilt from you.  Jesus accepted the blame for every bad deed, every foul word, and every jealous thought you have had, and he carried it to the cross to receive the penalty due for them.  At the cross, Jesus accepted all of God's wrath and curse for every sin committed.  The punishment for your sins is not that you slam your finger in a door or smack your head on the corner of a cabinet; it is that Jesus had a crown of thorns on his head and his wrists nailed to a cross where he suffered and died for you.  So, God is not angry with you; he loves you.  And God is not getting even with you.  If your sins are forgiven, there is no reason for revenge or settling scores.  Your sins are pardoned.  That is God's judgment.  You are not blind to that, because God has revealed it to you.
     Still, the idea of karma appeals to people.  Jesus' disciples seemed to think that God worked by karma.  They saw at the gate of a temple a blind man begging for alms, so they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3)
     Now, to be sure, sometimes we suffer the consequences of our sins and the connection is not hard to make.  If you smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, do not be surprised if you get lung cancer or emphysema.  But sometimes bad things happen for no apparent reason.  When we try to make judgments about those reasons, we are blindly guessing at why these things happened.  We think we see, but we don't.  We don't know.  We assume.  We guess.  And we are often wrong.  The reason is this: because we live in a sinful, broken world, and we also are sinful and broken.  When the disciples wondered why the man they saw was born blind, Jesus revealed the answer in his case: “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)  
     Jesus opens our eyes to see God's salvation.  And so Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind.  He spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva.  Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” (John 9:6-7)   The first time God ever played in the dirt, he made Adam.  He formed a perfect man and gave him life.  Jesus repeats the creative process, giving sight to the blind man and restoring what was broken.  Jesus opens your eyes to see that his salvation is more than just the forgiveness of your sins.  As significant as it is that your guilt has been removed from you, Jesus does more.  Jesus removes every trace of sin.  He reconciles us to his Father, and he restores what sin has corrupted and marred.  When Jesus delivers us from this world, we know that we will be found to be worthy of eternal life; for Jesus has removed all sin from us.  And we will find that our bodies will be glorified with perfection.  In heaven, there will be no corrective lenses or hearing aids, no wheelchairs, no prescription drugs, and not even Kleenex.  All things broken will be restored.  All the redeemed will be perfected.  And all joys will be everlasting.
     Jesus opens our eyes to see God's salvation.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees would not see it.  Even though they knew Jesus had healed this man, they found no joy in it.  They interrogated the man several times.  They did not delight in hearing of God's goodness; rather, they were looking to collect evidence against Jesus.  Jesus had not honored their customs because he had made mud and healed on the Sabbath.  The blind man, however, was overjoyed that God's salvation had touched him.  Finally, when the man confessed, “He is a prophet” (John 9:17), they excommunicated him.
     Jesus opens our eyes to see God's salvation.  The Pharisees remained hardened and blinded to it.  And they hated and banished anyone who saw Jesus as the Savior.  Jesus found the man who had been blind and assured him that being expelled from a building did not mean he had been expelled from the kingdom of God.  He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He—who had not actually seen Jesus until just this moment—answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38)   The man who was blind had his eyes opened not just to see Jesus' face, but to see Jesus as the one who redeems sinners, who reconciles God and men, and who restores all things.
     Jesus opens our eyes to see God's salvation, too.  He opens our eyes to know that our Father in heaven is good and merciful at all times, no matter what our senses tell us.  Jesus' disciples had wondered who had sinned—either the man or his parents—that he was born blind.  Likewise, the Pharisees, who did not even seem to know the man's name, were convinced he had been guilty of some horrendous sins because of his blind condition.  That is what we may perceive.  And chances are even the blind man had wondered over the years what he had done to deserve his blindness.  We probably feel the same way when we are struck with hardships.  We may also conclude that God is getting even with us because of our sins.  And that is why we are not good judges of such things.
     Jesus opens our eyes to see God's salvation.  Jesus reveals that our Father in heaven is good and merciful to us, no matter what would suggest otherwise.  God's goodness and mercy do not mean that we will be spared from hardship, sorrow, or pain.  Remember, this world is broken.  Bad things happen, even to Christians.  But even in the midst of bad things, we have this promise: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)  You may not know how it works for your good, but God's promise is that it does.  And your good and merciful Father in heaven remains good and merciful to you.  This is God's revelation so that you can see God's goodness and salvation are always yours.
     God's judgment is not according to karma; it is according to Jesus Christ who has taken all of God's wrath from you.  If God chooses to discipline you, it is to teach you not to love a broken, sinful world, but to long for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  It is then that the sinners who have been reconciled to God will finally be completely free from all the effects of sin.  For the redeemed, all things will be renewed.  All things will be restored.  All things will be right.  These are the blessings we long for, and this is the salvation Jesus supplies.  Jesus opens our eyes to see God's them.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.