One of the things exposed about us in the past few weeks is our vulnerability. We don’t like feeling that way. The unemployment rate is rising causing the fear of losing health insurance and paying the rent to leave us feeling very vulnerable. Wearing masks and continuing to social distance seems to be the best we can do for now to keep the pandemic at a further distance. We still feel vulnerable because we can’t do more to gain control over our lives. We don’t like feeling vulnerable.
One way we can use to chase away these unwanted fears is denial. This is just a political hoax in an election year. Somebody else will get sick, not me. Somebody else will die, not me. Denial in the face of a dangerous reality isn’t very helpful. Another approach to gain control is violence. We scream at those forcing us to shelter in place. We walk around with our guns on display. We refuse to wear masks. These actions might help us feel more powerful and in control but reality hasn’t changed, we are still vulnerable.
The disciples were feeling vulnerable in the above reading. Jesus had just told them that he would be leaving them. He predicted their betrayal. Jesus was speaking about his upcoming death. Life for the disciples was going to change, drastically.
Jesus comforted them by saying that in the Father’s house there are many rooms. Jesus also told them he was going to prepare a place for them so that they could be with him. These words of comfort are why this reading is often used at funeral services. However, Jesus wasn’t going away to hang drywall and do landscaping. The Father’s house is more than a condo. Father’s house implied household, being part of the family. The ongoing and anxious moments taking place were how Jesus was preparing the way for us to have a secure place in the Father’s house, family. In their vulnerability and in ours, is the security of knowing we are a part of the Father’s house.
One of the disciples, Philip, still needed more reassurance. He wanted to see God. Jesus’ reply was that because of their unity, to see Jesus is to see the Father as well. What does Jesus show us about God to us who are so vulnerable? We see compassion…empathy…willingness to share our vulnerability…willingness to face death. What we see about God, the Father, is love in action. What we see in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are the great lengths that the Father will go to bring us into his household and give us a resurrected life no longer vulnerable.
These days we feel vulnerable. We don’t like it at all. While we live in denial, yell at each other and put others at risk to claim some sense of control, nothing has changed. We are still vulnerable. This is why Jesus’ words are so important for us to hear. Knowing that we have a secure place in the Father’s house, we can allow ourselves to feel vulnerable. We can allow ourselves to see the vulnerability of others too. We can emulate Jesus’ compassion and empathy. We can point to Jesus so that others can also recognize God’s presence in their vulnerability.
The past week has been a wild ride with the Covid-19 leading the way. Millions of people are in a lock down type situation. Traveling outside of the country is restricted. Toilet paper, guns and ammunition are selling out (interesting how these are the items we consider the most critical). Retired, I haven’t had the guts to look at my investments and savings. Political leadership has ranged from bold to fault finding, denial and the usual lies. A few senators have shown an uncanny ability to time the market sell off. Depending upon your ideology, the virus is a great threat or nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of things. Conspiracy theories are making unsubstantiated claims about the cause of the pandemic. Stores and business are closing down to reduce spread of the virus while people are partying on the beaches in Florida (only to increase the spread of the virus when they return home). So the question for this morning is about blindness and having the sight to recognize the truth and ultimately perceive what God is asking and calling the church to be in these times.
The Gospel reading from John is heavily into the contradictions of light and darkness, blindness and sight. Jesus gave sight to a man blind from birth. The disciples wanted to know the cause of the blindness; what sin had he or his parents committed before his birth. The focus quickly shifted to Jesus and his identity since only God could do this kind of miracle. The Pharisees got involved because Jesus did this on the Sabbath which made him a sinner. The healed man was questioned as well as his parents. Insults were hurled and accusations of being a sinner were made. The healed man was thrown out of the synagogue and lectured over who he called a sinner. Jesus came to the man and revealed his identity as ‘Son of Man’ and the man worshiped him. Pharisees questioned Jesus of their blindness. He responded, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,’ your sin remains.
So where does the church and the Gospel begin to fit in all of this? In the reading, Jesus was revealed as a source of healing as well as the presence of God in the world. He also drew a line between light and darkness, blindness and sight. What catches my attention was how the people responded. Rather than celebrate with the man what Jesus had done for him, they protected power structures and searched for a sin to label and discredit Jesus.
The church is a place where light shines on human darkness. In the light, truth needs to be held up against the fault finding, disinformation and false conspiracies. Truth needs to stand against ideology and politics. Covid-19 is a virus that we need to work together as a nation and world to stop in order to reduce the number of people who will die from it. Truth is what will allow this to happen.
The church is a place that keeps its sight on Christ who brings healing. Healing needs to be brought to our divisions. The focus of healing needs to be brought not just for the well connected but to the weak and powerless. The biggest sin in the reading was refusing to see Jesus at work. Today the challenge is to understand that we are called to be different from the world so healing may be allowed to happen and not stifled.
Last week was a wild one. Next week will be the same. So let the light of truth be seen. Keep the focus on Jesus bringing healing into this world.