So I am trying to buy a car and I go to the dealership and he brings the car out front for me to test drive. As he goes inside to fetch some paperwork I sit there in the drivers seat thinking: ‘what am I doing!?’
I have only just got here and been driving on the right hand side of the road for three weeks and here I am test driving a car – I was terrified.
Well, he comes back and directs me to drive out, I think, ‘ok, I will just drive around a few local streets and that will be fine.’ Then he says take a right onto the freeway. NOT THE FREEWAY!
I do what he tells me as I am concentrating so hard to drive OK that I cannot think of where else to go. So I drive on the freeway and as we drive he says – go on – open it up a bit, see how she runs. I think to myself: ‘No, I don’t want to open it up at all – 50 is fine for me thank you.’ Then he says get off the Freeway at the exit – and I am relieved, only to be taken back on again and back to the dealership that way.
We get there and park and I breathe a finally restful sigh. ‘How was the car?’ He asks.
I had no idea – I had not even seen the car for all the worry about driving it!
I could not see for looking!
There was another experience I had this week – my first paragliding lesson. I was trying to learn how to control the wing on the ground – lifting the wing, dropping the wing, lifting the wing, dropping the wing. I did that over and over and was just not getting it right – I could not see the wind it seems. After my lesson was over I sat in my car and watched an old guy who had set up his wing near the parking lot. He had it perfectly balanced, was not looking at it – and just seemed to be very still. It was almost zenlike watching him – he would take off and gently fly to a rock about 50 feet away, and then stop there – then go back to the first rock. He repeated this over and over again for about an hour, then just took off with a hawk who was hovering above him. It was amazing. He seemed to feel the wind – he could ‘see’ it in a way I could not.
We are thinking about blindness and sight today.
I was asked in the Gospel preview meeting whether this story was about a man born blind or whether it was about another kind of ‘spiritual’ blindness this week. I answered, ‘it is absolutely about both’.
It is an interesting story – and it starts with a question by the disciples about cause and effect. In their world view, a person who suffered an illness had obviously done something to deserve it. They were confused by this man therefore, as he was ‘born’ blind. They asked Jesus whose sin was being punished – this man or his parents – because that was the only way they could think about it. Jesus said neither – there is another option – this man’s blindness has something to teach you about God. He then proceeded to heal him.
The healing was not the end of the story though – after that the man born blind encountered some Pharisees who were indignant that Jesus should have performed this miracle on the Sabbath. They kept on questioning the man born blind – almost not seeing him in the middle of their anger and the infringement of their religious laws.
You see the concept of the Sabbath was that a day should be taken to thank God for creation – and to acknowledge the need for rest. It was a day to focus on the divine – over time specific rules had developed that meant people could not do any work of any kind on that day – and Jesus making mud and healing this man was considered work. No matter that the Pharisees were missing the very act of the God who they wished to worship on the Sabbath.
The man born blind remarks on this – teaching them about the nature of divine action in the person of Jesus and they get angry at him. They think he is over stepping the mark and insulting them so they cast him out of the synagogue.
Jesus finds him and talks to him. He asks him whether he believes in the Son of Man – and the man born blind agrees that he does. He can now fully see. Finally some Pharisees overhear Jesus making a comment about them being blind – and they argue with him. He makes the point clear at the end – that because they claim to be fully sighted (spiritually) they have committed a sin – because they could not see this man.
You see their treatment of him reflected the fact that the disciples had cited at the start of the story – the man must be a sinner to have been born blind – it was their way of ‘dehumanising’ him, so they did not have to look at him.
Jesus sees the person – not the problem – they only saw the problem and were blind to the person.
So the man born blind could finally see, and the Pharisees who claimed they could see were in fact blind.
Who is it that we do not see today? With whom do we see only the problem and not the person? We sometimes look at alcoholics or drug addicts and say, look, they are responsible for their actions – so I can write them off. Or we look at people with other problems, or perhaps illegal immigrants an see the problem but not the person.
The miracle that Jesus performed flowed from him seeing the person, not the problem – can we see the people at the heart of these problems and therefore release a miracle today?
Then there is the question of communal vision – we need a vision as a community in order to be able to work together for God in this place.
Does our vision include seeing the person rather than the problem? I have been very impressed in seeing the charity Home and Hope functioning here, because the volunteers I have seen don’t ask how the families became homeless. The volunteers see the people, not the problem they face. It is an example of a divine way of seeing issues and I am glad that we have this charity here and we are able to participate in it in this way.
As you get to know me and I get to know you we will begin to see each other more clearly, and I hope build a vision together. I am not sure exactly what that will be, but I hope it will include trying to see the person rather than the problem.
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