Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

From Darkness To Light

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 26 March 2017, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, by the Rev. Dr. Tjeerd de Boer. The scripture readings that day were John 9:1-41.

By reading this chapter of the Gospel, according to John we continue our journey with Jesus through the wilderness, this fourth Sunday of Lent.
John chapter 9 is like a sermon, a well-structured sermon in three parts: introduction-elaboration-application.

It is about change/conversion – confrontation – confession/conclusion.

John 9 is a very clear and explicit sermon about darkness and light,
about a journey from dark and light, individual and communal, literal and spiritual, even theological.

It is much more than a sermon: we are witnesses, we are part, of a drama – a real bibliodrama - in seven scenes

First scene 1-7 (6-7) first meeting and healing
Second scene 8-12 crowd
Third scene 13-17 interrogation
Fourth scene 18-23 unbelief
Fifth scene 24-34 second interrogation
Sixth scene 35-38 second meeting
Seventh scene 39-41 conclusion

This drama is the account, the report, of a sign, one of (seven) signs with which the Gospel shows us who Jesus is, the Christ, the Light of the World, the Son of Man, who saves a wedding, feeds the hungry, heals the sick, raises the dead.

It, apparently, is a simple message, Jesus has eyes for the needy, for the marginalized, the poor, he sees this blind beggar, sitting on the street.
He sees, reflects (just because of the theological questions his disciples are asking him) and then he immediately acts,
He, the Christ, anoints and he sends – it is like the Great Commandment and the Great Commission in one – sharing love to God and this fellow man, making him a disciple, baptizing him and teaching him.

See-reflect-act are the main parts of this sermon also: the first part is about Jesus’ seeing, Jesus who séés, the needy, the poor, it is Jesus who sees, all of us, all of us, as we are here, visually healthy and handicapped, young and old, rich and poor, sinners and saints alike.

This a story about a blind beggar, a man born blind, a poor man

The Greek word for poor, ptochos, is a strong word, a strong image, and could be translated as beggar: the poor are the bent over, the cowered, the crouched -  literally the ones who ask to receive, who are having this need, all kinds of need, the poor are the needy, the marginalized.

What dependency, what poverty really is, and really means, we could and should learn from the poor and with the poor themselves (and there are many poor around us, on the streets of Hong Kong). From them we could learn what it is to be dependent on the good will, the grace, of others.

But poverty, in the sense of dependency, is also an option, a way of life, the first step on the way of Jesus, on the way to the Kingdom of God – as the (first and all following) disciples know, leaving all they had behind.

Of God, we depend, like the poor.
Poverty is our option, because poverty it is God’s option, “God’s preferential option” (confirmed, even by the Pope and the WCC, it has become almost an article of our creed)

The poor, whoever they are, the needy, the blind, the poor in spirit, are blessed because they – we – learned how to depend on God, and God’s grace.

That is precisely what we learn here: Jesus is the Light the World, the Son of Man, because he comes to see all of us, without any exception

It is perhaps therefore that the main part of this sermon is theological: reflection, or better: discussion, debate, about sin – not about individual sin, but about the sin of all, the sin of broken relationships – with God, with others, with ourselves, with the world,
It is about God who listens to sinners, listens to each and every one of us

We should not, of course not, ask why this beggar is blind,
we should ask why this man born blind (and his parents) is being been cursed and marginalized, is poor and begging.
We should, before all, ask why there is (still) poverty and lack of access to education and work and healthcare and proper housing for all, why there is violence and hatred, why oppression and persecution.

Jesus does practice what he teaches and preaches: he sees, anoints and heals. When Jesus spreads mud on the eyes of the blind beggar, it is as anointing him (it is a similar verb, in Greek).
Meeting Jesus, the Christ, means being anointed and being healed
Meeting Jesus is encountering the divine

The man born blind is being seen, anointed and sent
Jesus is the first one who is taking him seriously, he speaks to him directly, personally, individually,
he speaks tó him, instead of abóut him (as others do)

Now the man born blind is able to see ánd to speak for himself
“Do you believe in the Son of Man? Lord, I believe !”

The third and conclusive part of the sermon is action: public confession
and worship, discipleship and service: the beginning of a new life –

which is very clearly the message for all around this new disciple – in that wilderness around him there are many more blind people to be healed

We are on our journey through Lent, these weeks, these forty days and forty nights of reflection and of preparation of the things to come, this journey with Jesus, commemorating all what suffered, on his journey to the cross
 -this journey through the wilderness.

Lent literally means Spring, in my native language is the word for Spring (lente)

Lent is also reflecting and preparing for the new beginning of life, for Easter, and the feast of Resurrection, of the Son of Man, the Anointed One, Jesus the Christ who is going ahead of us to the promised land, the Kingdom of God, where all are being seen, and healed, where there is place for sinners and saints alike.

Therefore, we know and we trust, that, if we experience sorrow and pain, reverse or despair, sadness or perhaps anger and exclusion, on our way through the darkness, there is someone who see us, takes our hand, anoints us and goes with us to the light that shines and breaks through the darkness.

We are invited to share – to write down the ways and the people who helped to encounter the divine, the Son of Man, the Anointed, Jesus the Christ – an important reflection: who helped (saw, heard, inspired, mediated) us in our faith?  Our parents, children, a friend, a brother, a sister, a pastor, a poor, a neighbor, a colleague?

Our journey is always a journey in community, in communion with others, in sharing the light.
We are not supposed to keep the light for ourselves, we are not supposed to blind ourselves with the light.

Being the light of the world, we should put our lamp on the lampstand to give light to all in the house (Matthew 5 : 14-16), to the whole human race (as we sang), to the whole city, to this city of Hong Kong, and in particular today, Election Day.

Being light of the world we should to see going  what’s going on (as we prayed), to see the poor and the rich, and the blind and the disabled, the oppressors and the oppressed, the powerful and powerless, sinners and saints alike, to see the signs of our time

“Let our light shine before others, so that they may see good works and give glory to our Father!”

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, March 26, 2017

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