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
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
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.
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
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
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
Now the man born blind is able to see ánd to speak
“Do you believe in the Son of Man? Lord, I
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
Lent literally means Spring, in my native language is the word for
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
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
“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.