[This message was preached at The Gathering Worship service, September 23, 2012, at First Christian Church of Adrian.]
John 9:1-12 CEB
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”
Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.
The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”
But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”
So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”
He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the Pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
They asked, “Where is this man?”
He replied, “I don’t know.”
There is a classic Bible verse that I love: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” It’s John 8:12. Jesus is speaking, promising us light in our life. He echoes that in today’s scripture reading from John 9. I am the light of the world… it’s a lovely sentiment. I imagine it on a poster of the sun rising over the ocean; there are birds flying on the right, and on the left are the words, “I am the light of the world.”
So here’s a question. If Jesus is the light of the world, why does it happen so often that we seem to be walking in the dark. The blind man in our scripture reading literally walked in the dark every day of his life. Thankfully most of us do not have to suffer that kind of disability. But in a figurative sense, we often find ourselves walking in the dark. If you lose your job, it feels like you are walking in the dark. If a close friend dies, it feels like you are walking in the dark. If an illness strikes you or someone in your home, it feels like you are walking in the dark. What do I do? Where do I go? How will I find help? At times like this we can easily feel as though we are walking in the dark. But Jesus said he would bring us light. How do we reconcile this?
Last Thursday I attended a caregiver conference sponsored by the Lenawee Department on Aging. There were speakers, vendors, massages, and great food. The typical attendee was a woman caring for a family member with dementia. (Although we learned that 40 percent of caregivers today are men.) I attended to listen, learn and get a window into these things so that I can be a better pastor for my parishioners. In story after story, person after person, everyone of them could echo what we are talking about. Someone they love is sick, and they are doing their best to take care of them, but often it feels like they are walking in the dark, not knowing which way to go forward.
I love this healing story from the Gospels. Right at the beginning, it says that Jesus saw the blind man. I wonder how many people walked by him without seeing him; after a while, a blind beggar becomes part of the landscape. But Jesus saw him and put a slice of his light on him. The healing itself has echoes from the creation story where God reaches down and makes a human being out of the mud of the earth. So Jesus makes mud, smears it on the man’s eyes, and mends a bit of God’s creation with a new act of creating sight. He can do this because he is the light of the world.
I want to share with you what I have learned about having this light from Jesus even as we walk in the dark. I love to walk, and I walk every day, usually in the mornings around dawn. But there are some days when I must be somewhere early, and I have to walk well before dawn. And since I walk on the Kiwanis Trail, on those early mornings all I have to walk by is the stars. I am walking in the dark. But I have discovered a cool thing: even when all you have to walk by is starlight, it is enough light to see. You have to be patient and wait for your eyes to adjust, but you can see. You can’t see too far up the trail, but you can see far enough to make your way along. I have learned that it is possible to walk in the dark.
This has made me reconsider what the light of Christ is like in our lives. Christ’s light is not like the sun in the sky at noon, taking away all shadows and doubts. The light Jesus brings may be more like starlight: gentle, subtle and unobtrusive. You have to be patient and allow you eyes to adjust to it, but there is enough light for you to see the few steps in front of you that you need at the time. This is how we can have the light of Christ and walk in the dark at the same time.
I will end this message with a prayer I often say in the mornings. It was written by Thomas Merton: “MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Let this be your prayer each day as you walk in the dark with the light of Christ to guide you. Amen.