1 Samuel 16:1-13       John 9:1-41


How about those Pharisees!  So blind that all they could handle were the rules… misperceptions…stereotypes…and habits  that had been cooked up over the years.

Yep….rules that even said it was wrong to make mud on the Sabbath.  That was deemed “work.”  Because of this rule…they said… Jesus was wrong in healing a blind man…an innocent man who had been blind from birth.  Another rule forbade healing on the Sabbath.  And…a third rule said it was wrong to put spittle on eyelids.

Stereotypes and misperceptions caused them to believe that it was sin that blinded the man.

In their own blindness…they could not see the grace of God in Jesus’ actions.  In their spiritual blindness…they actually thought they were following God.  Notice that in your pew Bibles the heading for part of this chapter from John is the words “spiritual blindness.”  Have you ever wondered how much of that spiritual blindness is out there?

Samuel had a similar problem.  Clearly….he followed God’s command to go to Bethlehem…to Jesse’s family…and to designate a new king for Israel…a king that God would select.  However…Samuel…too…was blind.  He was taken by the outward appearances of Eliab.  He was good looking and tall.  Recent research suggests that those are two characteristics common among male leaders.

God…however…was able to see beyond the packaging.  He could see the heart.  Without loudly saying so…he suggested that Samuel might want to do the same.

What about the blind man?  He’s the other main character in these stories today?

He lost his blindness…he became able to see…in two ways…one immediate…and one progressively.

For the blind man…the physical ability to see came immediately.  As soon as he washed the mud off in the pool the man’s eyes were opened to his surroundings.  He could see people…buildings… objects.  He could discern colors.  All of his life to that time he had been in physical darkness.

His ability to truly see Jesus came a bit more slowly.  When first confronted by the Pharisees he told them that the man called Jesus had changed him.  Another question from the Pharisees…asking for his opinion of Jesus…caused the formerly blind man to call him a “prophet”.  A prophet is one who brings God’s message to others.   Finally…when he was fully cured…the formerly blind man confessed Jesus as the Son of God…not just to Jesus…but to any who would listen.

This progressive change in thinking…in feeling…in ability to see…happened for this man in one day.  For others it may take years to go from being a blind skeptic to an active believer.  Not everyone is born into a believing family.  I’m one of those who was slow to see.

Not everyone has a Damascus Road experience like Paul had.

We United Methodists believe that the sacrament  of the Lord’s Supper that we celebrate monthly is a gift from God to the whole body called the church…to form us…just like Christ…into ministry to the world…including those who are blind…both physically and spiritually.  Through the Lord’s Supper and all of Christian teaching and activity the Holy Spirit works to shape our own moral and ethical lives…to complete the conversion…so that we grow in personal and social holiness and are empowered to work for healing…compassion…reconciliation…justice and peace.  That prevenient grace that Paul and John Wesley said was in all of humanity at birth is nurtured and grown in many ways…including meeting at the Lord’s Table…Bible study…worship and fellowship…until it shows itself in a Christian life.

Remember today…and every day…that Christ was sent to the hurting…the oppressed…those held captive.  He associated with those who were stigmatized and despised.  The heritage of the United Methodist Church is one of similar discipleship.  From concern by the Holy Club…formed by John Wesley and his fellow Oxford students…for ministry to the imprisoned…through care of the sick by the Methodist societies…to Wesley’s own lifelong giving away of most of his money…the early Wesleyan movement sought to ease the suffering.

Wesley made the linkage clear.  He wrote, “The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness.”  By the early twentieth century, Methodists had begun to realize that holy living meant even more than acts of charity.  Beginning with the Social Creed, American Methodists started to point out injustices caused by economic…social…and political structures and to call for the reform of these structures.  This continues today.

We are expected to be active participants… not sit-on-the-sideline spectators.

To carry out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ…our Book of Discipline states that the church is to “send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel.”  We are to go out…and through our actions and our words…do as Jesus did… open the eyes of those who are blind to His love and grace.

How are we doing?

Here are a couple pieces of data to chew on.

According to Giving USA…based on our national tax reports…across America only two percent of our gross income is given to all charities…that includes places of worship…all of which teach tithing in some form.

According to the non-profit, non-partisan Corporation for National and Community Service…in South Carolina…only 23-percent of our population volunteers to serve in some way…and those individuals give an average of 153 hours of service per year.  There are 168 hours in a week.

Following the end of Congressional debate on the proposed American Health Care Act this week…most of the talking heads…the politicians…pundits and journalists…were talking about which political leaders won or lost…which persons are to blame or to be credited…what the role of government should be.  There was very little conversation about finding a solution that cares for God’s people.

Let us remember that our time…our talent…and our resources…are gifts from God.  Though they belong to God those gifts are freely given to each of us and to our church family to be stewarded for God.  Stewarding means sharing in ways that takes Christ to the hurting…not keeping those gifts to ourselves…for our own use… today…or in the future.

Who and where are the spiritually blind?

Who and where are those physically blind like the man Jesus cured?

The blind are just outside our doors.

The blind are where we have our morning coffee.

The blind are throughout this community… state…nation and world…in seclusion and right in front of us…in positions as unknown people and in positions as well known leaders.

Let us use our God-given time…talent and treasure to help the blind…see Jesus in us.