Monday, March 31, 2014

Impressions on a Sunday

Sunday's sermon at St. Thomas was different than the normal fare.  Instead of the usual exegesis of a Scriptural passage with a look at how such Scripture is relevant to us in 21st Century USA, Fr. Varas decided to keep it simple: talk briefly about the Gospel of John, the language of John's Gospel and then invite us to listen, again, to this very lengthy passage in which we hear the story of Jesus giving the blind man his sight.  

I have written a couple of times on the blind man receiving his sight, and the ridiculousness that ensues from there with people unwilling to believe that this is the same formerly blind beggar.  The Pharisees demand to know who gave him his sight and how did this happen.  He tells them the whole story of how Jesus spat on the ground, made mud, spread it over his eyes, and then told him to go wash off the mud at the River Siloam (which means "Sent").  The Pharisees demand that his parents tell them the REAL truth about what happened to their son.  Even they say, "I don't know.  He was blind, and now he sees.  His old enough to answer for himself."  Again the Pharisees badger this guy, and when he asks them, "Do you want to become his disciples?" well.... it starts to get ugly:

Then they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."  They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out. 

To put some historical context on this: the Johannine community, to whom this Gospel was written, were primed to be sensative to this idea that the disciples of Moses would drive out a man who professed that Jesus did Godly works.  This was the tension occuring at the time, 100CE, when this Gospel was written.   What was interesting is that in the next passage, Jesus goes to find the blind man who had been turned out for professing what Jesus had done for him:

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind."  Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, "We see,' your sin remains. 

Thinking on this passage in my own life, it comes at a time of discernment and when I am attempting to follow a call which I think is a call to ordained priesthood.   And I think about what that has cost me so far: it has strained some friendships, and it has resulted in me having to leave behind the church community where many had discerned my call before I even uttered a word about it to anyone.  Heck, the church's discernment committee is made up of many people I have been with in Education for Ministry.  And yet, because of prejudice against openly-gay and partnered people entering "the process," I have been forced to leave.   All of this at a time when, in EfM, we've been reading a book called, "Living on the Border of the Holy," which is about reclaiming the power of priesthood among the laity.  The book also highlights many of the dysfunctions and pitfalls that ordained priests of today find themselves having to struggle with as they live out their own priesthood.  So much of the book talked about the sin of excluding those who are openly-gay and partnered to the ordained, or as the author preferred, the "sacramental" priesthood.  Reading that was like somebody tore the scab off my wound as I replayed some of the discussion I had with the bishop of Florida in Jacksonville.

A line from the First Samuel reading captured a core belief that I have about God:

"...the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

I can only hope that one day the "mortals" who are blind will see as God does: looking and studying the heart, and not my flattop or what I might do in the bedroom. 

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