Sermons That Work

Eddie Was the Extrovert…, Lent 4 (A) – 2008

March 02, 2008

Eddie was the extrovert in the community for the disabled in the assisted living unit. He always plunked himself down right in the middle of where the action was – in a chair by the mailboxes, at the entrance to the dining room, or right in front of the TV in the sitting room.

He knew everyone by name. “Good morning Miss Liddy. Your knees must be hurting you today.” “Hello there, Harry. Lydia was looking for you, and, my, but she was mad.” “Hello, Maxine, you got a letter today. Maybe it’s from that son of yours.” “Watch out, Charlie, someone spilled water there, and the floor might be slick.”

Eddie was blind. He was born that way. But he didn’t miss a trick. He saw more with his blindness than most of us see with our two good eyes. He saw with his ears, and his gut, and his heart. Sometimes “blind” is not really blind and “seeing” is not really sight.

All of us are born blind in one way or another. Some of us have blindness of body: a crippling disease, cancer, diabetes, or bad bones.

Some of us have blindness of heart, and that is a terrible blindness. The blind of heart can’t love another beyond a superficial level and usually can’t even love themselves. The blind of heart often live lives corroded with addictions to material things, possessions, and work, to cover up the empty hole.

And worst of all is blindness of the soul, which wraps all the rest of life in gloomy darkness.

What kind of blindness lives inside you?

Jesus notices our blindness. Jesus sees. Jesus invites us to see. Jesus invites us to see with our very blind eyes, with our wounds and brokenness. Jesus uses our weaknesses as grace. When tragedy of one form or another strikes us, we often ask why. “Why did this happen to me?” In today’s story the crowd also asks why. “Whose fault is this? What did they do wrong to deserve this?”

Jesus’ response is that the blindness was an opportunity for the works of God to be manifest. We look at our physical and mental blindness as a curse. And indeed Jesus does heal the blindness. Yet at the same time, the blindness is a door to grace. It is the sick who need the doctor. It is the blind who need to see. It is we who need the redemption, the transfiguration, the Burning Light.

“Manifest,” phaneroo in Greek, means to be revealed, to be seen, to be made visible. It is the same root as in “theophany,” a physical visionary experience of God, or “epiphany,” God revealed. It is the name of the Greek god, Phaeros, son of Helio, the sun god. It is a burning expression of light that conveys its own image.

Our call in life, our reason for being, is to make Christ manifest. Jesus is the image, the exact reflection of God. We are called to become the image of Jesus. We are to become like the Shroud of Turin. The shroud is believed by many to be the scorched, branded, burned image of the Light of Christ’s resurrection, an image left behind. We are the image left behind of Christ, called to be the burned, branded, reflected image. As we hymn together:

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

So let us manifest Jesus. Let us reveal, reflect, burn with the Light of Christ. Let us be manifest in every aspect of our lives. We come to church to be near the Light, to be touched by the Light, to see Jesus. Do not turn off that light when you go out the door. Think bigger. Think constant. Let God be manifest within you to others. Be a blinding light of God.

Light and dark, blindness and sight are nebulous mystical places. The saints often speak of the darkness of God; the closer one gets, the harder it is to see the form, the shapes, the definition. We know not to stare into the sun to prevent blindness. If you stare for a long time into a light bulb and then look at something else, it is blurred by the light. Look long enough into the light of Christ, and everyone around will carry the shadowed reflection of that light.

It is easy to see Jesus, to reflect Jesus, in the serenity of the church on Sunday. It is quite another to manifest Jesus when your feet hurt, when the kids are screaming, when the spouse is neglectful, when the budget groans, and when the traffic is jammed. But that is exactly where Jesus paused, stopped, saw, healed. Those ordinary places are the places of God’s work in us.

The Franciscan brothers in San Francisco are beautiful examples of transforming darkness into light, blindness into sight, making God manifest in the underbelly of humanity. These brothers are a lumpy, motley, wounded dozen men, beautiful in their humanity, all seeking the face of God in themselves and others. They see God in those to whom we are blind. They do not pass by as most of us do, but stop, and touch, and see, and heal, as did Jesus. These Franciscans are our Episcopal brothers. They show us how to be brothers and sisters to the world.

Each Franciscan has a ministry out there in the real world where God’s broken ones live. They hand out clean socks and underwear to the homeless. They cook and serve and get up to their elbows in dirty dishwater serving the street people meals. They visit the prostitutes in the brothel areas to be a listening ear of hope and unconditional love. They provide shelter for families whose loved ones are in the hospital and can’t afford motels. They run a crisis line outreach to the suicidal. They have a night ministry for those on the streets in despair. They offer Bible study to the homeless. They bring breakfast to the migrant workers waiting in the dark lines for day jobs. Their work is astounding, hidden, and holy. These brothers manifest God’s glory because they see the face of Christ in the most hidden of places, in the millions of faces.

Jesus plays a lot with the concept of blindness. There is an upside-down turning pirouette between the sighted that are blind and the blind that see. Jesus is like Copernicus, saying that things are not as they appear: the world is not flat, the earth is not the center around which all else revolves, and what we think is true often is not. The sighted are blind and the blinded see.

The Pharisees, who were like our clean white Sunday church-going, hymn-singing, altar-guild-serving, chairman of the vestry, committee leaders were not the ones Jesus loved most. He hung around with the outsiders. He loved the drunks, the sinners, the tax collectors, and prostitutes – those on the edges of society. The only ones Jesus ever expressed anger toward were those who thought they were good and had all the answers

The first step toward movement from blindness to sight is to realize we are blind. All of us are blind to one thing or another. Jesus wants us to see. Jesus wants us to pause, to stop, to notice what is right in front of us every day that we so blithely pass by on our way to work, to church, to home.

The blind man was given Jesus Eyes. When we truly see, we are given new eyes, new insight, new vision, new understanding. Jesus Eyes are not like the flat-seeing, self-centered world around us. Jesus Eyes are world shattering and paradigm changing. Jesus Eyes are often unwelcome and threatening. It can be lonely and frightening to have Jesus Eyes. There is a cost to Jesus Eyes. It always brings the cross, and with the cross comes transfiguration. God’s love is the laser light that cuts away our cataract blindness.

What needs to be turned upside down in your world? Where do you pass by when you need to stop and see Jesus? Where in your own brokenness can God’s glory be made manifest? How can you use your own weaknesses to become holy? And how can you see what is holy in what is broken around you, in yourself, and in others?

Let us pray for Jesus Eyes. Let us pray to see Jesus in each face we meet, each life we pass in this life. Let us pray to see God. Let us worship with our lives and make God manifest, as it says in the hymn: “God in man made manifest.”

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Christopher Sikkema


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