Wrong Question

29 Mar

When I was preparing for Lent this year I planned the entire season; I picked all the scriptures and hymns I would be using in worship. I have been preaching from the Hebrew Scriptures and the gospel for this week is one of the reasons.

The passage is in John’s gospel, which always has a layer of symbolism. And the recommended scripture passage is John 9:1-41, which is way too many verses to handle is a Sunday morning setting [and I am not going to print them all here.]

With all that said, I have always like this story. It begins;

9 1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

I like the paraphrase of “The Message” because it makes clear that the disciples are looking for someone to blame for the man’s blindness. In that culture all misfortune was handled by blaming someone – someone who had sinned against God – and making them make sacrifice for the sin with hopes that the misfortune would be fixed [for the long version of the belief system is the book of JOB].

But Jesus is telling them they are asking the wrong question and by extension, the belief system of the day is incorrect. The correct question is, “What can God do?”.

Do you see the difference in attitude that Jesus is pointing to in your world. I see people who will work hard to assign blame for a situation and once they have pinned the blame on something or someone [besides themselves, of course], they act as if the problem is solved, or at least not their responsibility. Yet, Jesus is saying, “I have a better way to approach the problem.” Don’t look for what is at fault, but the possibility and power of God to heal. We might have to do some praying and some work to be a part of that solution, but I believe it is what God is asking us to do with our lives on this journey of faith.

The second note that I would make about the scripture text is that I am glad that it is in the Bible. The first place this text came alive for me was when I was a student chaplain at Children’s Hospital in Boston. I was leading a Wednesday afternoon worship service and used this text to talk to children about the completely difficult life they led in the grip of a horrible disease. It was meaningful for me to say that their lives held a special ability to bring glory to God. I don’t know if it was helpful to the old children and young teens who attended the service, but they remain in my prayers.

The passage ends by says:

39 Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”

40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”

I pray we will see through God’s vision and ask the right questions. Peace.

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