Readings for the day:
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
As a pastor, I get the great privilege of listening to the joys and blessings that people have – from the birth of a child or grandchild, to getting a new job or moving into a new home. I’m there when our children are baptized, confirmed and married. But I am also there and listen to the hurts and pains of this world – from the diagnosis of cancer, to a risky medical procedure, to conflict within the home and the death of our loved ones. But I also listen to the difficult words and reasons why people have left the church or why they are hesitant to come and it breaks my heart.
There are many reasons people give for why they aren’t part of a church, but one of the most common reasons I hear is because their perceived image of the church is a group of people who stare and judge. People are afraid that their outer appearance will be the only thing that will be noticed. So how they dress, how their hair is done, what car they drive, or how they walk or talk. “I want to come to church, but I don’t want to be judged based on what I wear.” “I want to come to church, but I don’t want to be judged because I’m in a wheelchair.” Both of those are sayings that I have heard recently. And it breaks my heart to hear that people are worried about being judged when they come to church.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me too much because this is exactly what happens with the blind man in the gospel reading. The blind man’s neighbors claim that they were only able to recognize him when he was blind. Now that he is able to see (meaning his physical appearance has changed, they no longer recognize him). That seems strange to me because all that tells me is that his neighbors really didn’t know him. If the only way they actually knew of him was by him begging at the street corner, then they didn’t really know him at all. I wonder if his so-called ‘neighbors’ even tried to have a conversation with this man. Did they interact with him at all? More than likely not!
Now Jesus’ disciples fall into the same problem though. Even the disciples are only focused on this man’s condition rather than focusing on what God is able to do through his condition. When you look at each other, do you see each other’s problems, sins, sufferings, sort falls. Or do you see and treat each other as a brother or sister in Christ? Through the waters of baptism, we all are part of a large family called the Body of Christ. Do you look at and treat each other like you are family members or more like a stranger or maybe even an enemy? If you say yes, then you are no better than the Pharisees in this story who kick this man out of the synagogue.
Rather than judging each other or talking ill of one another, how about we welcome each other as we would other family members. Rather than giving people funny looks because of how they walk or the type of clothes they have on, how about we greet them and actually take interest in getting to know them. Rather than avoiding or being afraid of people with physical ailments or sufferings, how about we offer assistance and care for them like we would any other family member. Rather than insisting on people doing things our way, how about we show a willingness to try something new.
Even though God did not cause this man to be born blind, God was able to let his glory shine through this man. If we avoid people who don’t look like, sound like, or think like us, then aren’t we preventing the Gospel of Jesus Christ from being proclaimed? If we push people like this blind man away, aren’t we being like the Pharisees and kicking them out of the church? Just because someone might wear clothes that we wouldn’t wear, or someone who has a physical aliment, or even someone who wants to try a different approach to ministry – with any of these situations, if we push these people out of the church, aren’t we preventing the Gospel from being proclaimed?
This is exactly what is happening with the man born blind in the Gospel reading. This man was considered an outcast because of his blindness; meaning he was a second class citizen. And God was trying to show his glory through this man, but the Pharisees wouldn’t allow it, mainly because they didn’t believe. When we push people away from the church because of the car they drive, or the clothes they wear, or how much or little money they have, we are preventing the Gospel from being proclaimed in this place.
We all are brothers and sisters in Christ. God works through each one of us to show God’s glory and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s not let our differences prevent that from happening. We all are a family working together for one purpose – to shine Christ’s light in the darkness of this world. All we have to do is reflect Christ’s light by welcoming each other in the name of Christ and being kind to one another, not judging.
Remember that you are a baptized child of God. God has promised you eternal life. He has already giving you the gift of salvation. We just do what we are called to do – to love God and love our neighbors. God takes care of the rest. Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead not for you to go around judging one another and controlling each other. No, Christ died so that your sins would be forgiven and that you would have life in his name. Let’s put aside our judgments and our petty disagreements. For the glory of the Father will shine through us and those around us whether we like it or not. Amen.
© 2014 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.