St. Simon’s on the Sound
March 26, 2017
The Fourth Sunday in Lent
“Once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord you are light” (Eph 5:8-14)
Going from darkness into light, having blind faith in God as we travel from the wilderness of darkness into the salvation of light…that’s what we are asked to focus on this week. Having blind faith in God.
In this, the fourth week of our Lenten journey, we are reminded by each of today’s Lectionary readings that blind faith in God pays off.
This week’s readings also remind us that no matter how frightened or how lost we may be, if we are to emerge from darkness into light, we must constantly and consistently listen for God’s voice in our hearts and in our minds and in our souls - we must have blind faith that God’s hand is always there to guide us.
There is no doubt that times of darkness in our lives, lost and frightening times, can bring about a whole host of unpleasant and unnerving feelings. I am certain that you all are aware of that. Lost and frightening times are times in which we are, more often than not, faced with a difficult choice. Do we do what we “want to do” - what feels easy and comfortable, or do we enter blindly into a place of prayer, reflection, and discernment that is both challenging and uncomfortable. A place where we wait for God’s Word, God’s guiding light.
For those who choose to stop and listen for God, lost and frightening times are times in which we operate on blind faith as we journey into the unfamiliar, the unknown. They are times in which we allow ourselves to be led by God into a new way of being and a new way of seeing the world. A way of being and seeing in which the marvelous light of God’s grace and love shine brightly.
Today’s readings show us so very well just how powerful blind faith can be.
The hauntingly beautiful 23rd psalm is about nothing but faith. It is a psalm that has brought comfort to millions of people, world-wide. People of all faiths, throughout the ages.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me...Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Faith in these beautiful words attributed to King David has brought courage, comfort, and solace to millions of people who face frightening unknowns such as grave danger in the battlefield, the agony of terminal illness, or the gut wrenching pain of losing a loved one. Peace and comfort that comes only from faith in God. Blind Faith in God’s mercy and never ending love.
Paul in today’s section from his Letter to the Ephesians asks us to live as “children of the light, and to take no part in ‘the unfruitful works of darkness.”
As always, Paul is bossy and demanding. “Wake up,” he commands. “Rise, from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” At the very least Paul is asking his followers to give up one way of life for another -Paul’s way of life - Christianity A way of life that was frowned on by many, including those scary and brutal Roman Centurions, who were no friend of the early Christians. No matter the threat, Paul continually, on every front - preaching, letter-writing, talking to acquaintances on the road - demands that his followers operate on faith in God. Blind Faith in God.
And then, of course, we have the poster child for blind faith, the blind man Jesus encountered as he walked along, nearing the end of his journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
As was the custom back then, people born with afflictions such as blindness and people who developed frightening diseases such a leprosy were thought to be sinners. Why else would God have burdened them with such gruesome disabilities.
So, it is no surprise that Jesus’ disciples cannot believe that he is talking to this man who was clearly a sinner. They ask Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents?” The disciples were stunned when he said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Someone who was viewed by their society to be a freak and a sinner, was a child of God. A soul chosen to shed the light of God’s love and grace on those who in their smugness and self-satisfaction live in darkness.
And then, the blind man, in total faith, let Jesus, a total stranger, someone completely unknown to him, make mud with saliva and spread it on his eyes. More than that, without even questioning Jesus, the blind man follows Jesus’ command to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”
The blind man had blind faith in the stranger. Somehow his heart and his mind and his soul were open to feeling and hearing the stranger’s compassionate works and words, and miraculously, when he came back from the pool, he was no longer blind.
The Pharisees mock the formerly blind man. They demand an explanation of who this man Jesus is and how could this healing possibly happen to a sinner, an outcast? The blind man is undaunted, fearless in the midst of this angry crowd as they heckle him and prepare to drive him out of the community. For a moment before leaving, he stands his ground and says to them, “Here is the 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.”
The blind man is beginning to see God’s light…to see a light that for the Pharisees is completely obscured by their rigid way if thinking.
The Pharisees, angry, and no doubt threatened by Jesus, drive the formerly blind man out of town. Jesus hears of this and seeks the man out. The man, not forlorn at his rejection, but eager to engage with Jesus expresses his yearning to learn Jesus’ identity – a yearning to learn who this incredibly compassionate and loving person truly is. Jesus asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man…the one who is speaking with you is he.” And, the formerly blind man exclaims, “Lord, I believe.”
The blind man has exchanged his blindness for blind faith, and through that blind faith he has found the light of Christ that now shines on and in him.
Life cannot have been easy for the blind man, and it must have been terrifying for him to submit to this stranger’s healing techniques that involved mud and saliva and a stumbling journey to the pool of Siloam. Yet, he took the chance - in darkness he journeyed a difficult and challenging journey, emerging into a world of light. And, he did it in faith. Blind Faith in God.
What about you? Do you have a Lenten journey story of moving in blind faith from darkness to light?
Our Ash Wednesday liturgy invites us to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. We are urged to make a right beginning of repentance. We are asked to operate in blind faith as we lay aside our egos and put on the mantle of humility and repentance.
I can certainly share with you that my Lenten promise to God was to cease operating on pre-conceived ideas and thoughts about people, places and things. Of course, this has been an easy promise to keep in many situations, where there are no challenges to my pre-conceived ideas and thoughts.
But in several other situations, it has not been so easy at all. I won’t bore you with the mundane details of my darkness journeys, but I will let in you on the results. I have been blessed enough to see a few people and one major life situation through completely new lenses.
My old lenses weren’t working so very well. People and places were distorted causing me anxiety, discomfort, anger, and a sense of isolation. For Lent, I took off my glasses and for a while I was, figuratively speaking, blind. For a while I was, once again figuratively speaking, bumping into walls and groping for door handles. Then one day, God handed me my new glasses. People and places looked completely different, and I experienced a sense of peace that I had not known before. Gone was the anxiety, discomfort, anger, and sense of isolation.
Will my new glasses continue to be a good fit? No – not unless I face and engage in the ongoing challenge of listening for God’s Word. God’s Word that can so easily be drowned out by my own pre-conceived and all too comfortable way of thinking and being. Not unless I continue to listen for God’s Word in my heart, and in my mind, and in my soul. Not unless I continue to have blind faith in God.
O gracious and holy Father,
Give me wisdom to perceive you,
Intelligence to understand you,
Diligence to seek you,
Patience to wait for you,
A heart to meditate on you,
And a life to proclaim you. AMEN
--Adapted from a Prayer of Saint Benedict