2008-03-05

IMAGINE YOU ARE A BLIND BEGGAR

A Sermon For Year A, Lent 4
Copyright © 2008 Nathan L. Bostian
Based on John 9:1-38

Tonight I want to do something a little different than what I usually do. Usually I try to connect with your mind, and challenge you to make a decision to follow Christ in a deeper way.

Tonight I want to engage your imagination. I want to help you see something. For some it may be seeing something entirely new. For others, it may be a reminder of things they have already seen.

I want to lead you in an ancient spiritual practice that the monastic traditions call "meditatio", and what we may know of today as "meditation".

But this is not meditation where you clear your mind and try not to think at all. Clearing oneself is actually part of something called contemplation. Rather, in Christian Spirituality, meditation actively engages the imagination to think upon a specific object, a specific image, a specific text of Scripture.

Tonight, I want to show you how to use a text of Scripture- namely our Gospel Drama tonight- to pray with Christ through your imagination.

Now, some of you may have factual questions about our Gospel from tonight: Who was the blind beggar? How did we get this story in the first place? What's up with Jesus making mud?

A few of you may even have deeper questions, like: Is Jesus really the Messiah, the Son of God, like this text claims?

These are all good questions and they deserve good answers at a Bible study sometime this week. But right now, I ask you to bracket those questions off, and put them on pause.

I want you to imagine yourself IN this Story. In fact, I want you to imagine you ARE the blind beggar.

Close your eyes. Notice the darkness...

This darkness has been with you your whole life...

You do not know what light looks like... at all...

You exist in a world only made of sound and touch... No light at all...

Now you are sitting by the road, on the same spot you have sat your entire adult life...

You feel the same rocks underneath you... You hear the same merchants around you hawking their wares...

The sun is hot on your face... You can feel the harsh dry wind of the desert blowing dust in your face...

You can taste the dust... The same dust you have tasted your entire adult life...

In one hand an old chipped pottery bowl... You can hear words come out of your mouth... Words that you don’t even think about anymore... Words you are numb to:

"Alms for a poor blind man! Please can you help me? I was born blind! Alms!"

You used to feel embarrassed to beg... But that was a long time ago... When you still felt like you were human...

But now the words just roll off your tongue. Like a puppet controlled by fate. "Alms for a poor blind man!"

And you hear the footsteps walk past... Occasionally the chink! chink! of change in your bowl...

Sometimes you hear the footsteps intentionally walk far around you... You can hear the murmur of people afraid to touch you for fear that they will be infected by your sin, by your disease...

Other times you hear muffled laughter... And suddenly a rock from a child smacks you in the side of the head... or a foot kicks the bowl out of your hand...

And you hear a roar of laughter from the crowd around you...

It has always been this way... It will always be this way...

You are blind... You are less than human... You are a toy to be played with...

You are cursed. Your parents are cursed. Someone, somewhere did something that brought the wrath of God upon your family... Upon you...

God has forsaken you... God has denied you... God has..

WAIT. Listen. Someone is talking about you.

"Tell us Teacher: who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Lord, not this again. Not the religious stuffed shirts delivering another diatribe about how God justly punishes the sinful...

Hmmm. What did he say?

"He was born so that God's work might be revealed in him..."

Impossible. I am cursed by God. God's only work in my life is to crush me and... What?

You hear the sound of a man gathering the dust from the ground by your feet. Then you hear the sound of him spit.

Now his hands are touching your face, and... and... oh God... you can feel him putting sticky saliva and gritty dirt on your eye lids...

Your mouth opens to utter a curse upon him and his family, but instead you hear him say in a calm voice, that sounds like someone you have known your entire life:

"Go. I send you to wash in the pool that is called Sent!"

You stand. Beweildered... Is this some kind of practical joke? Is this some cruel religious prank.

Is he serious? Who does he think he IS anyway? And almost as if by autopilot, you find your feet walking toward the pool you have gone to your entire life.

And as you walk. Darkness. Then a flash. Then pain. Then darkness again. A flash of brightness. Pain. Head, throbbing.

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Your feet pick up the pace. You are stumbling blindly over rocks, and over feet. Flashing. Brightness. Darkness.

You can smell the sweet humidity of the pool. Flashing. Brightness. Darkness.

You reach the edge. You plunge your head into the lukewarm water. Your hands feel your way to your eyes. You rub them and rub them until the mud is gone.

You pull your head out of the water to catch your breath... You open your EYES... Open your eyes...

And suddenly you have a new sense that you have never had before... You see. You SEE. Light. Motion. Color. People. Animals. Sun. Blue sky. People staring.

You SEE. You SEE!

"He was born so that God's work might be revealed in him..."

Is THIS what He meant? You SEE not only your world, but the meaning of your life for the first time. You have been given spiritual sight as well as physical sight.

"He was born so that God's work might be revealed in him..."

"YOU were born so that God's work might be revealed in YOU..."

However you are comfortable, with eyes opened or closed, think about the questions I will ask. You may use the candles or the icons to help you focus on Christ:

How would you FEEL if you were this beggar? What emotions would be welling up inside of you? What would be overflowing from your heart at that moment?

What would you THINK if you were this beggar? How would you begin to understand what had just happened? What questions would be raised in your mind?

What would you DO if you were this beggar? Where would you go? Who would you tell?

And what would you do about the man who healed you? What would you think of Him? How would you feel about him?

Like this beggar, we are all thrown into horrible situations beyond our control... Family situations... Health situations... Financial situations... Relationship situations... Tragedy situations... Situations that harm and demean us.

What is your situation?

Are you in this situation because of your sins or someone else's sins?

NO. You are where you are so that God's work of love, healing, and restoration may be revealed IN YOU.

You are where you are because in Christ, God wants to do something amazing in your life. Something you would have never imagined. Something as incredible as healing a man born blind.

Like this beggar, we are all beggars. We beg to be cared for. To be valued. To be worthwhile.

We beg to be secure. To be whole. To know that everything will be alright.

We beg for Meaning. For Purpose. For a reason behind all of the things we go through.

Above all, we beg for Someone who will never leave us or forsake us. Who will love us no matter who we are or what we have done.

We are all beggars.

We hunger. We yearn. We need. We thirst. We crave.

We crave that which only Christ can give us.

For a final time tonight, I ask you to imagine. Imagine Jesus Christ was standing before you, looking into your blind eyes with His eyes of infinite compassion.

Imagine he wants to reach into you and heal you at the deepest level of yourself.

What would you ask Him to be healed of? What part of your life would you ask Him to touch? Where do you need the healing touch of His infinite compassion?

Open yourself to Christ, and ask Him now to heal you. Ask Him now to touch you. Ask Him now to raise to life the dead parts of yourself.

Now imagine He is filling you with His Spirit... His healing Spirit... with the Spirit that raised Him from the dead.

Imagine the Spirit is like liquid light being poured into. Imagine the warmth and light of the Holy Spirit filling you, from the top of your head... through your neck... through your shoulders... through your body... into your arms... into your legs... Down to the very bottom of your feet.

Imagine the light and warmth of Christ's Spirit seeping into the deepest depths of yourself. Imagine the healing presence of Christ's Spirit healing those parts of you that so desperately need healing. Imagine the core of your soul being filled from top to bottom in the Love and Light and Peace of Jesus Christ.

How do you feel?

What do you think?

What will you do?

I invite you to take a couple of moments in silence just to reflect on what you have imagined and experienced... [After one minute or so, begin singing the Taize song "The Lord my Light, my light and salvation"]
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.