One of the few memories I have of my paternal grandfather is a rather interesting moment when I was five or maybe six years old. My parents had bought me a gift: a Tonka toy forklift. The forklift came with a box and a few barrels and other things. I remember this because I was playing with new toy while seated at the dining room table. My grandfather came into the room and took a seat at the table but said nothing. Then in came my father who sat down with a cup of coffee and he too said nothing for a moment. The pair of them simply watched me play.
After a few moments of watching me play with the forklift, my father challenged me to put the box with the barrel on the forklift without using my fingers to guide the box on the forks. I protested a little and pointed out that it was my forklift and that I was playing with it my way. And at that precise moment my grandfather, who happen to be blind, spoke up and said,”Yes I could see that you where having fun and I didn’t want to interrupt you.”
There is a basic theme that runs through the Gospel of John that constantly invites people to come and really “see” Jesus. In the Gospel for this week (John 9.1-41), we don’t so much learn about Jesus or learn to see Jesus and therefore God in new ways, as we do about other people and how they are working on and living out their faith having encountered Jesus. We get to see how faith grows as it is tested and formed in a man, who was born blind and then is used of God to declare the divine power to forgive and to heal.
In the beginning, there is Jesus and the disciples who encounter this man who had been born blind. The natural question comes up, “Why did God allow this suffering? Who was in the wrong? Who is to blame? Was it him or his parents? Who can we hold responsible?” If this where to be happening in our day, some would demand a royal commission to study who was at fault, who should be held responsible and then there would be press conferences and recriminations all over the place. And nothing would get done and nothing would be clearly seen.
Jesus makes it clear that some times, things happen. And because this man was born blind and that God knew this was going to happen, this man was chosen him to be used in a special way to show other people their blindness and blind spots.
In particular in this situation, the spiritual blindness of the spiritual people is made evident. There are rules and the rules in this man’s case were broken. Mud was made and making mud and putting it on a person’s face and making them walk too far is a whole bunch of work. It was done on the Sabbath and that is against the rules. Anyone can see that! Yet there were others who argued that God does not listen to or honour sinners, so how is it possible for Jesus to have done this powerful thing and still be a sinner? The authorities had already made up their minds about Jesus and had made it known that anyone who acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah would be put out of the community. So they repeatedly challenged the man who had been healed on the Sabbath: give glory to God and accuse this man Jesus we know he is a sinner. How do we properly judge a person we have never met?
To me this is where the rubber meets the road. The authorities are bent on getting the confession they want and they pressure people to tell them what they want to hear. However, in doing so these same authorities end up proving to others that Jesus is who he is by their obstinacy. The leaders fail to stop, look and listen to him themselves. All they want is what they have. These men are comfortable and settled. Anything that does not fit the pattern is a problem and such a problem must be dealt with. If they had stopped to listen they would have heard Moses and the Law being fulfilled. These men would have seen a new thing that God was doing through this man Jesus.
Perhaps they might have been like the disciples and not perceived everything and understood what was coming. But maybe they would have opened themselves up to what was possible. They would have seen it all coming. Nevertheless they chose to be blind.
So where does this leave you and me? Well first of all, remember that mud pies are for play not for work. That is, let us learn to see God delighting in doing things that are healing and restorative. Such things are not only creative on God’s part; they go from being work to being a state of play. So we need to see how God is playing and then do the same. Moreover we need to keep our eyes and our ears open. We need to both see and hear the Spirit at work in creation, with people and how God is leading his Church. failing to see and to hear God does not make the Church disobedient so much as it makes the Church irrelevant – unhelpful and unuseful to God and to the kingdom of heaven. If there is something that I have learned in the last 23 years of ministry it is this: “God is not that much of a gentleman.” God will act to rescue his people and in doing so may act outside of the ways that we think are the so called normal. It will still be consistent with God and his nature, it will still accomplish his will but we will not be a part of it. We don’t have to agree or understand completely to be used of God for heavenly purposes.
That is why it is vital that we be alert and be aware of what it is that God is doing in our midst. We need to stop so that we can see Christ in and near others. We need to halt and stop making noises so we can hear the whispers of the Spirit in our ears and in our hearts. And we need to be prepared and ready to address the issues that are right in front of us and serve the people that are nearest us so that they might see God in us.
Seek out those who are hungry and feed them and give the thirsty something to drink. Care for the sick and visit those in prison. Clothe the naked and befriend the lonely. If you want to see the Master, do this and when you do, you will see him in them. And then you will truly see and have some fun doing it.