Sermon Text for the Fourth Sunday in Lent: March 22, 2020 | St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church

Sermon Text for the Fourth Sunday in Lent: March 22, 2020

Published on Sun, Mar 22, 2020 11:47 AM
Sermons

 Why is this happening? What did we do to deserve this? Where is God in the midst of a pandemic? I imagine these are some of the questions you have been wondering about, even if you haven’t voiced them aloud. They might be the questions that rumble about in the back of your mind when you lie awake at night, tossing and turning or, the things you ponder as you go for a walk and worry. It is indeed a strange time in which we are living.

 

I’m sure you will hear people who blame one thing or another for this unfortunate circumstance in which we find ourselves. This virus happened because “insert your favorite conspiracy theory” here. But as theologian and scholar N.T. Wright says, “Jesus firmly resists any such analysis of how the world is ordered. The world is stranger than that, and darker than that, and the light of God’s powerful, loving justice shines more brightly than that” (Wright, 133).

 

Indeed, even in the midst of our new normal of stress, worry, isolation, and boredom, let us be reminded that the light of God’s powerful, loving justice shines more brightly than ever. In today’s healing story from the gospel according to John, we are powerfully shown God’s loving justice shining brightly while the crowd panics and missed the point.

 

This story contains three scenes. In the first scene, Jesus heals the man blind from birth. The second part depicts everyone’s panic as they are trying to figure out what happened. And the final scene is when Jesus returns after the panicked crowd had exiled the man who had been healed.

 

The challenge to this story is that the anxiety laden crowd perseverated on the wrong question. They could think of nothing except “Who sinned?” Who can we blame? The Pharisees, the neighbors, everyone wanted to know who did something wrong and can be blamed for this?

 

Obviously, there is so much more to this story, but for a moment, let’s stay with the crowds. If we were to translate this to our own situation, what are the crowds doing? Are they perseverating on the right questions? Some people, yes. Others are hoarding medical supplies they do not need so that our medical providers no longer have what they need to treat the sick. Some of over purchasing food, cleaning supplies, and medicines in order to stockpile for themselves, rather than taking only what they need and leaving some for others.

 

The crowds are shouting, in chat rooms and on social media: Who can we blame? Who sinned?  What conspiracy theory or cover up, what gross negligence or disappointing leadership can we blame for this situation we find ourselves in? There certainly is resonance between the angry crowd Jesus encountered after healing the blind man and the crowds we encounter online and at the grocery stores today.

 

There is a fundamental problem with these questions themselves. No pandemic or trauma or time of suffering has ever been solved by pointing fingers or finding someone to blame.

 

Do you know how Jesus responds to these questions?

 

Jesus doesn’t waste time on these questions at all! He doesn’t even care about the why.

 

For Jesus, it’s about showing the works of God and how they become manifest to all people. For Jesus, it’s about everyone experiencing the LOVE OF GOD. For Jesus, it’s all about being the powerful, loving justice of God shining more brightly than anything else clouding our days.

 

The neighbors and the Pharisees are all worked up about how Jesus healed when the far more fascinating part of this story is who is this healer. Tell me about Jesus they ought to be asking.

 

To be totally honest with you, I’m really having a tough time with all of this. In the matter of days, our whole way of life has been turned upside down. The way we gather as a community is radically different and I’m struggling with it. Hardly anything about my day looks the same as it did two weeks ago, and yet, here we are. I’m juggling work, family, homeschooling, and all the same things you are while coping with the stress of an entirely unprecedented situation in our lifetimes. It’s hard.

 

Within this gospel story, you find people responding in very different ways to this healing miracle, just as we are all responding very differently to the pandemic right now. There are strong parallels.

 

·      Some are self-righteous (know-it-alls): They read every newspaper article and watch every news briefing. They know the latest from the CDC and have lots of advice for everyone.

·      The gawkers: These are the people who are eating popcorn in the back row taking it all in like a spectator sport, probably still unsure how they feel about what’s happening.

·      There are those who just want to ignore it all. I get it. Maybe this is me. It’s hard to keep up with constantly changing advice and warnings. The constant disruption to routine is exhausting. It would be great if we could just wake up and find it was all a bad dream, right?

·      And those who just don’t want to get involved. I’ll stay over here in my little corner and let everyone else hash this out.

 

However you find yourself responding, it’s okay. You are not the only one feeling that way. We can find comfort in that. This is a strange time. Think about Jesus in this healing story.

 

For Jesus, it’s about showing the works of God and how they become manifest to all people. For Jesus, it’s about everyone experiencing the LOVE OF GOD. For Jesus, it’s all about being the powerful, loving justice of God shining more brightly than anything else clouding our days.

 

That is our message for this week. The powerful, loving justice of God shines brightly, more brightly than anything else clouding our days. Amen!

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