Fourth Sunday in Lent
Psalm 23
John 9:1-41

Let us pray:

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God where we met Thee;
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand
True to our God, true to our native land. [1]

The assigned psalm for today is Psalm 23. It seems perfect, does it not? Some believe that this ancient masterpiece was written by King David near the end of his life while he looks back over his years; the ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures, life and death and death and life.   

I think it might be difficult to fully appreciate it without some sort of perspective, without having gone through some things, reaching the end of your rope and needing someone to lead and guide you and to take you to quiet streams.

Looking back over all of it, David concludes that the one constant—the one thing that has held him together, that has never disappointed—is this: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” [2]

It has been on the tongue of thousands and thousands of people, Christians and non-Christians alike. It is often the anthem on sickbeds and hospital beds, standing at grave sites and memorial services.  “Yea thou I walk through the darkest valleys and the shadows of death (physically, spiritually, and emotionally), I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” [3] And you are there to comfort to guide my way.   

I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week: how much I need a shepherd to lead me and to restore my soul. Because in times like this, I like to go back to the old things; to what I know deep down.  I go back to what has been tried and true; what has stood the test of time.  

I want to hang on to an old witness and hear another kind of report than the evening news, though I must listen. I want to be reminded that even here and even now, the Lord is still our shepherd, and we can trust that, because God is our shepherd, God is at work with us though we do not understand and though we cannot see; though we do not know the when or the why or how or what our faith will bear us up.   

Even the darkest days and darkest valleys will not have the final say.  Goodness and mercy will somehow take us home.   

And so, we have this ancient psalm wedded together with the gospel lesson about a man born blind. Who is he? 

His whole life has been lived in darkness; never able to see the morning sun or the setting there of. He had never seen red, blue or purple, never saw the rainbow, or his mother’s face.   

He was likely a beggar sitting by the side of the road. And perhaps he represents all of those who still sit by the side of the road.  He represents all of those who will suffer most during this pandemic, those who will be laid off and furloughed without enough reserve to see their family through.  

He represents those who have lived year after year with worry and anxiety every day; the most vulnerable among us who already live alone, already lonely and isolated.  

Perhaps he represents this very moment itself, this hour so plagued with darkness and the unknown; humanity groping around unable to find our way. He represents all of us the world over without regard to skin color, social status, or any of the barriers we so easily erect around ourselves.

He represents those of us who are waiting for healing love—waiting and waiting, longing for something better; to be well, to be made whole.  

In those days there was a general sense that sickness and disease, blindness and poverty and all sorts of things were directly related to a person’s sinfulness. I am afraid there are many people who still ascribe to that erroneous mindset. They are quick to assign someone’s state in life to their shortcomings. And yes, perhaps there is an element of that at times, but it is not always the case. There are often larger issues at stake.  

This man is a human being marginalized and objectified. He is in need of help, sentenced by virtue of something for which he did not do, has no control over and no say about whatsoever. He is imprisoned in his own life, isolated, shut in and shut out.

And along comes Jesus. The disciples were asking, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” [4] They want to make sense of it all, assign some blame, some reason or rational to how these things can be. They want to make sense of it all, but Jesus said No, none of that. And sometimes, it just is what it is.   

John tells us that Jesus spat on the ground and made mud pie with spit and put it on the man’s eyes. He told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Go wash yourself. Wash real good—I’m imagining 20 seconds or more at least. And perhaps some of our eyes need washing as well as our hands. Go wash yourself so that you might see.

And the man did as commanded, as foolish as it must have seemed.  

None of this makes any sense. It’s not logical. We too have been told what to do. It seems foolish to stay indoors. To not go to work. To worship in such divergent ways. It seems odd and strange to be on computers, iPad, and phones the way we are, but here we are in this strange and unusual time.   

What I know for sure is that in times like these we can rely on what we already know, what has been tried and true.  

There’s a great hymn of the Church. We would have likely sung it together this morning. It’s so beautiful and relevant and ordinarily I would have started with the first verse and then the second.  But this week, I have been sitting with verses three and four:

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His words my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures. [5]

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. I am just as bewildered and anxious as everybody else. There were moments this past week when I thought to myself, “I don’t have anything extra for anybody else. I need everything I can get in this moment for Cathy.” But then, I reach back to the promises of God. I reach back to what I have always known, to the call upon my life, and my baptism and that which has kept me all these years.  

The man’s eyes were open.  And the crowds and the people were asking, “How did it happen? What did he (Jesus) do to you?” The man said: I don’t know. I don’t know what happened; I don’t know how. All I know is that I was blind and now I see.  

When Jesus asked him about it, the man said, “Lord, I believe.” [6] I believe! I believe!

Here is this great moment for faith. Doubt and fear, anxiety and despair are all part of it too, but we rely upon our faith. Jesus said that even if we have the smallest amount of faith, it is enough.

And perhaps God is inviting us into something new. Perhaps God is inviting us into a new way of being Church, a way that forces us to be reach out to one another; to learn one another’s names and to not take so much for granted.  A way of realizing that the real church is the holy communion of people – not buildings. People helping people, reaching out and caring for one another. People who step in with a little faith when their neighbor’s faith is running low.     

Maybe God is saying slow down a bit, rest your body and your mind, don’t be anxious. Trust.  

 And it will be amazing—so amazing—what a little faith can do.

[1] James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” written in 1900
[2] Psalm 23:1
[3] Psalm 23:4
[4] John 9:2
[5] John Newton, “Amazing Grace” written in 1779
[6] John 9:38