Summary: Dealing with the healing of a blind man Jesus confronts the bad theology of the Pharisees. Jesus speaks of love and healing in the face of legalism and rules.
4 Lent A John 9:1- 41 10 March, 2002
Rev. Roger Haugen
Words, words, words! There is a long-standing university class exercise where you are to take a long piece of work and capture the meaning in a sentence or two. These 41 verses might be summed up as, “A man is healed, people found it hard to believe it but he is still healed” Why all the words?
Jesus saw a man who was blind and did what was needed -- he healed the man. That is where the problem begins. He did it on the wrong day, to the wrong person, without proper witnesses, all wrong! The religious authorities are only so willing to tell him so and Jesus is only too willing to play word games with these masters of words. The healed man, on the other hand, is just happy to be healed.
Someone once said that every age has, from time to time, the need to refresh its theology. What is theology? Theology is simply words that we use to speak of God. We need words to make sense, in our little world and little minds, of a God who transcends all we can possibly understand. So we create theology. Theology is more than words because the words we use reveal how we think of God and how we relate to God. Good theology keeps our relationship with God and one another in proper perspective. Bad theology places God subject to our thinking, makes God act according to our bidding, or make God into something that God is not.
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus poking holes in the bad theology of his day, and we see the theologians fighting to defend their carefully built theology. Jesus came to heal the sick and the blind, and the religious leaders want to protect the rules.
Jesus’ attack on bad theology is also a time for us to reflect on the bad theology which has crept into our worship of God, twisting God to fit into our image of what we think God should look like and how God should act. Bishop Ray Schultz reminded Synod Council last week of an old saying, “Remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.” This is what good theology is all about. God is to be given glory and praise.
“Who sinned, this man or his parents?”
In bad theology, sickness, tragedy and misfortune are often seen as results of not living right. We are told that AIDS is God’s judgment on immoral nations. Some have suggested that the terrorist attack on Sept. 11 was God’s judgment on the US for its stand on abortion, the lax laws on morality and any number of things these people are against. This theology takes shape in the less dramatic statement of wondering, “Why him and not me?” when good fortune strikes. The standard funeral eulogy these days seem to suggest that if you paint the life of the deceased in glowing enough terms, God will have to let them into heaven. This month’s Canada Lutheran has an article about funerals and the author recounts several incidents of bad theology that he has heard. He writes in one account, “I recently attended a funeral for someone who had died in a skiing accident. The homily questioned why such a tragedy should befall someone so good and loving. ‘This shouldn’t have happened to someone as good as Edward.’”
The other side of this bad theology would suggest that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. God’s “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” is wealth of the true believers. You can find “proof” in any Christian bookstore. Then there are the books that if you recite an obscure Old Testament prayer, you are guaranteed of blessing.
His blindness has nothing to do with sin -- he is blind. Rain falls on the just and the unjust. Good things happen to bad people, Bad things happen to good people. Read the book of Job. This blindness presents the opportunity for God’s work to be revealed. God loves you simply because God created you and continues to love you no matter what.
“This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.”
Yes, we need to take time to worship God, to take time to prove to ourselves that the world will continue without our 24/7 attention. It is wonderful to gather with other Christians in worship but to demand rigid adherence to a time or a place is to make the day more important than the worship. We can get to the point that by rigidly observing the day we think we have fulfilled some duty, all that is required of us. We can look down on those who do not. We can be lead to believe that we live our faith one hour a week and leave our care and concern for others inside the church as we walk out. We gather to give glory to God, the more the merrier.