Open Our Eyes: Pandemic Edition

The Scripture begun with a question of the people.

  • It is a question that was pondered for centuries before Jesus and continues to be centuries after Jesus.
  • It is a question that influences not only the human-God relationship, but also the human-human relationship.
  • It is a question rooted within Theodicy, the ‘fancy’ language for
    ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ or ‘why does suffering exist?’.

The people had presumed (and we often continue to presume) that suffering is caused by God as a punishment for sin, or even for a lack of faith. Therefore, the people inquire if the man born blind was punished for his own sins or those of his parents.

It is significant to note, Jesus denounces that the blindness was a result of sin, whether his own, his parents, or even his ancestors.

Jesus heals the man, in order to demonstrate the glory and the power of God.

Unfortunately, the man and his parents are extensively questioned by the religious elite. According to John, the religious elite are seeking an answer or witness that would condemn Jesus as a demonic and not the Messiah. Their argument is that Jesus must not be from God, because a holy man would never heal on the Sabbath in accordance with the law, or teaching.

Jesus shifts the dialogue in the Scriptures from physical sight to spiritual sight.

The offended religious elite are shocked and proclaim “Surely, we are NOT blind”.
Jesus continues that they cannot see their own blindness and thus their sin remains.
In essence, Jesus says you must remove the log from your own eye before removing the speck from another. (Luke 6: 42; Matthew 7:5).

I have been pondering literal and spiritual sight recently.

Highlander (my dog) is diabetic. Diabetic dogs will lose their sight and become blind with time. Recently, I have noticed the growing cataracts, the sniffing to find food and treats, the hesitation to jump on furniture, and searching for me although I am well within his scanning area. I have been informed that diabetes is a common health concern for Yorkshire Terriers. Although we know his diabetes is not the result of his sin or my own, it can be easy to beg the question ‘Why’.

It is deeply connected to my pastoral care experiences with persons suffering in hospitals, hospices, and long-term care facilities, especially those who had a relatively charmed life beforehand, to question ‘Lord, why? What did I do to deserve this?’.

This question assumes, again, that our suffering is not a result of DNA and environmental factors paired with life choices, but rather it is punishment for our sin or lack of faith. BUT, Jesus taught and embodied the reality that challenges, struggles, and illnesses are NOT punishment for our sin.

But, Jesus strives to dig more deeply into blindness on a spiritual level.

We tend to consider humanity, particularly Christians, to be civilized and good-natured. BUT, this pandemic demonstrates we are greedy critters who are judgmental and divisive.

We, especially the baptized, are called to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, and to love and serve all people especially the most vulnerable.

AND yet, we allow a global pandemic to fuel our greediness by hoarding basic supplies, thus judging that we and our families are more worthy than those who now must go without whether it is toilet paper, baby formula, milk, bread, or otherwise. It demonstrates that our world has an abundancy but within our selfish greed (sin), the abundance is not shared and disturbed faithfully.

AND yet, we also allow a global pandemic, which proves how inter-connected we are, to encourage not only social distancing and social isolation to flatten the curve, but to divide us on ethnicity and nationality, political affiliation, socio-economic status and types of employment, and the generational gap.

So, I pose a question from Garth Brooks’ “Thicker than Blood”:

Why can’t we see the walls we can’t see through?
And see what God’s been telling me and you.
(and that is) Blood is thicker than water.
Oh, but love, Love is thicker than blood.

Why do we not see nor see through the walls we allow to divide us?

Despite the greed, which judges and divides, I have been encouraged by the desire, the advice, and the stories of those who might see and see through the walls, who also are actively reaching through these for the sake of the high-risk, the vulnerable, and those with compromised immune systems.

I am inspired by those who are reaching out a helping hand.

I am thankful for the medical professionals, first responders, and those with essential employment including utilities, truck drivers, and grocery clerks who ensure that people continue to receive treatment, services, and access to supplies and food needed during the pandemic at risk to themselves.

May our eyes be opened to the sin, the self-centeredness,
that prevents us from seeing our fellow humans, ALL humans,
as beloved children of God.

May our eyes be opened to understand that
challenges, suffering, and illness

are NOT a punishment for sin.

May our eyes be opened to examples of
justice, mercy, compassion, service, and love in action.

And may we be so inspired to see through and
destroy those walls that divide us,

in order to be examples of justice, mercy, compassion, service,
and love in action
today, tomorrow, and everyday thereafter.

Scripture was John 9: 1 – 41.
Originally preached digitally on 22 March 2020 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

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