Monday, March 27, 2017

Sermon for Lent 4: "Faith Comes by Hearing"

+ Lent 4 – March 26th, 2017 +
Series A: Isaiah 42:14-21; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Even in our world of Google, fake news, and YouTube videos, many of us still hold to the old cliché: seeing is believing. Flying cars like the Jetsons…A movie that’s just as good as the book…A low-carb beer that actually tastes like beer…I’ll believe it when I see it.

In today’s readings, Jesus calls us, along with the man born blind, the disciples, and the Pharisees, to hear and believe Jesus’ Word. And in hearing, to truly see Jesus as the Light of the world.

Today, Jesus opens our eyes to his Word and promises through our ears. Jesus, the light of the world opens our eyes to be fixed on him, to gaze upon the glory and beauty of his death on the cross for us.

In the Psalm (Introit of the Day), we hear…

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

From the Prophet Isaiah, we hear: And I will lead the blind in a way they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we hear: For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

And in John’s Gospel, we hear the account of Jesus healing the man born blind. Jesus declares to his disciples and to you: I am the Light of the world.

Jesus preaches a sermon in both word and action. Jesus sees the real, physical problem of the man’s blindness, and heals him. Jesus also sees the real spiritual problem of his disciples, the Pharisees, and us: that apart from Jesus the Light of the world, we are blind in sin.

This is why he healed man born blind, and came to heal and save you. That the works of God would be displayed in his death for you. 

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

For the disciples, seeing was believing. Following a popular teaching of their time, the disciples thought that suffering was a result of some specific sin this man or his family committed. “There must be a reason. Who sinned that this man was born blind?”
But before we shake our heads at the disciples’ question, it’s fair to say that we’ve all asked this question in some form or another.

When we sit in hospital waiting rooms; when we or loved-ones lose their job, get sick, fall victim to tragedy; when we stand by the graveside or sit in the pew at a loved one’s funeral we might ask questions like: Why, Lord? Who sinned that this happened? How could you let this happen? For us, like the disciples, seeing is believing. Or maybe it’s better to say that seeing is often disbelieving. For when we see the world around us broken, hurting, and in utter chaos we doubt God’s Word.

The cross is the only way to reconcile suffering and God’s grace in this life. Fix our eyes on Jesus crucified for you. Jesus’ cross is the only way anything on earth is reconciled – indeed by which all things are reconciled.

So, it’s no coincidence that John carefully places the physical blindness of this man alongside the spiritual blindness of Jesus’ disciples. The problem isn’t that the disciples ask a theological question in the face of this man’s suffering when they should’ve showed sympathy, care, and compassion. That places a false choice between comfort and compassion and faithfully and truthfully proclaiming God’s Word. The problem is the bad theology in their question.

It’s really nothing more than the religious soup de jour: karma. “What goes around comes around. Oh good, they got what’s coming to them. I better buy some coffee for the person behind me in line at Starbucks or else the universe is going to send out the Karma Police.”
Such is the religion of all the religions of the world, of the Pharisees, and the pious, Pharisee within each of us. We believe in what we see ourselves saying and doing. Do good stuff and God will reward you. Do bad stuff and there’s hell to pay. It’s the religion of cause and effect…and it’s all up to you. And that, Jesus says, is true blindness.

And so, Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Jesus reveals a great and mystery. God works his good and gracious will in the world even despite the fallen creation we live in. Like a grand chess player, God takes his opponents move and uses it against him. God becomes man to rescue man. Jesus takes this man’s disease, and our sin and death to the cross and dies in our place. Jesus becomes the blind and the sufferer. Jesus becomes the sinner and the condemned. For you. Checkmate.
We’re saved, not by what we see, hear, say, and do, but by what the Father sees his Son Jesus, see, hear, say and do for you on the cross.

Jesus opened the physical eyes of the man born blind in the Gospel of John. And he opens our eyes and ears to be fixed upon him.

Jesus does it through his Word. Think back to the story of the man born blind. He first met Jesus when he was blind. Jesus put mud in his eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. He did, and when he came back seeing, Jesus was nowhere to be seen. He never laid working eyes on Jesus until later. When Jesus heard that he’d been kicked out of the synagogue, He found the man, and then for the first time, he saw Jesus.

Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks. “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” the man says. In the Scriptures, seeing isn’t the same as believing. He could see Jesus, but he didn’t believe yet. Then Jesus says: “You’ve seen him, and He is the one speaking to you.”
Lord, I believe, he said; and he worshiped Jesus.

Jesus’ Word is creates faith in the man born blind and in us. “Faith comes by hearing.” Not seeing, not miracles. Hearing. Our ears are the eyes of faith. The Word of Christ creates and keeps us in saving faith. It’s why we’re here today to hear...
That the doubt and despair we see in ourselves and others finds its answer in the promise and peace in Jesus crucified for us.
That the misery and suffering we see in our lives and others around us finds its answer in Jesus, the Man of sorrows who has suffered for us on the cross.
That the cold, bitter pangs of death that we see tightening its grip on us daily finds its answer in Jesus who died our death and lives that death may die.
All of our questions, doubts, and worries; all our fears, anxieties, and cares; our disease, sin, and death all find their answer in Jesus crucified for you.
In order to see Jesus, we must become blind to any notion that we can see God by our own reason, merits, or strength. That’s the paradox of faith. Before we can see, we must recognize that we can’t see. We see by hearing. And through the water and Word of your Baptism, you see the Light of the world who shines upon you. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness including your Sin and Death can overcome.
One day we will see with new and resurrected eyes, and the sight will be glorious. But now we hear, and in hearing, believe and we truly see.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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