Sermon for Sunday May 17, 2020
Passages: John 9:39-10:10
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Christ is Risen!
In November of 1861, during the early days of the United States Civil War, Julia Ward Howe was asked to pen the famous lyrics to the popularized song “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This patriotic song lifted spirits and instilled bravery, and coupled with the newly formed lyrics, it drew parallels between the final judgment of the sinful at the second coming of Christ, to the calamities of the Civil War. Words, which as prayer looked to Gods glory and truth as his swift judgment came against the enemy. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on.” To see with our eyes, the glory of our Lord, to see his divine judgment perhaps is something which lifts us up and yet, for many it strikes fear. And this ability of sight though so blessed, in today’s reading of the Gospel of John it appears as though Christ is changing our abilities to see and observe.
“Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’” (v. 39) Christ here is acknowledging that He has come in order to bring judgment. And he continues not by stating what kind of judgment but rather why he is bringing judgment – “so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” If we were to look at today’s reading starting from here, it may feel strange, why is Jesus talking about making people blind; after all Christ taught that all things hidden will be revealed and all will be brought to light. It almost feels like Jesus is contradicting himself.
In the passages preceding today’s reading, we read of Jesus healing a blind man. So if Jesus is in one instance healing blindness, why is the latter part of God’s judgment meant to blind us? In the Gospel of Luke, we meet Simeon the Elder, a man who in his old age was waiting to see the savior of the world. When Jesus is brought to the temple 40 days after his birth, according to the Jewish law, Simeon took the child in his arms and prayed, “’Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’” (Luke 2:29-32).
Simeon, seeing with his eyes Jesus Christ affirms that he has seen “the salvation of the world…a light for revelation [to all].”
Likewise, when we are baptized in the Church and the priest anoints our eyes with Holy Myron he prays, “May this seal in the name of Jesus Christ, enlighten your eyes, so that you may never sleep onto death.”
My dear brothers and sister, through Christ Jesus, through our faith our eyes are opened, enlightened and bearing witness to God and his love. So when Jesus is referring to giving sight to those who do not see, what He is teaching us is that through our faith the eyes of our souls and minds are opened to see hope in hopelessness, to find richness in our brokenness, to find love when we are surrounded by hate and anger. The limitations and failures that life has burdened us with or the sickness and pain we feel closed off by – these chains are broken and our eyes are opened to see God’s glory and presence in those moments. By seeing Christ, as Simeon the Elder did and as we do through our baptisms, we see the salvation, which is the judgment upon this world. Now, what about those who can see that will become blind, who are these?
One of the Armenian Church great orators, teachers and Patriarch of the last century, Archbishop Maghakia Ormanian writes that the Pharisees, who were listening immediately, understood that Jesus was talking to them about seers becoming blind. That is why they immediately asked, are we also blind? The Pharisees were the ones who knew the laws and they knew the prophecies. However, because of their arrogance and egos, they would become blind to seeing God’s glory. They pretended to not see their sinfulness, therefore, they would be blinded from seeing their reward. The best example of this case is found in the Gospel of Matthew (20:34-39) Jesus heals 2 blind men and says, you are healed according to your faith.
My dear brothers and sisters, what sort of healing will our faith bring? Will it open our eyes to the truth, to salvation or will it bind our eyes and blind us because of our own self-interests? In this life we all will face judgment. Through the life we each live, we will face hardship, sickness, pain, failure and brokenness. Through Christ Jesus, we are healed and are able to look past and walk through that darkness into love and into his light. The light of God is a powerful flame, which after we have been filled with we are also charged to take forward and continue lighting for the rest of this world through our own actions. However, if we think we are better, if we think we are more in anyway shape or form than those around us, than those who are still struggling and who are sick and in pain; if we like the Pharisees become blind to our self serving ambitions at the cost of others, then we will become blind to God’s light. The eyes of our souls and minds will be limited to God’s love and presence and this itself becomes our judgment.
Therefore, my dears, if like the words of the song, our eyes seek to see the glory of the coming of the Lord – we must humble ourselves, confess and pray for our sins and for each other, asking that our eyes will be illumined to the truth of God’s love. A truth that is marching on and that cannot be stopped; the truth of Christ Jesus. Who is the light of this world and who is the salvation for the revelation to all. And when our eyes have been opened, we pray, that our hands and feet will walk and be directed in the ways of our Lord which is to bring love, hope, care and healing into this world. Whereby, we will glorify our heavenly Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!